Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yoga: a love story

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I started doing yoga in 1999, when I was 17 and a senior in high school. I was lucky enough to be able to take a Hatha class at school to complete my physical education requirement for one semester. My teacher was Judith Sekler, and it's not really exaggerating to say she changed my life forever.

I don't know what I knew or thought about yoga before I started doing it, only that once I did start doing it, I fell in love at first pose. It played into some things I was already good at, like gymnastic flexibility, and added in some other elements that I hadn't known how much I needed in my life, like meditation and Buddhist principles of mindfulness. At the time, I was in the middle of one of the most stressful times of my life, attending a rigorous private high school and trying to excel in a system that seemed determined to make as many of us as possible fail (that's dramatic in hindsight, but it was cutthroat). I felt like yoga was something I could actually be good at, and the added bonus of stress relief was not lost on me.

Once I moved to the bay area a year later, it took me a while to get back to yoga, but I did: by the time it was 2002, I was a full time community college student & went back to the yoga studio. This time, I became a regular at Piedmont Yoga in Oakland. I loved the ambiance of this place -- there's just something about a good yoga studio (plus, I think it had heated floors!). This was when I bought my own yoga mat, yoga shorts, etcetera -- I was a serious student! I keep meaning to go back to my old journal entries from that time, because so much has faded ... but I think I was going up to three times per week. Yeah, wasn't it nice to have all that free time in the middle of the day ... ? Answer: YES.

I even continued to go to yoga after my dad died in May 2003. I think it was one of the only things keeping me even remotely sane that summer, that summer where everything changed and I'd never been so out of my mind in my life. "Magical thinking," indeed.

It didn't really drop off until three things happened: in February 2004, I broke up with my boyfriend at the time and moved to San Francisco from Oakland (and away from my studio, and my cheap rent); I became extremely depressed that spring, followed by elated and happy beyond measure in April 2004 when the love of my life, Scott & I finally got together. Happy people don't need yoga (erm...); and finally, the nail in the coffin was my gaining acceptance to UC Berkeley and starting full time school in June 2004, way in over my head, editing the school newspaper, taking classes at a real university after years at a community college. I stopped doing yoga entirely.

I always talked about going back. I became scared, over time, of going back. That's the thing with me: the longer I get up in my head about not doing something, the bigger I blow it up to be in my head, even if it really is no deal at all. Plus, I was always able to make excuses, always focusing on something else: work, photography, staying out super late shooting concerts/shows, money, money, money. If there's an excuse that could be made, I made it. But deep down, I always wanted to go back, and deep down, it always felt like something was missing. I just needed to take that step and go back.

This year I woke up one day and thought: what am I waiting for? Really, why not now? My friend Meghan, who is inspiring to me on endless levels, is a yoga fanatic, and on top of everything else has a membership at a yoga studio I'd been eyeing for literally years. Yoga Garden is one of those studios that looks like a Zen hot springs from the outside, and I could just tell it had the kind of ambiance I love so much. But I was still too scared to go, until the day I woke up last April and there was an email in my inbox from Meghan about a rooftop yoga class in San Francisco. WHY NOT? I swallowed my fear and registered before my mind could tell me otherwise -- this is a tactic I often use when conquering fear and it has usually worked out well: just don't listen to your brain, don't give your brain a chance to even speak until it is already done. That's not to say I wasn't scared still --but it worked out great.

It was love at first pose, yet again, all these years later. And since then? I've been rediscovering my intense love of yoga all over again. I am not made of money, so doing this has at some points (like now, with an unemployed husband) been difficult, and required creativity -- but there are options out there, deals to be found, donation-only classes, and classes at my gym.

I've been taking classes whenever and wherever I can, and I've found a sense of mental/emotional peace I've really been missing and looking for this year. I may not be able to do handstands anymore, but I've also branched out from Hatha yoga into Yin and Vinyasa. I feel great. It really helped me with my half marathon training and with recovering from the half marathon afterward. I love the yoga community and I love everything about this new/old path I'm on. I am so grateful that I decided to go back after all this time, I can't say it enough! I LOVE YOGA! 

2 comments:

  1. YES to this, Amber! I just love yoga, too, but I've never had the courage to sign up to an actual studio. Sounds like it's not as intimidating as I thought... I love moments like that when you can turn your thinking around and ask 'why not' instead of 'why'. So empowering!

    PS: Happy belated birthday, and congrats on completing a half marathon!

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH! And yes, it's actually pretty easy to go in and not be intimidated -- yoga people are SO VERY KIND. ALWAYS. It's like ... a pre-requisite for being a yoga person :)

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