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What Yoga Class is Right for Me?

 

Well, that depends….

 

I have been working at the front desk at Be Yoga for just over a year.  Many times someone walks into the studio and starts with “My doctor said I should do yoga…..” or “I really need to do yoga” Great!  Let’s talk…. I want to know more.  The word “yoga” means so many different things.  Did the doctor say you should do yoga because you have a high stress lifestyle or insomnia?  Are you an athlete looking for greater flexibility?  Do you want to build core strength and improve balance?  These are all great reasons to start a yoga practice, but the specific yoga “prescription” in each circumstance would be pretty different.

 

In my own life, yoga has meant many different things to me.  When I was in my early 30s, a single mom of two young children and working full time as an attorney, I was trying to do it all.  Get to doctor appointments, manage sick days, be on time for childcare pickups, and manage nonstop deadlines and pressure at my large law firm.  I had always been successful at school and work – it was always something I took tremendous pride in.  But now things were different.  I was being pulled in so many directions.  How could I do it all?  That’s when I received the best advice I’d ever gotten.  As I tearfully sat down with the HR representative at my law firm, lamenting billable hours and childcare responsibilities, she patiently looked me in the eyes and said “Cindy, you can have it all.  You just can’t have it all at the same time.”  Ahhhhh….. Light bulb moment.  Clearly, at that time in my life, my children were my priority.  Work would need to shift into a lower gear, at least for the time being.  Partnership track was shelved and I made a plan to transition to an in-house position with more manageable hours.  

 

At this same time, with my mom’s support (and agreement to watch my kids), I signed up for 200 hour yoga teacher training, excited to carve out time for myself and my yoga practice.  While I had an on again off again relationship with yoga for many years prior, I was hoping that each weekend of teacher training I would find myself learning new poses, holding poses longer and being pushed to go deeper in my physical practice.  That is not at all what happened.  My teacher guided us through long meditation and pranayama sessions, lectured about self-care practices and led us through yoga practices that were consistently gentle and ease-filled.  Boy did this upset me!  If I wasn’t pushing myself physically and sweating and building strength, I was wasting my time, right?  Oh, how wrong…..

 

I can look back on that time and realize that a strong physical practice may be what I wanted but it wasn’t at all what I needed.  Truth be told, I was depleted, distracted and pretty disconnected.  Besides work and the kids, I was kickboxing and working with a personal trainer a few times a week.  The hours I spent in teacher training were the antidote to my constant busyness.  They were restoring and renewing, allowing me to let go of the need to be more, be better, do more.  They taught me to breathe and connect in a way I wasn’t in any other part of my life, and I slowly learned to just hold space for myself, without doing, striving or accomplishing anything.

 

Over the many years I’ve been practicing yoga, there have been times when my yoga practice was focused on building strength and stamina and there have been times when a gentle, meditative practice was what I really needed.  I have learned that a short pranayama session in the morning can change my entire day – how I walk, move and hear others.  There are times when I truly relish a more physical practice and enjoy the gains in strength and stamina I see on my mat.  Right now, I’m in the last month of training for a half marathon, and my priority is on reserving my strength for long runs and taking gentle care of my joints in between runs.  My yoga practice reflects that change in priorities.  I know that it is incredibly important for me to slow down and have an ease-filled practice so I can honor the demands being placed on my body during training.  When my half marathon is over, I will come back to my yoga goals – you know the ones…. Hold crow pose for a couple more breaths, get into the elusive arm balance, if only for a few seconds, get that bind in Marichyasana C… etc.  

 

Yoga is truly an every day, lifelong practice that is rich enough to be all things to all people – maybe just not all at the same time… So, back to the original question – what yoga class is right for me?  Consider tuning in to your heart center and listening quietly to your innate wisdom – what would serve you most in your life at this time?  A vigorous practice or a more gentle practice?  Know that you can make a different decision each day and that yoga is always here for you…. One asana, one mindful breath at a time.