So… story time.
I used to hate yoga. Hate with a capital H.
In college, I would begrudgingly drag myself to hot power flow (which was essentially a Bikram class) whenever it got really cold outside. Otherwise, I pretty much avoided it. It never felt “easy,” I hated being upside down, and I didn’t really take it seriously, as physical or mental exercise. I have so many memories of my friend, Danielle, and I cracking up during the weird breathing portions and the awkwardly quiet moments of class. PS— Danielle is now a yoga sculpt teacher at CorePower OH HOW TIMES CHANGE am I right???
When I moved to LA, I remember doing a bit more yoga, but it was still never my thing. I always prioritized a run or a spin class over a yoga session. And no matter how hot or hard the class was, I always felt like it was mainly just a time to stretch and relax. I never viewed it as a workout on its own.
My Journey Into Yoga
I moved to Tampa in 2016, and all I remember about that time is feeling lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise, I wasn’t motivated to work out, and my mental health was off. To avoid a long story, I ended up taking a hip hop yoga class (cool right?) one night, and it pretty much changed my life. It was hot, it was fun, and it was HARD. Probably the best part about it was that it didn’t feel like a yoga class. I can look back now and see that we were doing a vinyasa flow, but all I remember is feeling strong and athletic. There wasn’t as much hippie-dippy yoga stuff that some classes incorporate— which, btw, I like now! But at the time, all I wanted was a focus on strength and power, and that class DELIVERED.
About a month or two after that first class, I decided to take a leap and start a teacher training program at Lucky Cat Yoga. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was everything I needed. Right after graduation, I got my first job teaching, and the rest is history!
This is where I could very easily go into a long story about teacher training, my first teaching job, and the break I took from my yoga practice. But those stories are long, so I’ll save them for another post (or two… or three). Instead, I’ll just say that teacher training was very much transformative for my practice, and that teaching IRL added a new layer onto my experience with yoga that I never anticipated. And somewhere along the way, I truly fell in love with yoga.
My Relationship with Yoga NOW
A lot of “yogis” on Instagram make it seem like their practice is this wonderful, beautiful thing all of the time. I can’t speak for other people, but I know that mine is 100% not perfect, and that there are times when I do not want to practice, or when doing yoga HURTS. I have taken breaks from my practice, some longer than others, and I have acted in very non-yoga-like ways.
But that’s kinda why it’s a relationship.
Before I did teacher training, I loved yoga, but I didn’t feel obligated to it in any way. It was just something I really enjoyed, much like all of the other fitness classes I took/continue to take. But during teacher training, I started to incorporate yoga into my life in other ways, beyond just the physical practice of “asanas.” It became therapeutic, comforting, and even spiritual in moments. I truly fell in love with it, and now, I know that it will always be a part of my life, even if I stop teaching one day. And that’s what’s most comforting— no time away from my mat could sever my relationship with yoga. It will always be there waiting for me, when I’m ready to embrace it again.
I think what I value most about my yoga practice, and what keeps me going when I lack motivation, is how it has changed me both mentally and physically. We all are familiar with endorphins post-cardio, but yoga gives me a different kind of high. I genuinely feel lighter when I finish a great yoga practice, and it keeps me feeling positive and less stressed long after I finish up on the mat. The breath that we practice in yoga carries over into all stressful situations, and I find myself practicing ujjayi whenever I’m in a really stressful, anxious spot. Sometimes, just the sound of my breath can calm me down. As someone who used to struggle with chronic, debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, this is really pretty spectacular. Yoga has also taught me patience in a major way, because advancing in my practice has taken YEARS. But as they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. 🙃
Physically, I cannot deny that my body looks and feels different after years of dedicated practice. I have legitimate triceps now, my core is stronger than it has ever been, and I walk a little taller than I used to. But I will also never be one of those long and lean yogis that most people see on Instagram. For a long time, this was a hard pill to swallow, and it made me feel like an outsider in the yoga community. I looked different than my coworkers, and I actually had a teacher tell me once that I was too heavy to move forward in my practice. This is quite funny now, because I was pretty lean at the time. But now I see that there is not a specific “yoga body,” just like there is not one perfect type of bikini body. Any body that does yoga is a yoga body, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to re-assess their authority on the practice.
Still Hate The Thought of Yoga? Keep Reading.
I truly believe that yoga is a lot more expansive than what most people see from the outside— mainly because I was once a “yoga hater,” so I feel like I understand that POV. It can seem out of reach to people who are out of shape or who aren’t flexible. It can seem boring or stupid to those who have hyperactive minds (🙋🏼♀️that was me). It can seem pointless to those who are super busy and only have time for intense workouts. And it can seem confusing to those who want a simple, straightforward fitness experience. But for every hater, I believe that there is a form of yoga that can work for them. I fell in love with hot vinyasa, and it’s still probably my favorite type of yoga to practice. However, I now love practicing outside of the hot room, and I’ve grown to enjoy more restorative, gentle practices as well (even yin, which is slow but PAINFUL). Hot yoga was my entry point, and from there, I’ve fallen in love with yoga in general. I don’t expect that to happen for everyone, but I do believe that most people can benefit from and grow to enjoy yoga in at least one of its forms.
That being said, I still love intense cardio workouts— I actually teach rhythm-based cycling now, too! And there are days when I absolutely dread spending 60 minutes in a room focusing on my breath. But yoga has become such a relief for me, both mentally and physically. It has even affected me spiritually, which I never anticipated. I believe that yoga has made me a better person, and I know that as I continue this journey, I will only get better and become more authentic in my practice. It has been a winding road, full of detours and moments where I doubted yoga’s legitimacy in my life. But I couldn’t be happier to be a teacher now, and I just hope I can help more people see how yoga fits into their lives, too!
PS… if you’re in the Tampa area and are looking to try yoga, come check out DEFINE: Carrollwood, my home away from home! We offer rhythm-based cycling, barre, trampoline classes (yup you read that right), and yoga. I can’t explain how amazing this place is, but I will try in a future post! In the meantime, you can use my promo code “ANASTASIA” for three free classes. This is a very casual savings of $72 😎Come hang with meeee!