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I used to really hate the idea of yoga. It didn’t seem like exercise to me. The idea of slowing down and meditating was not appealing. Why be confined to a mat when I could be out running? Little did I realize that my little mat was not confining at all, it was just the opposite- it was freeing.
I don’t want to say I was forced into yoga, but I had run out of options at that time. I had a horrible case of IT band syndrome a few years ago following the somewhat questionable decision to race a marathon, 10k, and two half marathons within about a month and a half. I went to physical therapy, and it was draining. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. Then, I started doing yoga after reading pigeon pose was good for IT band problems. It still wasn’t running, but I started to open up to the idea that yoga was a good thing. I remember watching the advanced students. They were strong, and the poses that they were in looked beautiful. And I also realized there was NOTHING easy about yoga. Even savasana. It was hard for me to learn to let go and just be.
Fast forward a few months. In that time, I went through two knee surgeries that I really didn’t need because I so desperately wanted to return to running. The surgeries left me weak and inflexible, and they killed my spirit. I am a very active person. I couldn’t do anything without pain. The PT and the doctors were not helping. I again returned to yoga. This time, I discovered Baptiste yoga. I had no idea what it was going in. I loved the pacing of it, flowing through sun salutations. Getting my heart rate up and sweating was exactly what I needed. As the weeks went on, I was excited for class. I slowly became more flexible. I learned to love the stillness of savasana. And, running slowly came back to me, but I didn’t drop the yoga as a result; I did more.
So, after 2.5 years of being a dedicated yogi, I cannot say enough about how much I love yoga. Yoga allows me to feel terribly human, yet superhuman all at the same time. I feel the strengths and limitations of my own body, and I have learned to embrace the strong and the weak through my practice. There are days where I can’t keep my balance in Eagle, which is frustrating. But then, I nail an arm balance, and it is beautiful and amazing, and I can’t believe I have the strength to pull it off, and yet I do. I love the Baptiste style of literally opening up. We raise our hearts and gaze to the sky physically and mentally at the same time. This is transferred to other areas of my life; I am more open to possibility. Yoga has allowed me to resist the things that used to confine me.
But it goes beyond me. What the most amazing gift yoga has given to me are my fellow yogis and the community and energy we manifest in class. There is no judgment. There is love and support and friendship. We are serious at times, but we have fun and laugh. We play like kids on our mats.
Now I am one of those more advanced yogis that I used to admire when I started out. And I am glad that I arrived here, but I am excited that there is always more to learn. And I have loved the journey that got me to this point. I tell everyone I know to try yoga. I would say not to fear the “f’ word- “flexibility.” I will never be super flexible, but I have grown, and have learned to work around the limitations that my physical body presents. I say that when you feel scared of flexibility, focus on the strength and balance, the things you can control. The flexibility will come in time.