I've been an avid runner since high school, but about eight years ago I started taking my hobby a bit more seriously. It was around that time that I had my first child after a pregnancy that added almost 60 pounds to my frame. As soon as the doctor gave me the green light, I laced up my shoes and hit the trails. Unfortunately, my running habit had a pretty significant downside — tendonitis in both of my knees.
In search of an alternative
When running became more and more difficult for me, I began searching for an alternative, but replacing running is tough. I experimented with a few different classes at the gym, joined a boot-camp group and tried a few different video workouts. Just when I decided to figure out a way to manage my knee pain so that I could keep running, a yoga studio opened up in my neighborhood, and I decided to give it a try.
Socks and yoga don’t mix
I knew nothing about yoga when I walked in that door. I had no mat, no towel, no water. Fortunately, the instructor was patient and the class wasn’t too crowded, which limited my embarrassment. Well, that is until I slipped in my socks and did a face plant. Lesson learned — socks and yoga don’t mix. With my cheek pressed against the floor, I noticed that everyone else in the class had bare feet securely stuck to their mat. I quickly slipped off my socks and returned to my downward dog. Whew! Crisis diverted.
My first class was hard... really hard. I was not prepared for the amount of sweat I produced. While it took a while to get used to it, it felt so good to purge the toxins. I've been introduced to many different yoga styles over my eight-year journey. The variety is one of the best aspects of the practice. There truly is a style for everyone. I've settled into my favorite, a challenging version called Ashtanga that focuses on breath and fluid movement. After five years of practicing, my body and my mind are officially addicted.
If you haven't tried yoga yet because you're intimidated, don't be! Here are some of the lessons I've learned over the years:
- Invest in a quality mat and wash it often.
- Wear comfortable clothes.
- Use the mirror to adjust your postures, not to criticize your body.
- Experiment with different styles.
- Ask your instructor questions after class.
- Bring a small towel to wipe your sweat (if in a heated class) and plenty of water.
- Listen to your body. Some days should be challenging, others restorative.
- Don't underestimate the power of your breath.