Returning to Yoga

In the past 13 hours, I’ve been to two yoga classes.  Returning to my mat after a yearlong hiatus proved to be fun, revitalizing, and challenging, but humbling would be the most accurate.

Let’s backtrack a bit.

When I “retired” from collegiate basketball after my sophomore season, my body—and mind, too—felt absolutely exhausted.  Spanning from October to March, the season takes its toll; weight lifting, individual workouts, and team practices pushed my body to the brink, and I felt like my body could breakdown literally any moment.  To help my body heal, my sister suggested I try yoga.  Something clicked.  That summer, my first living in New York City, I discovered Yoga Vida, which became my go-to studio.  Since my internship was part-time, I practiced with Hilaria almost everyday, and over the course of three months, my body recuperated and my mind improved.  Vinyasa yoga seemed to contradict everything I was told as an athlete—it’s all about winning, push through the pain, etc.—and even though it felt counterintuitive, practicing felt relieving and proved to be a pleasant change.  It wasn’t about memorizing rosters, setting screens, and boxing out and rebounding.  And I liked it.  A lot.  My mind and body felt like new, and I realized the importance of having a strong mind-body connection. (This is when I really revamped my eating habits, which I talk about more here.) During this timeframe, I definitely identified as a “yogi”—during my final class of the summer, Hilaria led me through a headstand (not a shoulder stand) series, which I was able to hold for a few minutes.

[Source and source; Not actually me–headstand on left, shoulder on right]

The following summer, I returned to the city, but with a full-time internship, my yoga practice didn’t take centerstage; I went to the studio as much as possible, which ended up being once or twice a week.  This past summer, after graduation, I lived at home and joined the triathlon world, so I obviously spent zero time on my mat.  Even though I was excited to move to NYC for a ton of reasons, I was really looking forward to practicing again on a regular basis.

Anyway, fast-forward to last night, my first class in more than one year.  I was happy and excited to be back, but I was nervous and knew the class would be challenging. (At the beginning of my yoga journey, I was drawn to Hilaria’s classes because she led a challenging, up-tempo flow that got my heart rate up and because she incorporated ab work into every practice.) For now, I’ll just say this—being in triathlon shape does not equate to being in yoga shape.  Sure, there are no intervals and no speedwork, but there is jumping, lunging, and holding your body in positions that seem unnatural.  Prior to last night’s class, the last time I sweat that much was … hmmm …

Even after last night’s humbling practice, I went to the studio this morning.

[Not-so-great iPhone photo; check their website–you’ll be impressed]

Was my practice easier and more fluid?  Yes.  Was it still challenging?  Absolutely.

Right now, I don’t know if I identify with the label “yogi.”  Honestly, I’m still getting used to calling myself a runner and triathlete.  But whether I practice three times a week or three times a month, I know yoga can benefit me as a person, runner, and triathlete.  Even though I won’t be holding a headstand inversion in the near future, I’m looking forward to strengthening my muscles, developing my core, and deepening my mind-body connection.  Hey, who knows—doing yoga can probably help me from a running and triathloning standpoint, right?

When’s the last time you’ve felt humbled?  How did you react?

23 responses to “Returning to Yoga

  1. oh gosh I miss yoga. back home there was a studio that did vinyasa yoga for super cheap. I started going and got so much out of it. it saved me during a really rough patch of my life. now, i just can’t afford any of the yoga places around me – plus barely have time for classes. if anything, i am going to save some christmas money and sign up for a 10 day pass to a bikram place i found when I first moved here through groupon. it was awesome and I felt such a difference now that I don’t do it.

  2. I totally needed to read this today. I’ve been feeling a wee bit unmotivated this week when it comes to yoga (or maybe I’m just scared of Jillian!). I want to learn more about some of the poses. That headstand looks insane!

    • I can’t imagine doing yoga with Jillian Michaels–I’d be scared, too! And I think doing a headstand was the highpoint of my yoga career. 😉

  3. Getting back into yoga is great! And I’m no professional, but I would bet that it’ll definitely help you from a running/triathloning standpoint. It’s like you said, being in running shape is not the same as being in yoga shape, different muscles are working, and it’s a totally unique experience. I see nothing but good coming from that!

    • I might go to a workshop this weekend called “Yoga for Runners.” I’m excited to learn how it’s different (?) and which poses are good after going for a run.

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one with a humbling yoga experience this week! Every morning I’m sore I’m reminded that yoga is HARD and being in yoga “shape” and marathon “shape” are two completely different things! You’ll be a yogi in no time I’m sure 🙂

    • It’s so humbling. Sure, I can go out and run hard for an hour, but that doesn’t mean I can hold half moon for what seems like eternity, lol.

  5. What a gorgeous studio! I practiced yoga all summer (free class were offered in a park near to my office!), but haven’t really done much since then. You’re making me miss it – I’ll have to get back on my mat 🙂

  6. O I love yoga! Welcome back!

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  9. I need to find time for more yoga in my life!

  10. Yoga…I do it on the Wii fit dvd. It is very difficult! My balance is horrible. Just Tuesday…when I realized things aren’t as they appear sometimes. It can hurt to be humbled.

    • My sister does it sometimes on the Wii Fit, too. I’ve never tried a TV- or DVD-based yoga practice, though; I do much better with an actual person leading me through it because I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m doing. 😉

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  13. I still haven’t tried yoga, yet! I probably should because it would definitely help my running.

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