Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Yoga Journey

Yoga.

It's a topic I've been meaning to talk about since moving to Colorado almost two months ago (crazy how the time is flying!), but when my friend Wendi (of the blog A Southern Yogi who is currently getting certified to teach yoga!) informed me that September is National Yoga Month, I thought that today was the perfect time! So here goes, my thoughts on yoga...

Lola doing her downward facing dog...she does so many yoga like poses everyday, but I'm rarely quick enough with the camera to catch her in them!
 I'll be the first to admit that before moving to Colorado, I was never a huge fan of yoga. I felt that a lot of the classes I had taken in the past were slow and never really gave me a great workout. Every time I had ever taken a regular (aka non-hot) yoga class, I always just felt kind of awkward, inflexible, and wishing that I was doing something else a little bit more high-energy. I was also always a little intimidated I think because I didn't really know all the poses or the lingo.

However, my views changed somewhat after taking a Bikram yoga class in college. Bikram yoga is a style of yoga that consists of 26 postures done in a room that is usually heated to about 105 degrees and a class typically takes about 90 minutes. (FYI--Not all hot yoga is Bikram yoga, because there are other styles that can also be taught in a heated room) I feel like I enjoyed Bikram yoga because since you sweat SO SO much during class, you feel like you get more of a workout. I felt like practicing in the heated room really helped improve my flexibility and it felt like it was very detoxifying. But the downside was that Bikram yoga studios tend to be fairly pricey, and also doing a 90 minute class is very draining and I found that I didn't always have the time or the energy for it, so I basically just stopped cold turkey.

Unfortunately, I didn't really do much yoga in South Carolina (despite Wendi's invitations to go to classes with her!) because I was really on a huge gym kick since we belonged to an awesome gym 2 minutes from our apartment with great group fitness classes. My thoughts were why would I pay to go to yoga when I can do Body Attack or Body Pump for free? So continued my aversion to yoga.

The bottom left hand photo is the outside of the store here in Boulder...(Source)
 Cut to life in Colorado. It was extremely apparent that people in Boulder are extremely in to yoga. What I've learned thus far from my experience with travel/relocation is that when you're in a new place, in order to really understand it, you must do as the locals do. So I decided that I wanted to give yoga another chance. Part of this was prompted by the fact that I found out that they offer free yoga classes at the Prana store on Pearl Street in Boulder. For those of you unfamiliar with Prana, it's a really great brand that makes men's and women's athletic clothing tailored for yoga and rock climbing. (It's similar to Lululemon, very cute high-quality pieces--I recently stocked up on a bunch of new yoga clothes during their bi-annual sale a few weeks ago...basically I came out of class one day and EVERYTHING in the store was 40% off because they were getting ready to bring in all their fall merchandise...what can I say I'm a sucker for a good sale! And I figured if I'm going to be going to yoga on a regular basis I needed a new pair of yoga pants and top...or three...whoops...) The store here in Boulder is their flagship store and underneath it they have a yoga studio that offers 3-5 free classes per day for the community. (They even supply mats, blocks, and cushions for free too!) The teachers come from different studios around the community, and there are a wide variety of classes offered. (For the schedule/an idea of what types of classes they offer, check out their website)
I don't have any pictures of myself in my new yoga gear, but one of the tops I got at the sale is this one...I like it because it's a longer tunic style top and it has a cute criss-cross back, except I feel like mine is a darker color in person...(Source)
I have been attending these free classes for 2-3 times a week for the past month and a half now and I have to admit...that I now love yoga. Seriously, it's awesome. The teachers at Prana are all very skilled, and while I haven't loved every single class I've taken equally, for the most part I've really enjoyed the majority of the instructors. I feel like the classes here definitely give you a great workout, but not in the same high-energy way that I'm used to. It's all about really connecting your breath with your movement and being aware of your body. So often as we rush through life, we can really ignore messages our body's sending us about areas we need to focus on. I feel like taking yoga has really forced me to slow down and when I take a class, I really feel like I'm doing something genuinely good for my body.

