Yoga and I have had a long relationship that started over 3 decades ago. When I was young girl, I would watch my father do yoga. I marveled at watching this tall man tie himself into a human pretzel. Whenever he would do yoga, he was quiet, peaceful, and…different. As a little girl, I didn’t realize this “exercise” routine was providing my father with a slice of zen. It looked like a fun way to spend a half hour on a weekend. So while daddy stood on his head and twisted his legs into lotus, I was doing the same.
When adolescence came to call, I forgot about yoga. Yoga became that strange thing that the half naked man on tv was doing while my “uncool” dad copied. I was more into other PBS shows like Julia Childs and Dr. Who. Exercise was for the birds and sports were for people who were not reading books. Yes, I was definitely carving my niche into Bookwormia. Oddly enough, my dad stopped doing yoga and spent more time fighting for the rights of the common man.
After a rather life-changing and turbulent 20′s, I joined a gym and became reacquainted with yoga. Yoga came packaged in a cool, hippie chick that talked about the breeze, trees, and spirit. Yoga had a friendly smile and gentle hands that helped me secure a sturdy shoulder stand and plow. Yoga was this cool little oasis in the middle of the chaotic, music thumping gym. So I sought yoga out. I knew she was not a novelty of a gym. I knew she had to be everywhere, and everywhere I found her. She was a cool, older French woman in a Manhattan Beach gym who spent little time on the cool breeze and spirit talk while expounding on benefits for the body. This little French woman led me to yoga outside of a gym and into a yoga studio. Imagine my glee when I had my first class in a studio with incense burning and candlelight flickering. I was embraced by the atmosphere and an hour class was never enough. I devoured class schedules and I experimented with different styles. I was happy.
In my 30′s I found myself expecting. I was happy about motherhood, but I was concerned about yoga. Could I really do those asanas while pregnant? Would I hurt my baby? Well, a very pregnant woman in one of my classes proved to me yoga could enhance my pregnancy and help with childbirth. To say I was ecstatic is an understatement. Armed with a few books, pregnancy VHS, and pregnancy DVDs, I ramped up my yoga during my pregnancy and beyond. I even continued afterwards until I was expecting my 2nd child.
Expecting a 2nd child, working, and taking care of a toddler did not leave room for much else. I abandoned yoga and embraced step aerobics and weightlifting as my exercise. The closest I got to yoga was lying across my bed in a modified Corpse Pose after a long day or attempting an awkward Downward Facing Dog to get upright after spending 30 minutes on the floor playing with Thomas the Tank Engine with my toddler.
Yoga came to visit a few times after the birth of my second child. I took a class at the gym and saw that yoga was a neurotic blond with closed eyes who never left her mat. Yoga was also a lithe bellydancer who used the discipline as a means to enhance her tribal dancing. Yoga had changed in my world and I couldn’t recognize it or myself until a few months ago when I injured my knee.
My passion for running and cycling came to a halt when I hurt my knee. It took me less than a day to power down my running and power up yoga. At first I did short 10 minute routines everyday to give myself a form of therapy. After a month, I found my Zen. The world of yoga opened up to me like a beautiful lotus flower on my mat in the comfort of my home. With the gift of podcasts and earbuds, I can put myself in the middle of a live class and lose myself in the past and present. Unlike other exercise mediums, yoga does not hurt. Having years of experience and a stack of books for reference, it was easy for me to find my Zen…again.
I do not recommend doing yoga without first seeking classes. Yoga in a studio is priceless. Trying different styles will help you find the style that works the best for you. Once you have that background, you can later begin your home practice. I’m glad I’ve now found the Zen side of life. It will help me to heal.