Monday Manifesto: One Year of Yoga

August 22, 2011 / Aaron

Last week, I celebrated a little personal milestone: my one year anniversary with yoga. In many ways, this is nothing: I'm still a beginner in every sense of the word, I hope to practice for the rest of my life, so a year is nothing. But at the same time, it feels like a pretty big deal for me. So, I thought I'd share a little bit about why this milestone mattered so much to me that I finally bit the bullet and bought a Manduka mat last Friday.

First, I'll set the scene. I've always been pretty active; I swam competitively in high school, danced in college, and snowboarded every chance I got. My mother is a nutrition science major, so I ate pretty well. But, I also run my own business, and my crazy schedule kept leaving my workouts further and further on the back burner. I kept a stash of granola bars in the car and occasionally called it lunch (or, who am I kidding, I also ate them for dinner). Combine that with my family history of high cholesterol (on both sides! My cholesterol was 350 WHEN I WAS FIVE YEARS OLD. I was basically a walking lipid!) and you got me, a girl who looked pretty healthy to the untrained eye, but who was on the verge of cholesterol medication at the tender age of 26. I decided it was time to get serious about this whole "diet and exercise" thing: I needed a lifestyle change, a routine, something I could do year-round, something that wouldn't leave me curled up in bed because the thought of chipping ice off a kickboard at 6:00am on a November morning sounded about as appealing as chewing off my arms and legs and dragging myself over a cliff by my chin.

Long story short, I found yoga, and more importantly, I found Yoga Belly. After my first power class, I realized that my previous definition of "yoga" had been far too narrow. I associated yoga with prayer hands and Oms and dorky spa music. I certainly didn't think of sweat, Lady Gaga, and disco balls. But luckily, I was naive!

One year ago, I couldn't touch my toes without straining. I was competitive, focused on the ripped abs of the girl next to me, wondering why I couldn't stick my head through my knees in my backbends like she could. I held my breath through difficult poses, and gave up early in balancing poses because I hadn't learned how to recover. I hated the heat. I didn't enjoy stretching. I shook through my chaturangas, and the next day, I was so sore I could hardly brush my teeth. I had never even heard of pigeon pose, bandhas, or kombucha.

A year later, not all of that has changed, but not all of that is true, either. I still catch myself being competitive, and I still hear words in class that I don't even remotely recognize. But, there have been some noteworthy changes. Mainly, I have come to enjoy, and even crave, the sensation of stretch. I have learned how to open areas of my body that were previously foreign or inaccessible. I have learned how to breathe through the poses that challenge me, though I still hold my breath sometimes (I don't know HOW to breathe in handstand or those crazy twists... maybe in a few years). I have learned that my body is not the same on Friday as it was on Monday, and it's not the same at 1:00 as it was at noon. I can touch my toes, and even lay my palms on the ground. My cholesterol's down 30 points. I have learned that an extra 90-120 seconds of savasana is always worth it. I have learned that I love to be upside down, even if it's only for a few blissful nanoseconds before my feet go sailing over my head and thudding back to the floor. I have found my "edge," and I'm learning how to push it, and how to respect it.

It has been a simple, lovely, incredible year of yoga. Thank you, Yoga Belly, for offering me the kind of workout I can actually get behind. Thank you all for creating such an awesome community that I'm so lucky to be a part of.

Love, love, love(!),


PS: Back to my mat. Shortly after starting yoga, I realized my mat sucked. But, I wasn't ready to cough up the cash for a Manduka, either. So, I made myself a deal that if I did 200 hours of yoga in my first year, I would buy myself a Manduka. I did, so I did, and last Friday, I broke in my new mat in Edna's Fantasy Friday class. Then, I went out for drinks in San Francisco, and my car was broken in to. As we surveyed the broken glass, the first thing I said was, "Oh no! Did they take my mat?!!"

They didn't. Whew. Apparently GPS thieves don't do much yoga.