Yoga used to intimidate me. Something about watching other humans bend and contort their bodies in ways that seemed impossible was intimidating to witness for an inflexible human like myself. I would watch half in fear and half in awe. I assumed that only those who were naturally flexible and athletic were able to practice yoga successfully. It seemed as if only professionals should do yoga, so naturally, I stayed away.
Then one day, I was tired of doing nothing productive with my body. Out of a whim I ordered a yoga mat and decided to do a 30-day yoga challenge that I found online. I was hooked. Ten days into it I could feel the changes in my body: I felt lighter, lifted, and energized. I started every morning with one of the 30-day challenge videos and felt eager every morning to get on the mat and spend time on myself, giving my brain and my body some much needed tender love and care. The 30-day challenge turned into 60-days and after 60 plus days of doing yoga everyday I felt a noticeable difference in my physical and mental health. My body seemed more defined and my flexibility definitely improved. Before practicing, I was unable to touch my toes, now I can do it with ease! My brain seemed less chaotic, less intrusive thoughts would disturb my day, and I felt less anxious. Overall I felt mentally and physically better than I had in a long time.
After practicing for more than 2 months on my own I decided to take my first ever yoga class in a studio.
I used to feel incredibly intimidated and anxious about yoga studios and taking classes with other people. The anxiety stemmed from fear of judgement: I didn’t want to be judged by others for being young, inflexible, lacking grace, and athleticism. That highly critical voice in my head would project itself onto others, I was always afraid their thoughts were similar to that annoying voice in my head. I pushed that voice to the side and decided to channel the confidence I had gained from doing yoga for more than 60 days. I added logic to the mix, rationalizing how guidance from a trained professional would only benefit me and my yoga journey. With logic and confidence on my side, I conquered my first ever yoga class in a studio.
The studio that I went to was Yoga from the Heart, a precious studio located in Sarasota, Florida. When I first entered, I was greeted by warm and friendly faces which helped ease some of my nerves. They helped me get my equipment (yoga block, blanket, strap, etc.) and guided me into the room. The studio wasn’t filled with young, buff bodies as I expected, but instead a mix of elderly people, young adults, middle-aged adults, men, and women. All ages and walks of life united for one purpose: Yoga. It warmed my heart knowing that all these diverse individuals were taking time out of their day to dedicate a portion of it to themselves and their wellness. Comforted by this thought, I became less worried about what others thought of me and the worry turned into excitement.
The class was led by Lynn Burgess owner of Yoga from the Heart. She had a cool, calm, and collected demeanor about her. She seemed eager to share her yoga practice with us. What impressed me most was her knowledge of the body and how the bones and muscles all work. She would walk us through each pose, letting us know exactly how to align it or customize it to ensure that we were getting the most out of the poses and practice. She made sure that we found what felt right to us, she never pushed us to get into a pose, she always eased us into it and gently carried us over to different poses.
Through her class I learned that I was missing some critical information that an at-home yoga practice just cannot offer. Although I highly encourage everyone to take their practice home, through this experience I have realized that checking in with a professional can help guide you in the right direction. After that class I learned different ways I can improve my practice. I learned why the yoga blocks, blankets, and straps are helpful for those that may be a novice, like myself. I learned a lot about my body and how to personalize each pose to improve my practice.
At the end of the class I felt absolute and total relaxation, as if my body was frozen and the class helped me defrost it. It was a feeling that even my at-home practice could not replicate. I felt like my entire body was worked through, blood flowing, awakening every inch of my body. It was an overall wonderful experience. Yoga from the Heart made me feel at home, it was a remarkable first studio experience that helped me get rid of the fear of doing yoga with others. I now know that everyone attends yoga for the same reason: to work on themselves! They aren’t thinking of who is around them, they are navigating their own fears and anxieties and trying to have a successful yoga practice just like the rest of us. If you also had the same fear as I did, I highly recommend you buy that one-class pass and head over to your nearest yoga studio. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Written by: Cristyne Ramirez