Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance yoga has played in my physical and spiritual well-being. Besides my relationships with my family, yoga has been one of my longest and most empowering relationships in my life. It has seen me through the ups and the downs of high school, the stress of college, the intensity of my eating disorder and my recovery and rediscovery of a more balanced lifestyle.
It has provided the mat upon which I’ve cried, sweat, screamed, laughed and have pretty much experienced every emotion under the sun. It has been my friend, my confidante and my spiritual healer. It has, quite simply, changed my life.
But let’s back up to the beginning to where my yoga story began…
Wearing: Stash Pocket Salutation Tights | Fully Focused Bra
I took my first yoga class in my sophomore year of high school. I had recently gotten a gym membership and decided to try out some of their classes. Having never been an athlete (in the conventional sense), I was drawn to the flexibility of yoga (a gift I’ve been blessed with) and its emphasis on balance. I pretended it wasn’t my first class and just played along when Cindy – my first ever yoga instructor- said things like “warrior one” and “down dog”. I winged my way through the whole class until I found myself laying on my back during shavasana and experiencing what had to have been the most euphoric sensation DURING a fitness class. I was sold.
Every Saturday morning I attended Cindy’s class and began what would turn out to be a very long and tumultuous relationship with yoga.
Up until college I had only ever done Hatha Yoga, which emphasizes holding poses for longer rather than flowing quickly through each.
But when I joined my college gym in my freshman year, I got cocky and signed up for a 16-week, twice-a-week Vinyasa Flow class. I went in thinking I’d be totally fine having done yoga for 2.5 years, but I was definitely in for a rude awakening. After the first week I couldn’t move my arms. I’d never done so many sun salutations in an hour. But my body quickly adapted and before I knew it, Vinyasa Yoga was totally my thing.
I continued to do this type of yoga throughout my college years. To be honest, I viewed yoga solely within the frame of exercise, but anyone whose been practicing for a long time knows that it is so much more. At this point in my life, faster, harder, stronger was my main goal. Pushing my body to its limits, doing the highest intensity of each pose was the name of the game for me. I truly did not understand why anyone would sign-up for a restorative yoga class. Wasn’t yoga supposed to make you sweat?
Then everything changed.
A few years after college I badly injured my knee (and subsequently my leg and back) while running on a treadmill. This was the height of my exercise addiction and at this point was using yoga as an “active rest day”. Keep in mind my active rest day meant doing a 90 minute vinyasa flow in the heat. But as with anyone who has ever injured themselves knows, discovering that your body is not superhuman is an incredibly humbling experience.
While tackling my injuries in PT, my therapist suggested I try out yoga to help heal my body and reduce my physical and mental stress. I tried to explain to her that my body couldn’t handle it when she reminded me that yoga doesn’t always have to be extreme. She suggested I try a gentle hatha class or restorative class to increase mobility without overburdening my body.
This is when I discovered the world of online yoga. I started rolling out my mat at home and letting my body guide my practice. If I couldn’t perform something, I took a variation. I slowed down, I listened and in the process really connected to the spiritual side of yoga that in turn helped soothe my body and soul.
Fast forward to now, and yoga remains a constant in my life. I know it sounds so cliche but I always feel safe when I’m on the mat. Yoga was my entry into the intuitive living movement. Rolling out my mat gave me permission to listen to my body, and subsequently I began listening to it even when I wasn’t doing yoga.
I discovered what it meant to be in-tune with how you are feeling instead of pushing it further down into the depths of your head and your heart. I forgave myself for the things I couldn’t do and accepted that it isn’t always the time and place to do the things that you can. Sometimes the greatest challenge is slowing down and listening.
I occasionally like going to classes to pick up on the energy of the room, but more often than not, I practice at home or outside. Sometimes I follow a youtube video or podcast and other times I just put on my yoga playlist and flow. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes its slow. Sometimes it’s vinyasa and sometimes it’s restorative.
But each time I step on the mat I’m reminded of where I started and where I am now. I still can’t do a handstand or fully extend my legs in boat pose, but I know how to listen to my body which is not something I could have said or done when I first walked into Cindy’s class in 2005. My yoga story has many chapters and like most things in life, it will continue to take many twists and turns as I figure out its place in my future. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings!
One of my pet peeves when it comes to yoga is clothing that looks cute but isn’t functional. I’m so happy to be teaming up with Athleta on this post as their clothing is not only cute but also comfortable. There’s nothing worse than going into a down dog and worrying that your crack is hanging out (you know you’ve all been there…)! I love their Powervita fabric line, which allows me to move my body in whatever way it wants while keeping everything in place, but also transition into other areas of my life where I want to be comfortable. I’ve been wearing Athleta for years and I honestly cannot recommend their workout wear enough for whatever activity you choose – yoga and beyond!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Athleta. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make THM possible!
What’s your yoga story? What’s your movement of choice?
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Cynthia FarrellJuly 10, 2019 at 11:48 am
Great post! My practice has shifted over the years as well. It started with heated Vinyasa and focused on fitness. After a few years I left that studio for various reasons and explored other styles and studios. I also developed a strong home practice, which has been instrumental in learning to really listen to what my body needs. I still gravitate towards Vinyasa both on my own and in studio classes, but at a more moderate pace, non-heated, and focused on alignment. I completed my 200 hr training in 2017 and taught for a few years before moving to a new state recently. Now I’m exploring the different studios around my new home, and discovering what yoga is for me at this phase in my life. (And after 10 years of practice, I can’t do a handstand either. Some days I’m ok with it, some days my ego gets in the way. But in general I’m happy with my feet on the ground.)
