Everyone has their own story of how they found Yoga, this is mine. Before I ever stepped into a studio – I was scared to even try. What if I didn’t know what to do, what if everyone could tell I had never done Yoga before, what if I was the worst one in the class, what if I couldn’t actually do it, what if? Sound familiar? Stay with me, the story turns out not to be so scary.
First Yoga Class
I was still curious, so my friend and I decided to go together – at least there was someone else who had no clue what to do there with me, right? We planned to meet at the studio so we could walk in together. As I drove there I was still a little nervous but also excited to see what it was all about. When we walked into the lobby, we were greeted by our teacher, Claire. She smiled, welcomed us and spoke softly as we filled out forms. She pointed us toward the locker rooms and studio and my nerves settled a little as Claire reassured us we would be totally fine.
I know when you walk into a studio it can be a little intimidating. Yoga poses can look very complicated and here are students and teachers that seem almost unearthly with their ability to go so deep into a pose. I’m here to change that.
A fellow Yoga teacher, Kelly Couturier has a beautiful message for beginners:
“Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen the body. Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy yoga studios and complicated poses. Yoga is for everyone.”Kelly Couturier, New York Times “Yoga For Everyone: A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga”
Inside the Studio
Trusting that we would be totally fine, we put our stuff away, took our mats and water and walked into the studio. The air was hot like a heated blanket covering us from head to toe, the floor was warm beneath my feet. Yes, the first time I tried Yoga I went to Hot Yoga. The room was a balmy 103 degrees Fahrenheit and roughly 48% humidity. There was a control panel for the heat and humidity visible on the wall next to me. So, when I say the air was hot, I mean it. The walls were dark, lights dim, mirrors lined the front and side walls and there was a single black yoga mat and candle in the front center. There was a faint smell of orange in the thick, hot air. It seemed so still and quiet.
I looked around and pointed to the floor near the back door, thinking we would be close to the door just in case we wanted to escape. You always need a plan, right? We rolled our mats out there so we could hide in the back and try to figure out how things worked.
In the studio, my body was trying to adjust to the heat and humidity in the room. The air was thick and muggy from the humidity and I wondered how I would breathe, much less how we would actually do Yoga in the heat. We sat there in the quiet, just taking it all in. Gradually, other students started to come in, roll their mats out, drape towels on top of their mats, start to stretch, lie down or sit cross-legged. No one spoke. Only the sound of footsteps and mats hitting the wood floor and being rolled out filled the room. Our teacher entered the studio, made her introduction – welcoming us to class and asked us to come up to standing in Samastitihi (Standing at Attention pose). Everyone stood as if they knew what she meant and I quickly scanned the room looking for someone I could follow during class. My eyes locked in on a student in the front, okay Heather, just do what she does. We stood there, our feet firmly planted on the ground with our palms pressed together at our hearts. I was doing Yoga.
During the next 60 minutes, seriously a blur – time seemed to fly and stand still all at the same time. We moved through Sun Salutations, I had no clue what they were but she said it was warming up our muscles. I literally could not imagine needing more heat in my body.
As the teacher gracefully folded into Forward Fold, I followed and something remarkable happened. I loved the way my body felt; alive, strong, powerful, my brain was calm and focused. My heart was beating, I was sweating and moving and then it all stopped. It was time for Savasana (Final resting pose) so I lay on my mat, hot, exhausted and still. A sense of peace rushed over my body. In those quiet moments, no one needed anything from me, my body was done working, all of the energy I created in my practice was refueling my body and brain. It was a transformational experience in my life. I knew in that moment that this feeling needed to be shared – that everyone should be able to feel this good.
I wanted to be a
to offer to others
what this experience
had given me.
As we rolled up our mats, I was already planning my next trip back to the studio. I was ready and wanted to learn and explore what my body could do. I was all in. Everyone’s experience is different. My friend, yes – remember her? I was so focused in class, I wasn’t even paying attention to what she was doing. She said it was a good workout and we talked about coming back to try other classes. All those doubts I had before class – well everyone was so focused on themselves, no one worried if I was in Warrior II or how deep I went into a pose.
Over the years, I’ve walked into Yoga studios thousands of times, literally. As a student, as a teacher, always learning. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that it is called a practice for a reason. Everytime you show up to your mat, you are different from the last. In your physical body and mind, and that is the beauty of your Yoga practice. It grows with you and truly gives you what you need. Everyone makes it to their mat for a different reason. For some, it is purely the physical practice, they want to stretch, balance and sweat. Others crave the connection to self or a community. Many seek the quiet moments of mindfulness found in Savasana. There is always something to observe, learn and explore. Whatever motivates you – to make it to your mat; I hope you find peace, enjoy your journey and remember that it is a practice. You do not have to be perfect. You do not have to wait until you think you are good enough. Yoga is here for you just as you are.
As I drove home from that first Yoga class, still soaked in sweat with my clothes clinging to my body (I told you it was hot in there!), I felt so good – it was almost as if I was floating. I started thinking, hoping and planning my journey to become a Yoga Teacher. We all have a different story of how we began our Yoga practice. As a teacher, I will always hold a very special place in my heart for my little Yogis, many of whom first learned Yoga from me. Seeing them grow into confident, strong, peaceful yogis is such a blessing in my life. To my students that have trusted me with their practice, welcomed me into their lives – I am so truly humbled and honored to be a part of your story. Together we have created a community of peaceful, loving, strong yogis. We have had adventures, started businesses, welcomed babies, watched our children grow, experienced great joy and life’s sorrow. We have laughed and cried, cheered and celebrated our successes.
My heart will forever be in gratitude for the love and light you continue to share.
Namaste, my friends.