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04 May 2009

HEADSTANDING ROOM ONLY: How I Stumbled Into Yoga

YOGIC HUBRIS: After striking this pose in a rain forest on Maui, I lost my footing on the moss-slick rock, fell into the river, and and lost my toe ring. On the rock, you see my little Andy Goldsworthy-esque sculpture in the photo's lower right corner.

When my studio--Yoga on 6th--named me Yogini of the Month in 2007, they asked me to submit a photo and an essay, and with minor modifications, here is what I came up with: the story of how I stumbled into yoga.

STUMBLING INTO YOGA


Shortly after I began practicing yoga in 1993, one of my teachers mentioned during class that in ancient India, women had been forbidden to practice yoga because it was too empowering. That was enough to get my attention. So was the fact that after I began yoga, I noticed I was getting stronger, more flexible and more balanced--not only in my poses, but in my relationships, my career, my everyday life.
I took my first yoga class serendipitously at Cherry Creek Sporting Club when the instructor for my squash lesson stood me up, and I noticed a yoga class was convening in the adjacent court. In the club, I’d passed yoga classes before on my way to swim or run or row or lift weights. I had glanced in to see yoga students in Virabdrasana II and thought, dismissively, “How hard can that be? They’re just standing there.”

A sense of homecoming

I remember taking Warrior II for the first time that evening and being shocked at my shaking limbs. I'd trained with weights for years. I'd been rowing and swimming laps. I had assumed my arms were strong, but yoga requires a different kind of strength. I also remember taking my first Child’s Pose and feeling a sense of homecoming, not to mention instant relief from what had become almost chronic low-back pain from a sports injury. I recognized right away the healing power of hatha yoga.

Warming up to hot yoga

I also stumbled into Yoga on 6th serendipitously about three years ago. I’d had a committed Iyengar practice for more than 11 years and had taught at an Iyengar school for a couple of years. I was not certified, and found myself at a crossroads, feeling that if I wanted to continue to teach, I should pursue certification. At the same time, I’d noticed that I was craving change in my practice, namely heat and music, pranayama and meditation.
Imagine my surprise at finding my heart’s desire at Yoga on 6th, where I dropped in for a class when a friend came to town and our dinner plans coincided with my usual Iyengar class. I thought of the blue building I’d passed so many times on Sixth Avenue and realized I could squeeze in a class there. I’d taken a few Bikram classes at a different school some years back while researching a feature on yoga for The Denver Post. I had been impressed by the strength of the students and their other-than-pedestrian bodies, but I dismissed Bikram as not for me. I was intrigued, but still very devoted to my Iyengar practice.

Honoring quietude

From the moment I crossed the threshold, Yoga on 6th inspired me. I found the school a sensual place with colorful walls and art and natural light, classes with candles and incense and chimes and chants, plus knowledgeable and compassionate teachers who sometimes gave foot massages—and all within walking distance of my front porch! I profoundly appreciate the school’s respect for the spirit of yoga as evidenced by the sacred, sanctuary quality of the asana rooms that limit conversation and honor quietude. At Yoga on 6th, the studios feel like holy ground where students breathe together and move together and focus together and sweat together and together form a yogic community that provides touchstone for myself and so many others.

Braiding three yogic traditions

Of course, the Bikram practice—with more heat and fewer poses, no props—was a radical departure from my Iyengar background. After about a year, I took up the Baron Baptiste Power practice, too, and welcomed the vinyasa and inversions as a return to my Iyengar roots. Years back, I’d taken one Power class at a downtown studio, but felt self-conscious about being the granny in the group. At Yo6th, I’m in good company with other practitioners who have made as many trips around the sun as I have. In different ways, both Bikram and Power classes serve me and with my Iyengar foundation braid three astonishing traditions that provide time-efficient work on my mind, my body and my spirit. No other athletic endeavor or workout—and I have tried many—ever left me tranquil and resonating like the yogic afterglow does.

With the support of Yo6th, in 2006, I completed my first Bikram Challenge--30 classes in 30 days. (I did 31 classes in 31 days, as well as the 3-day fruit fast.) That intense month confirmed for me that every minute and every dollar I invest in yoga yields high return. Last October, I completed another 30-day challenge, mixing Bikram and Power. Since I was out of town for two different trips, I did 10 doubles (2-classes-per-day) to complete the 30. That took me to a new level, but I'm not sure I'd do that again. What I am sure of is the fact that yoga makes me a better skier, a better writer, a better—and, yes, more empowered—person.

For more on YOGA, please click on links in the sidebar at the right of the blog. Scroll down until you find a blue box with the yellow headline PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED PIECES. You will find a 3-part series I published in The Denver Post, earlier this year. Yoga for three different stages of life: prenatal, kids/youths, and yoga for senior citizens. Just click and read.

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2 comments:

  1. What a great essay! It's so interesting that you went to a yoga class almost accidentally and now it has become such a huge part of your life. I love your story.

    Thanks for sharing!
    George Lichter

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interestingly, lots of yogis have similar stories of stumbling into yoga, only to find the practice answers something and takes hold. Thanks for reading, and for joining the conversation.

    ReplyDelete

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