Jessica DelrayAugust 3, 2018 at 7:40 am
This article was great! Thank you for sharing your knowledge on Yoga. I’ve been really wanting to give a go at yoga but with my kids and my work its always hard to find the time. There is a place about 5 miles form where I live that offers yoga classes but its like $100 a month YIKES! I was thinking about doing an at home yoga program and looked into Beach Body’s 3 Week Yoga Retreat. It seemed like a really good program but then I found a review about it here https://happybackblog.com/3-week-yoga-retreat-review/ and it said the product was not for beginners.. Is there anyone here that’s tried yoga retreat and can offer some advice to me? I would greatly appreciate it!!
yoga teacher training NYCMay 8, 2018 at 4:07 am
Physical activity is good for relieving stress, and this is particularly true of yoga. Because of the concentration required, we find that our daily troubles, both large and small, seem to melt away during the time we’re doing yoga. This provides a much-needed break from our stress, as well as helping put things into perspective.
Rishi YogiJanuary 18, 2018 at 2:08 am
Thanks for sharing the knowledge! As I love yoga and I appreciate your great efforts that you support yoga. Keep it up and try to give us update regularly.
Andy ParsonsNovember 4, 2017 at 1:56 pm
My wife started doing yoga recently – I got to say, she feels so much more relaxed now. I never thought of picking up yoga myself, I never really thought that it suits a man to do so, but I’m getting more and more intrigued by it. Thanks 🙂
Emily DavisOctober 28, 2017 at 5:45 pm
I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. She has so many different videos, but they all focus on your breathing and being in a positive mental state. Curious what you use for online yoga. Would love if you would share!
Nicole @ Laughing My Abs OffOctober 25, 2017 at 1:27 am
Davida, I loved this post! Lately I’ve been getting into yoga more, and I’m absolutely loving it. Back when I used to compulsively exercise and basically work out with the objective of being as sweaty and exhausted as possible, I didn’t understand the merits of yoga. So I never did it, and then I think in late high school-early college I realized that I should scale back on super intense exercise most days, so I started using yoga as an active rest day. It wasn’t until a few months ago when I was feeling super burnt out with my exercise routine that I decided to start incorporating yoga as an actual workout day instead of weights or hiit. And it’s been absolutely amazing. The mind-body connection I get with yoga is unlike that of any exercise, and I always leave my mat feeling like I just received a glorious full body massage. <3
Davida @ The Healthy MavenOctober 27, 2017 at 1:12 pm
You put it so perfectly! I literally had that thought the other day after finishing a yoga class! I’ve never left yoga feeling worse!
Emily WintersOctober 24, 2017 at 3:07 pm
Loved this Davida! I found yoga in high school as well and I was hooked! I’ve slowly learned it’s more about the breath and the present and how you handle things, not so much the physicality of it all.
Davida @ The Healthy MavenOctober 27, 2017 at 12:07 pm
Couldn’t agree more! You have to go to TaraNa! Tell Lee and Linley to take you 🙂
KatieOctober 24, 2017 at 11:49 am
I love yoga! I have been practicing off and on for the last 8-10 years and I’m so excited to share that my yoga story is transitioning this week as I begin the journey into yoga teacher training. I’m not entirely sure where this will take me, but I’m so excited for the opportunity to deepen my practice in so many ways, connect with others through this journey, and see where I am and how I have evolved after it’s complete.
Davida @ The Healthy MavenOctober 27, 2017 at 12:08 pm
That is so wonderful to hear! I’ve been tempted by the idea before but I know when it’s meant to be it will be, so stay tuned! Love that we are on these ever-evolving journeys!
Alicia @Bridges Through LifeOctober 23, 2017 at 7:23 pm
I loved this post Davida. Yoga has changed meaning to me over the years as well. I’m so glad that a few years ago I decided to do a 200 hr yoga training. It helped me learn more than the poses in yoga and taught me more about myself. When I mention I am a yoga teacher to people, they are surprised to find out that I can’t touch my toes very easily. I try to explain that yoga is more than flexibility and poses but you really just have to experience it for yourself.
Davida @ The Healthy MavenOctober 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm
Amen sista! Yoga is such an individualized experience, there is no one version of a yoga instructor! You’re inspiring me to do my training <3
Alicia @bridges Through lifeOctober 27, 2017 at 2:22 pm
It would be awesome if you did a yoga teacher training.
KaylaOctober 23, 2017 at 9:54 am
Loved reading this — I consider myself the anti yoga yoga teacher since I have the worst flexibility and I’m not particularly zen by nature. I always love reading about what draws people to practice and keeps them there
Davida @ The Healthy MavenOctober 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm
I’m the exact same way! I wish everyone would share their yoga story because I feel like all of them are so fascinating!
Juliette | Namastay TravelingOctober 23, 2017 at 8:21 am
This was so great to read! I have a similar story where vinyasa was the be-all-end-all for me, I even got my yoga 200hr so I could teach it! But, low and behold, I’m now a yin teacher. Quite the opposite, yin focuses on stillness in the body, stillness of the mind. It’s beautiful! and I could be happier balancing the two 🙂
Davida @ The Healthy MavenOctober 27, 2017 at 1:14 pm
Yin is my absolute favorite form or yoga. I used to think it was stupid to pay and attend yin classes but now that’s what I mostly go to! They’re just so soothing for the body and soul!