Several years ago, I picked up the practice of yoga for the second time in over a decade, in what was our spare bedroom. I bought a few books and looked up poses on Pinterest, and ordered a new yoga mat online. I’ve written about those days a few times on this blog.
I never went into a studio because I was too afraid to practice in front of others: I thought I wasn’t strong enough and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, and so I stayed hidden for quite a long time.
One winter, I was visiting my friend Laura and we decided to go to a Sunday morning class at Kali Yuga Yoga in East Nashville. It was a restorative class, and neither of us really knew what to expect. We proceeded to lay around on a mat for about an hour in various poses, with props and blankets, in a warm, gorgeous, light-filled yoga room. As we were leaving, I turned to her and whispered, “was that yoga?” and we giggled, in pure joy. It was one of the best yogic moments I’ve had – with one of my closest friends, in total relaxation, total bliss.
That experience gave me the courage to finally try a group class here in Fort Worth.
So, I took a day off from work, and tried out two different studios. I was not brave enough to go on a weekend, or an evening, where I knew I might see these people again. But if I took a day off, no way would I ever run into the fellow yogis again. So if I messed up or wasn’t strong enough to complete the practice, I wouldn’t be around people I knew. I was super, super shy. Boy how times change.
The second of those studios that day was Urban Yoga, a gorgeous, intimate, light-filled yoga studio in the Southside of Fort Worth. It was the noon class, and it happened to be Yin & Restorative Yoga, taught by Amanda Powers. A fellow yogi came up to me before the class and asked if I had been to the studio before. I stated that I hadn’t, and he said, “you should buy the month pass. There’s so many good teachers and classes here. And that way you can try them all out.”
And so I did.
I went back most days, during that month trial, then became a member of the studio, and then went through Surya’s teacher training, at Urban, in 2015.
That first class at Urban, it was total bliss, just like the class I attended with Laura in Nashville. And the studios were so similar – these beautiful banks of light glow on you from the street corners, filling you with a perfect golden bliss.
Near the end of class, Amanda asked anyone who wanted to say their intention out loud to do so, and out of nowhere, my shy, scared self said, “strength“.
Because I was strong; I truly felt it. It was bold of me to go that class, and it was even more bold to speak out loud in a group of strangers, to hear my voice in a room filled with nothing but light and silence. But that’s the beauty of Urban Yoga, and of so many other yoga studios in our great world: they are safe, sacred, gorgeous places, with open arms and open hearts. Where you can show up exactly how you are and know that you will not be judged or ridiculed or laughed at.
Here’s where life is just the most amazing space, where magic opens, and love shows up: I now teach that class.
Just a few short years later, I am that strength. I am showing up, and opening my heart, and offering it to whoever wants to connect, wants to be present, every week.
There’s something truly special about Yin and Restorative Yoga. If you haven’t tried it, I would love for you to (and it would be so cool if you came to Urban, but of course, go where you feel safe and connected). In these types of yoga classes, you get a little bit closer to your true nature, because there’s so much space, and you can control that space. You can pick at the dog hairs on your yoga pants or fiddle with your fingernails or think about the food you need to make for the party or that fight you got in with your boyfriend. Or you can just be. Just sit and listen to what comes. It’s a divine form of meditation, if you allow it. And it’s a beautiful balance to your more vinyasa based yoga classes.
That word; my intention that day was strength. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that last year was incredibly difficult. I needed a lot of strength to get through it, and so did my husband. For me, that strength came from my yoga practice, whatever I could get in each day, even if that meant only holding tree pose while brushing my teeth at night. And still, I never felt strong. I felt like I was falling apart every single day. Those feelings were showing up on my mat, in my practice, in my relationships, and I felt defeated.
For a long time, I thought that I had no physical strength. One of my teachers here, Kila Rennaker, offered a special set of private lessons last Christmas, and so I bought them for myself. Kila and I have a lot in common on a personal level, and she’s one of the yogis I am drawn to the most. I absolutely adore her teaching style, her energy, her life and wisdom and the thought she puts into each and every one of her classes. I booked my private lessons with her, telling her I didn’t think I had enough strength: my chataranga is weak, my inversions are sloppy, my forearm plank needs work.
In the first lesson, at the end, she held my hands, and said, Jennifer, think of what happened to you last year. Think of everything you have been through, and where you are today. You have so much strength.
And I cried.
She’s right. I do have strength.
And so do you.
That spare bedroom never had any visitors, so we got rid of the bed and dresser, and it now holds two yoga mats. I have my safe space both at home and out in the world where I can practice and meditate and journal every day. And I’m here to tell you, if you think you can’t do something or your fears are holding you back, go do that thing. If you can’t get something out of your mind, if it makes your heart skip a beat in a good way, go do it. We are so much stronger than we think. We are capable of turning our lives and this world into the best place possible. I promise you, especially if it’s yoga related, you’re about to enter a world of pure love and companionship. No one will laugh at you for not knowing the poses or for taking a rest in child’s pose or for huffing and puffing your way through a practice. Find a real yoga studio. Find a place that grabs you. And go there, over and over again. Those are your people. There’s a reason you stopped by, and there’s a reason you’re starting to listen to your inner guru. Keep listening.
With strength and love and a healthy dose of yin yoga,
Almost 4 weeks ago, I had mouth surgery and was put on a liquid diet; hence this collection of smoothies. I tried new recipes every day, and these were my favorites, all wrapped up into one post. Cheers!