As I have grown, I have learned that certain things are pillars in my life.
These are the non-negotiable elements, practices that help me to feel balanced, prepare me to be successful, and keep me happy and healthy.
Yoga is one of my pillars.
If you’ve been following along with me here on the blog, you won’t be surprised by some of my other pillars: running, reading, writing, fresh air, and travel are a few. As I reorient my life, I’m focusing on these pillars, and ensuring I have time to dedicate to them, opportunities to grow in each, and ways to share with others what these pillars have brought into my own life.
Today, I want to share my yoga journey, thus far, with you.
As you read this, I am immersed in a 200 hour yoga teacher training course in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia. I decided in late 2015 to pursue teacher training in 2017. Originally, I had thought of taking a standard course via a local studio, training on weekends and evenings over a period of months.
However, as my husband and I made plans to disrupt and reboot our lives, I discovered the intensive program in Whistler. The timing and location were perfect, and I signed up, enthusiastic to launch myself into this next chapter with new experience and a stronger foundation from which to share my love of yoga with others.
I’ve practiced yoga semi-regularly since 2008. I’d taken a few classes prior to that time, but what really got me hooked was an introduction to hot vinyasa flow. I was looking for something athletic, and I found a studio full of fierce athletes, strong women able to hold poses and move their bodies in ways I envied. I began to practice.
I stayed true to hot vinyasa flow for years. I found new studios after we moved several times, each one connecting me with teachers who continued to challenge me and taught me new things about my practice and myself. I began to make strides in strengthening my body, improve my postures and my balance, and gaining trust in myself.
However, the pivotal yoga experience for me came when I turned away from the intensity of the hot vinyasa practice, and began to embrace the more gentle and restorative forms of yoga.
One reason yoga is a pillar is that it provides such a critical counterpoint to running. In the past, I’ve been troubled with hip pain and tight IT bands, symptoms that flare up as I add mileage and prepare for distance races and ultramarathons. But when I ran my latest ultramarathon, after a more consistent practice of restorative yoga, I was shocked to realize that I had no hip pain. None.
This was groundbreaking, and made a huge difference in my experience of training and racing at the ultra distance. True, my running also brings me challenges on the mat. I consistently struggle with tight calves and hamstrings, and some poses may always elude me. But the counterpractice of these two pillars enhances my enjoyment of both, and keeps my body prepared to respond to the range of challenges it may encounter on the trail or in the studio.
Yoga is also a pillar because it gives me a place to rest. Once again, the restorative practice brought this element of yoga into focus for me. Once, before I was ready, I stumbled into a yoga nidra class. It was the only class that fit into my schedule that week, and I signed up without reading the description. I was in the market for an intensive practice, so I left feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. It left a bad impression of the quiet practices of yoga that stayed with me for some time.
This all changed for me in 2015. I was living and working overseas, and found my daily environment to be stressful and overwhelming. I made my way into a gentle yoga practice, and was amazed at the immediate benefits I found. This experience was compounded on a trip to Thailand, where I enjoyed a restorative yin yoga class overlooking the ocean, and felt more rested than I had in months. My body and spirit had found this critical component, something that had been lacking but now showed itself to be vital.
As I look ahead in my yoga practice, I am enthusiastic about beginning to teach. While vinyasa and intensive flow styles will always be something I enjoy and love to share with others, I also look forward to sharing my experience with restorative yoga. In the midst of our hurried lives, we are so rarely able to encounter true rest. Taking an hour here or there is such a luxury, but also pays dividends far beyond the time invested. If you haven’t yet added restorative yoga to your practice — I can’t encourage it enough.
I’m sure that my yoga teacher training immersion will teach me additional lessons beyond anatomy and the mat, and as I process those, I’ll look forward to sharing them with you here.