My first experience with the bendy zen-ness that is yoga came when I was 18 and living in Vienna. I took a year off in between high school and college and moved there for a year to work as an aupair to a 6-year old Austrian boy who could belt out Avril Lavigne songs with the best of them. Being new to the city, and not being able to run due to a recent stress fracture in my shin, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try my hand at some yoga classes. After four years of track in high school, though, I was far from flexible, and touching my toes was a feat that was nigh impossible.
(remember this?!? hearing a 6-year old boy sing along in his Austrian accent never failed to make me laugh 😉 )
The first class was interesting, to say the least. I could manage basic German conversation, but certainly didn’t know any of the words for yoga poses, and the Sanskrit terms were definitely out my league. (Savasana what now???) I desperately attempted to follow along with the others who were bending and turning in ways that seemed fantastical and my body protested at every tweak. The teacher took sympathy on me once she saw me floundering on my increasingly slippery mat, and if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have come back. She was incredible, and due to her patient adjustments, I was able to figure out how each pose was supposed to actually feel. Slowly, I became one of the calm, focused, flowing, strong yogis instead of a trembly, sweaty mess. I was hooked.
Once I moved back to the U.S. of A. and started attending Wesleyan University, my yoga practice became somewhat non-existent. I went to a few free student-run classes which made me realize how inflexible I had become, but other than that I just became increasingly knotty and tense. Once in a while, I would break out the yoga mat and do a few twists and stretches which would make me feel so much better and I would promise myself that I would do it every day, but that goal was never attained in the frantic pace of college life.
This past year, though, I have been recovering from a stress fracture in my hip (this is what happens when you try to keep up with the guys while running through the mountains of oh-so-beautiful Kiwiland). I’ve been rediscovering yoga as a means of keeping my hip flexor nice and loose and have stumbled upon the awesomeness of free online yoga! In-person yoga classes are amazing since the group atmosphere can be so energizing, but it can get pricey and sometimes difficult to commit to a certain time. I’ve been able to do yoga almost every day now because of the online classes I’ve found (anywhere from 15-60 min depending on the amount of time I have), and have found it a perfect way to start the day. It was such a great way to warm myself up in the winter before hopping on my bike to plow through the snow and ice on my work commute and now it’s just a good way to work out the kinks from a good night’s sleep!
(it helps to have a sunshine colored mat that always cheers me up!)
Doing yoga every day has helped me be a bit more proactive with preventing future injuries as well. I tend to get injured, recover, and then proceed to bash my body again without paying any mind to the preventative measures such as strength training and yoga that I had to do during PT. (I’m sure we’ve all been there!) This time around, I’m determined to do whatever it takes so that I’m not sidelined for another year while everyone else does fun outdoorsy activities.
Now that I have been consistent with increasing my bendiness, I have lofty goals of handstands and splits. (What is up with everyone on social media suddenly being able to do handstands? It’s the new “it” pose and I must say I’m a bit envious!) Someday…
(photo of the Aussie yoga teacher Amanda Bisk snatched from Pinterest – serious inspiration)
For anyone out there interested in trying yoga but a bit intimidated by the prospect of going to a class, I definitely recommend doyogawithme.com. It’s all free, and has an insane amount of videos to choose from – anything from 10-min. seated yoga in your office chair to a full on hour long advanced class that will kick your butt and leave you sore (in a good way) for days.
My personal favorite, though, is a class I found on Youtube. It’s from Goldie Graham (a yoga teacher out in Cali) and it’s so creative and original that I have done it countless numbers of times now and still haven’t tired of it. It’s perfect for runners and cyclists (or anyone that sits a lot – isn’t that all of us nowadays??) and opens up the hips and hamstrings in a delicious way. I always feel so much better afterwards!
Sean Vigue (he of the killer core videos that I love to torture myself with) also has an awe-inspiring arsenal of yoga videos for all levels. Make sure to try his killer core workouts as well – even just doing the 12 minute one will leave you clutching your abs every time you laugh the next day!!
For those who have tried yoga but found it didn’t click, I highly recommend bopping about from studio to studio until you find a teacher that truly inspires and motivates you. Finding deals on Living Social and Groupon is great for trying out new places, and often studios will have a new student special! I never would have continued doing yoga if my first teacher wasn’t amazing, and when I do a class these days with a blah teacher, I find myself highly disinclined to return. There are also so many different kinds of yoga, and each one can be good for different days and different people (Hatha for a slow stretch, Vinyasa for a flow, Ashtanga for some intensity). If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I honestly think everyone can benefit from doing even a wee bit of yoga, and I never have regretted getting on my mat for a bit of bendy zen-ness.