Recently I was reflecting on my yoga practice and realized I’ve been attending the same studio for nine years now. Then I started to think back on how long I’ve been practicing yoga as a workout and realized it would be a good time to share my full yoga journey.
A few years ago I shared my running journey because I often write about fitness tips, tricks and products that have helped me over the years. In addition to all of the time I’ve spent running and racing, I’ve spent probably nearly equal time in the yoga studio. Running and yoga, for me, have paired well together.
Yoga in 2020
With all that has been going on this year I haven’t been to a yoga studio in months. My last visit was either February or very early in March. Normally I would attend an in person class usually once a week or every other week. This has pretty much been my routine for the last five years or so.
I found some outdoor classes this summer and was happy to join an outdoor practice the last few months. That ended at the end of September. I also tried some online and video options, which I plan to pursue into the winter months. However, I had one pending class hanging out on my account.
Last week, I returned to the studio for the first time in eight months to use that class. It was strange to be in a familiar place once again, I wanted so much to enjoy the class but I realized so much is different now and will stay different for the near future.
It reminded me a bit of my first class at the studio after having our daughter. But this time I wasn’t different, the space and experience was. When you go to a place for almost a decade you come to find comfort in the familiar, routine, what to expect. I hope this comfort returns someday.
My Yoga Journey
Why I Practice Yoga
Yoga practice is not a spiritual experience for me, although I know many consider it that. For me it’s purely a physical workout although there is also a little bit of a mental component for me with stress relief and relaxation. I believe you can meditate and practice any faith. It’s really an exercise in resting the mind, for me.
The more intense classes for a heart-pumping workout, the more relaxed classes to calm my mind and remove stress from my life. No matter the type of practice, I find myself coming back again and again. Benefits for me include:
- Physical Benefits (increased flexibility and strength)
- Stress Reduction
Journey of Yoga
How I Started Yoga
I started doing workouts on VHS tapes in high school and later acquired nearly the entire Jane Fonda collection. Among my collection were also a few Denise Austin yoga DVDs. These are the first official yoga workouts I remember doing. I had Yoga Buns, Power Yoga Plus and some others.
A few years later I took my first official yoga class led in person by an instructor. I was in college and the classes were at the student recreation center. At the time yoga was offered for a nominal fee of like $15 or $20 per semester of all you can want classes. What a deal in retrospect! Classes were usually taught by students.
I remember the instructor using more of the animal names for poses than the sanskrit names. I don’t remember how many classes I attended but there were enough that I did purchase a yoga mat and carrying case.
Usually I would go to class with my friends. One instructor in particular taught most of the classes I attended. During final resting pose she would provide visuals from nature for us to focus on.
Yoga as a Young Adult
I graduated college. In 2007 started working my first full-time job in Sandusky, Ohio. With the exception of using those yoga DVDs from time to time at home, I really did not practice again for about four years. I purchased a gym membership but I was mostly using the weight machines or treadmills.
Then I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a new job. After the move I transferred my gym membership and kept that going. In 2009, I signed up for and took part in a 1-day yoga relaxation session at my gym.
Then it wasn’t until spring of 2011 that my interest with yoga was reignited when I was invited by a friend to attend a free Community Yoga Day at what was then the Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) campus.
I took three or four yoga classes that day and I officially began my yoga journey. I left feeling totally relaxed and inspired. Why hadn’t I already been doing this? I hadn’t fully committed to a yoga pratice and until that day-long seminar the only style of yoga I had practiced was hatha. It was the first time I took yoga seriously.
Shortly thereafter I began to regularly check out new yoga DVDs from the library and then I signed up for a 7-week hatha yoga session at my gym. I really enjoyed that session. Each class was 90-minutes allowing a lengthy warm-up and end relaxation period. Hatha is a relaxing type of yoga but the poses have enough depth to them to challenge me.
Yoga in the Studio
Once the classes ended I had to decide if I would sign up for another session or seek out other yoga options. After the gym classes ended I searched around town for actual yoga studios. If you have never tried yoga before these are buildings where only yoga classes are offered simliar to someone who goes to a dance studio.
I tried several studios, many of which have probably since come and gone, including Pranayoga Yoga and Health Studio. Over the years I have tried establishing an at home practice but to no avail. The studio was where I felt most at home and most consistent with my practice. While I have never practiced daily I do practice regularly.
