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30 Days of Yoga

Thursday, September 02, 2010

According to Lululemon, it's National Yoga Month. (Isn't every month National Yoga Month? It should be. Get on that, Barack!) In celebration of National Yoga Month, I am challenging myself to 30 days of yoga. It doesn't have to be a lot of yoga - it could be a 90 minute vinyasa class, but it also could just be a gentle restorative practice or a few minutes of child's pose, or meditating in hero's pose - but I am going to do something every day. I actually thought up this challenge on my own, before I realized it was National Yoga Month. But it certainly is fitting.

I love yoga. I love the way it makes me feel when I'm in the middle of a needed stretch, and I REALLY love how I feel after leaving a class - relaxed, serene, completely loose - it's as close as I can get to a fancy schmancy massage without forking over $90. Every time I do yoga, I think, "I should do this more." So I'm going to.

I didn't always love yoga. My mom actually got into it before I did. I first did yoga as part of a Pi-Yo routine with my mom, her BFF Denise, and myBFF Jenn on a multi-family vacation to the Outer Banks. Denise had a Pi-Yo class that she loved and the instructor was moving away, so she memorized the routine. I had a sticky mat because I was a Pilates kind of girl, but my mom forgot to tell Jenn and me to bring mats (Jenn may not even own one to this day - she's a running kind of girl) and we ended up practicing on beach towels. We had one session on the beach at sunrise. It was brutally hot and (sorry, Denise) kind of miserable. I remember thinking that I SHOULD feel like I'm in a yoga video, but instead I just feel sweaty and like there is sand in my pants.

Not long after, I bought my first yoga DVD, "Yoga for Dummies" with Sara Ivanhoe. (LOVE Sara Ivanhoe.) I wanted to tone up for my wedding. I'm not sure if the yoga had more to do with it or the fact that I just ate a cup of plain yogurt for lunch every day all summer - we're not even going to go there - but I looked pretty good on my wedding day. Good enough. The dress and veil helped. I forgot yoga for awhile.

Over the next two years, I revisited Sara Ivanhoe periodically. I liked the DVD fine, but I preferred my "MTV Pilates" video. I wanted to like yoga, I did - if only because Gwyneth Paltrow likes it. But I was just more of a Pilates girl. I put on some happy weight and stress weight (a combination, I think) over my 3L year of law school (the stress part) and first year of marriage (the happy part). Studied for the Bar, gained a little more. Got a job at a government agency in DC and joined the gym. They had group fitness classes. I went to one yoga class with my new coworker Sarah, but was too distracted by the 50 other people in the class, the instructor's creepy earlobe expansion system, and the woman who kept trying to take my brick, to focus. Plus, I had a perfectly good Pilates class to go to with an instructor named Mimi who wore cargo pants. Was I really going to throw that all away?

Then I left my government agency for private law practice, trading in a small paycheck for a large one, great hours and lots of vacation for long days, high stress, and no vacation. And I came back to yoga. For the first time, I needed yoga. I needed a release, something to deal with the stress of my new career. I needed to get out of my head and back to a place with tapestries on the walls like my college dorm room, where my tie-dyed, granola-crunching nighttime self would be understood. First, I tried a studio in Adams Morgan.

Now, I love Adams Morgan. I am out there waving the rainbow flag and chanting with the best (or at least loudest) of them. I've marched in many demonstrations in my day and even picketed a Cornell professor's house. Adams Morgan is a place that welcomes weirdos like me. But it was too far from work. I found a studio closer to home, one with a location very near work so I could go on weeknights too if I wanted to. I took classes with different teachers, and I learned my favorite poses (child's pose! cobra! tree!) and my least favorite (lizard, ugh). I moved again, switched studios again, and adopted a new hobby of creeping out my new neighbors by doing asanas in my yard.

And somewhere in there, asana practice became something I found to be calming, energizing, and very necessary. It went from being a way to tone up for my wedding to a way to stay sane. And now I want to take it to the next level, explore more of what yoga means to me, improve my ability to hold challenging poses, and make asana a habit in my life. I want to call myself a yogi.

Yesterday I did a stretching practice with some of my favorite back stretches and hip openers. Tonight, I'm going to do some more back stretches (I need them after the day I had at work) and practice crow pose. Tomorrow, who knows? I just know I'll do yoga.
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