When I moved to Washington state, I became quite the running fanatic. I ran a few times during the week on my own, and my Saturday mornings were reserved for running followed by a gab-fest at Starbucks with a great group of ladies. I was by no means the fastest runner, but I enjoyed it and I had discovered the rumoured “runner’s high.”
When I began to run in 2009, I would hear people talk about half and full marathons thinking I could never do that. But soon, my 3-mile runs turned into 8-mile runs and those 8-mile runs turned into 13-mile runs. If someone asked me to go for a run, I never asked the distance because I knew I was ready for it.
Life changed though. I moved far away from those awesome running buddies. And then, I had a baby. Although I still love to run and want to continue doing it, it no longer loves my knees. Things aren’t the same anymore for me when it comes to running. And, I’m okay with that.
This past year, after a few failed attempts at rekindling my previous running skills, I knew I needed and wanted to find something that was more suited to my current lifestyle of chasing a toddler around and the unpredictability of Richard’s travel schedule. So, last autumn, after hearing one of my wonderful friends back in Washington talk about her experience with yoga and becoming a yoga teacher, I thought I’d might like to give it a go. I knew it had to be a form of yoga that really challenged me though. As much as I value relaxation and mindfulness, I needed bang for my buck – as we say in the States – when it came to my limited hours for a work out.
I searched and searched and stumbled across a small studio on the second floor of an old mill along the canal that has a pub on the first floor. How is that for character?! I Facebook messaged with the teacher prior to my first class, but I was still anxious entering into this unknown new-to-me form of fitness. Once we started though, I knew I was hooked.
Ashtanga. It’s crazy and awesome and mental and challenging and tough and beautiful and grounding. Each week, I get on the mat and it surprises me. Some days, it isn’t necessarily a good surprise in that maybe my balance might be completely off! But, most days, it’s an hour and a half of time for me in which I push myself to try harder and to hold that pose for just..one…more…breath.
My teacher is incredible as well. Ashtanga is not for the faint of heart, but she makes it accessible to everyone. She’s down-to-earth and funny and likes to tell stories as we go along. We have a laugh, and everyone that I’ve encountered at her studio comes with an open heart and the willingness to learn.
Ashtanga has truly become something that can bring me so much joy whilst simultaneously slapping me across the face. The postures are a constant reminder that my practice is only about me and no one else in the room. I see this as a pretty good metaphor for life and the tendency to compare ourselves to others. To properly practice (in yoga and in life), we need to focus on ourselves and our own limitations and learning to push through them when necessary.
Each time I practice, it not only affects me physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Whether I can swing the full hour and a half studio class or I just have 15 minutes with a toddler beside me doing her (quite impressive) version of a vinyasa, any time I spend on the mat positively impacts my day. I’m forever grateful for walking into my first Ashtanga class back in October as it has become the exercise that I see myself doing throughout my lifetime.
Have any of you tried Ashtanga? Do you have a form of exercise that you absolutely love?