At that time I was usually attending one to two classes a week. And even now whenever I am need of a stretch (especially when working at a desk) I can now easily break out some yoga poses. Later I found a home at Lotus Yoga in Fort Wayne and stayed there until moving to Cleveland, Ohio.
Since our move to Cleveland I have attended at least half a dozen different studios. Many have come and gone. It seems competition here is fierce and many studios will shut down or change hands. Inner Bliss Yoga has stayed open the entire time I’ve lived here and I would consider that my home studio.
Regular Yoga Practice
For the most part I try to attend a studio class at least once a week. Typically it’s a hot vinyasa or flow type class where I experience a lot of movement and deep stretches. I would like to go more often but it depends on the season (summer being busier) my schedule in general that week and finances. Yoga is expensive and seven days without yoga makes one weak.
Around 2014, after taking classes regularly for three years, I tried go to a few weeks without yoga and realized that this workout has become more of a need for me than a want. What I didn’t realize is that yoga has truly become something I need. Physically I started to notice the change in my body. But it was about a three week break that I experienced that led me to the following conclusions.
The change was my lower back was tight. I would stretch out and do some yoga moves at home but it wasn’t helping. Taking a 60-minute class with constant movement in a heated room is definitely a bit different. I was also moody, sluggish and overall – just not feeling like myself. It was so strange and I tried to attribute some of those feelings to other areas of my life, such as diet.
When I am running a lot, yoga is especially important. This year I have not been running very much but I have been lifting weights and I find I still need to stretch out my body. I realized how stiff and achy the body can become without that specific type of movement.
Hot Yoga Journey
Advancing my Practice
In 2013 I tried Bikram yoga for the first time when our first (and only it seems) west side Bikram studio opened. My yoga practice was getting more serious in 2014 and by the end of the year I was actually actively trying to learn how to do a handstand of all things! Running made me feel good about how my body looked. Yoga makes me feel good about the strength my body has.
“Take a few handstand hops.” Typically I abhor this statement in class. Usually the yoga teacher is encouraging everyone to “get outside their comfort zone” and to “challenge themselves.” I am miffed. I halfheartedly try a few hops just to make it look like I’m doing something and then eagerly anticipate the next downward dog or half moon pose.
Something changed one week in 2014. I was in the moment. I tried the hops. It was not a full handstand. But it was the closest I have ever come to being in one. The challenge of this pose and the idea that maybe I could do this really excited me. Prior to this I experienced simliar excitement when I was first able to really balance for even a second in crow pose.
Types of Yoga
Over the years I have now tried many different types of yoga including:
- Bikram Yoga
- Restorative Yoga
- Yin Yoga
- Hatha Yoga
- Power / Vinyasa Yoga (still my favorite!)
- Yoga Nidra
- Prenatal Yoga
- Baby and Me Yoga
Yoga Since Becoming a Mom
My handstand dreams came to a bit of a halt in 2015 when we were expecting our baby. Early in my pregnancy heated yoga classes immediately felt uncomfortable. I quickly stopped attending heated classes and switched to unheated vinyasa flow. I was able to keep this up for quite a while.
It wasn’t until the second half of my pregnancy that I switched to prenatal yoga at Puma Yoga. I found a studio that offered prenatal yoga classes three times a week. I was an avid attendee going thrice weekly almost every week! My last prenatal class was five days before our daughter was born.
I took time off after the birth. We signed up for Baby and Me Yoga at Puma Yoga and I did take those classes for a few weeks in early 2016. Alone, I returned to my home studio, which was the moment I shared at the beginning of this post. It took some time to rebuild strength and while I am stronger now, I still haven’t found that desire to try handstands again.
For about four years, from 2016 until early 2020, I continued that week or bi-weekly practice. That was until everything turned upside down early this year. Our daughter is now old enough to understand yoga and has her own little mat and loves the animal poses. It’s been fun to exercise together at home and even go to a few Yoga for Children classes.
Journey Yoga and Wellness
This is my yoga journey. I’m really thankful I’ve been able to enjoy yoga and hope to continue practicing for a very long time. I’m always amazed by the many ages of the yogis in my classes. I hope to be that old lady doing handstands someday. Now if I could only do a handstand at my younger age!
Why do you practice yoga?