I am a runner. For years, I’ve trained my body to conquer the hills, go the distance, fight through weather, change my pace, and see new things through running. I have my battle wounds to prove it, too. Last weekend, my mom and I went to get a pedicure together. The man working on my toes looked up from my feet and asked “you’re a runner, aren’t you?” I guess my black and blue toenail, blood blister, and rough skin on my feet was a bit of a giveaway. But I nodded with pride because I’d take a good run over pretty toes any day. (Don’t get me wrong- I do LOVE a good pedicure)…
Anyway, I’ve found my sport. One that I can do almost every day of the week, one that challenges me, and one that gives me sanity. But recently I’ve come to the conclusion that I could use some stretching, relaxation, and strength training in my life. After some encouragement from Luke, Francis, Libby, and Michelle, I finally caved and committed myself to finding my balance (and hopefully my inner yogi).
The goals: to use yoga to decompress and de-stress while we get closer and closer to the one day of the year we spend the other 364 preparing for. To improve my flexibility, stretching, reduce soreness after my daily pounding of the pavement. And to improve upper body and core strength.
With these goals in place, I devised a plan. I will test out 3 different yoga studios in San Francisco over the next few months, all styles, and hopefully find a way to incorporate yoga into my lifestyle. My first stop was The Yoga Tree. Luke is an avid Yoga Tree go-er, and conveniently there are 4 locations in the city to choose from. I checked out their schedules and was mesmerized. Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Flow, Shadow, I had no idea what these meant. So I signed up for a “Shadow Yoga” class and was on my way to enlightenment.
I showed up for my first day with a “I heart running” water bottle and my mat. I snuck into the back row (perfect- no one could see me topple over when the trickier moves came around…) There was a little bit of chanting, I listened and tried to figure out the tune, but clearly I did not buy the “Shadow Yoga Sing-a-long” before I came because I was not picking up the melody. Next we did some gentle stretching, twists, etc. Later we progressed into some poses with a martial arts theme. The instructor explained everything fully, and there was rarely a time when I was completely lost. All in all, my first class was a success.
Later that week, I signed up for the Gentle Hatha class with a friend of mine who lives down the street. Friday night came and we walked down to the studio, exhausted after a busy week of work. Although I had no idea what I’d signed up for, the stars aligned, and the class turned out to be exactly what my body needed: relaxing, restful, meditative, and deep stretching. In the dark room, with sage and candles burning, we slowly worked through different poses on our mats with bolsters, blankets, and blocks. For any injuries, there was always an alternative. We kept our eyes closed and tried to get in touch with what we individually needed from the class. Walking out of class that night, I was convinced I’d napped for at least 4 hours- it was the most relaxed I’d felt in ages.
Having conquered (or rather surviving) 2 different styles, I was ready to try Vinyasa yoga. A few weeks ago, Luke recommended this style to me, saying it incorporates great poses for runners. This time, I headed south to the Valencia studio in the Mission District. Again, I crept to the back of the room and tried to keep a low profile. The class was so different from the sleepy-time gentle class before. The room stayed warm as the instructor lead us through dynamic poses at a quick pace. My heart was pumping, muscles burning, and mind racing as I tried to keep up. There were definitely poses I struggled with, but I persisted, not giving up. This class was the most challenging so far, and a serious work out!
Now finished with stop #1 on my “Yoga Tour”, I know more than I did 2 weeks ago;
1. My body is not ready to be a triangle, a camel, or a king dancer
2. On the contrary- I’m well on my way to becoming an eagle, a happy baby, a child, a dog, or a warrior.
3. When it comes to attire- anything goes! But beware of room temperatures…
4. Breathe, breathe, breathe!