I was led to the practice of yoga nearly a decade ago during a chapter of my life in which I was significantly overtraining. Kind and gentle were not in my vocabulary, as it related to the conditions under which I was placing my body. At the time, I was participating in triathlons. It was with reluctance that I agreed to join one of my training buddies at her yoga class. Yoga sounded … slow? And, boring! I can’t honestly say that I was immediately “sold” on the practice. What I do know is that I went back. Again, and again, and again.
As my yoga practice evolved, I found my way to the lovely studio in Phoenixville where I ultimately completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training. I learned as the training unfolded that my teacher, Danielle, wouldn’t be caught in the studio where I took that first yoga class. As Danielle taught of the lineage of yoga, and the many different approaches to the practice which exist in the western world today, she spoke of a concept which she referred to as yoga for your butt.
As it turns out, that first studio was offering me yoga for my butt. And, I have nothing but gratitude for that studio. Because it was this athletic approach to the practice which met me where I was. It was an accessible way, at the time, for me to reap the benefits – well beyond a nice butt – which the practice of yoga stands to offer.
For a long while, I practiced this athletic yoga for your butt approach. I was drawn to the teacher who used cueing which supported the mindset of pushing and twisting … more, more, more … But, somewhere along the way, something shifted. And, as I continue to deepen my practice, my interest continues to shift significantly from that of the impact which the practice will have upon my butt to more of a focus upon the balance which I will experience of mind, body, and soul.
It has been my journey which influences how sensitive I am to the postings commonly seen around the holidays offering a practice of “burning off the turkey” or “twisting out the toxins.”
I found myself being led to my mat daily over the Thanksgiving holiday. The inspiration was not to offset what I was, or had been, eating and drinking. I took the 20-minute drive to the sweet studio where I practice by my parent’s home for my well-being.
On Thanksgiving Day, the studio was full to capacity. The class wasn’t advertised as a “detox to retox” (another Danielle reference) class. Rather, it was described as “Great Full Yoga,” leaving a great deal of space for interpretation. While the class was relatively gentle from a physical body standpoint, it provided connection through breath to the mind, body, and soul thus yielding space for reflection and for a giving of thanks. As I left that class, I felt balanced; I felt grounded; And, I felt so ready to consciously embrace time spent among my loved ones.
I know well the sense of schedules feeling over-full amidst the holiday season. I acknowledge that when it doesn’t feel as if there are enough hours in the day, it is often self-care which falls in priority on the “To-Do’s” list. Alas, there is holiday decorating, and shopping, and wrapping, and we can’t forget about all the social engagements …
And so, I invite you to take a look at how you are approaching your relationship with YOU this holiday season. Are you being kind and gentle to yourself? What is the underlying motivator for you to be led to your yoga mat, or not? To go for that walk with your loved one, or not? To slow down long enough to take a few meditative breaths and truly check-in with your body, or not?
You may notice an interesting shifting of priorities as motivation extends beyond how your butt will look in the holiday pants to that of your overall well-being. My wish for you this holiday season is that you too may experience that feeling which I had after Thanksgiving Day yoga – the balance, the grounding, and the readiness to consciously embrace times spent among loved ones.
*The image (above) was taken the day after Thanksgiving while I was on a walk with my father and brother. There was a time in years past when I would have passed on a walk of this nature because it was not a “turkey burner” day after the holiday sort of work-out. And, what sweetness I’d have missed.