A poster with this saying is hanging outside the yoga studio...I'm still working on the whole trying again with playfulness when it comes to some of my arm balancing poses! (Source)
One thing I've decided since moving here is that I'm not going to be joining a gym (at least not right now). People here are extremely in to outdoor sports--skiing, running, climbing, biking, hiking, etc. So while I was totally in love with going to the gym and taking group fitness classes in Michigan and South Carolina, the weather here is much more moderate and the scenery is so so beautiful that I couldn't possibly think about being a gym rat. So what has my fitness routine looked like? Well I've still been lifting weights a few times a week at our apartment gym, but I've been primarily running (more on that later!), swimming, and hiking (or taking Lola on long walks). One of the reasons that I feel like people out here are so in to yoga is that if you're doing a lot of intense outdoor activities like running or biking or hiking 14er's, it puts a lot of wear and tear on your body. By complimenting these vigorous activities with a more low-intensity form of exercise like yoga, it really allows you to find balance in your fitness routine. Yoga is such a great way to restore your body by really deeply stretching your muscles, and thereby preventing injury.

However, I will be honest and say that there are things about practicing yoga out here that make me a little uncomfortable sometimes. For many people in Boulder, yoga is their religion and they really get into it on a whole other spiritual level that I'm not necessarily interested in. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the relaxation and focus that practicing yoga can bring, however, for a lot of people out here, yoga is their entire belief system and they really want to focus on doing lots of meditation in class. As a Christian, certain aspects of some classes that are taught here are just too much for me and they are almost very church-y in that they are so focused around Eastern Philosophy. I know that for this reason, some Christians tend to shy away from yoga and I will agree that there are some elements in certain practices that definitely conflict with my beliefs. Some of the teachers I've encountered here tend to lead really self-centered mediations which basically say that you are your own god and you should give thanks to yourself because you are above everything and all your power comes from within yourself. Huh? These types of elements in class definitely make me a little squeamish because they seem very sacrilegious to me and completely go against my own beliefs. Don't get me wrong, I realize everyone has different opinions and I'm not trying to belittle anyone's belief system, and I do understand that some people (well a lot of people in Boulder actually) are looking for these religious aspects in their yoga class. All I'm saying is that's not me, and I personally place my faith in Jesus and I am not looking for a religious experience out of yoga. However, that being said, I don't think that being a Christian should necessarily make you shy away from all the wonderful benefits yoga can give, you just have to put everything in perspective. For example, during times of meditation in class, I really just try to quiet myself and thank God for all of my blessings and just take the time to be grateful that I have the health and freedom to attend classes to make my body stronger. Many of the values that are taught in yoga do very much line up with the Bible and my beliefs, and a lot of times I find myself praying at the end of class when we're in final shavasana (or resting pose). Plus, over the course of the past few weeks, I've learned to better identify which classes are more fitness-focused and attend those versus the classes that are more meditation focused. (Not trying to stand on a soapbox btw, I just wanted to share my personal feelings on how yoga fits in with my faith!)

I'm still learning all the different styles of yoga, and I realize that the style can vary a lot from teacher to teacher. So far, Vinyasa Flow classes have been my favorite, as they tend to be more high-energy. I have also taken a few ashtanga and hatha classes that I've really enjoyed, and I even took a Sahaja Flow class where the last 10 minutes of class were just basically free-form movement, and I ended up really enjoying it. I love doing poses like Warrior II and feeling strong in my body, and then I love doing poses like Sleeping Pigeon where I can focus on areas where I'm not as strong aka the lack of flexibility in my hips!

While Jeff and Laura were in town, they came to a Hatha Yoga class with me, and it was a lot of fun to share my experience with them. I feel really blessed to live in a place where such high-quality classes are offered for free, and I've really enjoyed them. However, during the next month, I am going to try to explore some other yoga studios in the area because there are so many here that I really want to see how they all compare to one another. In addition, being that it's National Yoga Month, there are opportunities at studios across the country to go and try out yoga! If you've never tried yoga before, I encourage you to check it out and see what you think...my guess is you'll be hooked like I am!

Lola says Namaste :)

2 comments:

  1. I have recently gotten into yoga too, after being a little skeptical about it. I feel so nice and refreshed afterwards.

    im loving your blog. so happy i found it. im following :) x

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your dog is adorable!! I've always wanted a dog named Lola! Our rescue girl already had the perfect name for her so we didn't change it...but I'm determined to have a Lola someday! :)

    ReplyDelete

Your sweet words make my day! :)

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