20 years of practicing yoga

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 Today I’m feeling reflective as I celebrate a major milestone – 20 years of practicing yoga!

Hi friends, I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Ours was low-key and we saw Riverdance, which was everything.

While I was at hot yoga last week, I realized that I’ve been practicing yoga for TWENTY YEARS. It hit me pretty hard and I couldn’t believe how much life I’ve been through since I was first introduced to yoga. Moves, deployments, babies, highs, and lows, yoga has been a fairly consistent part of my life. I’ve cried during savasana, mastered certain poses, struggled with others, spent 90% of certain classes in child’s pose, and learned to truly be present and focus on my breath.

It’s been two decades of unrolling my mat, connecting with my breath, and flowing through sequences that challenge and transform my mind and body. It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since I first discovered yoga, and while I can’t do any crazy tricks and I’m not the most flexible bear, this practice has shaped my life in countless ways. So, in honor of this milestone, I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, and the rewards I’ve reaped over the past 20 years of practicing yoga.

(Maisey also wants me to tell you that today is her birthday! OF COURSE she’s getting a doggy cake and birthday song)

20 years of practicing yoga

My introduction to yoga:

My very first class was a Rodney Yee yoga DVD I picked up at Target on a whim. I was in college, feeling the stressors of a dramatic relationship and constant homework deadlines, and figured I’d give it a whirl. Instantly, I was drawn in by the sense of calm it brought me. I also loved Rodney Yee’s clear, concise instruction and his ability to guide students to a deeper understanding of their bodies and the practice of yoga.

Looking back, this was the perfect way to get started: it was zero pressure (because I was solo, at home, in my mom’s living room). I started to practice yoga regularly, mostly before bed, and eventually transitioned into studio classes. Over the past 20 years, I’ve taken hundreds of yoga classes in studios all over the US, from California to Orlando and many spots in between.

Types of yoga I’ve tried:

There are so many different types of yoga out there, and each one offers a unique and challenging experience.

Here are a few types of yoga and what makes them so special:

Vinyasa Yoga:

Vinyasa yoga is a dynamic style of yoga that focuses on linking breath with movement. This flow-based practice is perfect for those who want to get their heart rate up and sweat it out on the mat. Classes can be slightly warm, or heated.

Restorative Yoga:

If you’re looking for a more relaxing and restorative practice, restorative yoga is the way to go. This gentle practice uses props and long-held poses to release tension and promote deep relaxation.

Yoga Nidra:

this is a type of yoga practice that is often referred to as “yogic sleep”. Unlike traditional yoga classes, where you move through a series of postures, in Yoga Nidra, you lay down in a comfortable position and are guided through a deep relaxation and meditation. This practice is designed to help you enter a state of deep relaxation, where you can release tension, stress, and anxiety. Yoga Nidra can be incredibly powerful, not only for physical relaxation, but also for mental and emotional relaxation. It’s a great way to recharge your batteries, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your overall well-being. So, if you’re looking for a way to relax and unwind, I highly recommend giving Yoga Nidra a try!

Ashtanga Yoga:

Ashtanga yoga is a traditional style of yoga that follows a set sequence of poses. This challenging practice is great for those who want to build strength, flexibility, and focus.

Bikram Yoga:

If you’re a fan of hot yoga, Bikram yoga is the ultimate challenge. This intense practice is done in a heated room and follows a specific sequence of 26 poses. This is what really got me hooked on yoga, and I’d drive almost two hours when we lived in Valdosta to take a Bikram class. My current favorite style is a blend of Vinyasa and Bikram, in a heated and humid room.

Yin Yoga:

Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga that focuses on holding poses for longer periods of time. This practice helps to improve flexibility and increase circulation, making it perfect for those who want to work on their mobility.

Hatha yoga:

this a traditional form of yoga that focuses on physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation. The practice is designed to balance the body and mind, and create a sense of harmony and inner peace. Hatha Yoga classes typically move at a slower pace than other forms of yoga, allowing practitioners to focus on the alignment of the postures and their breath. Hatha Yoga is a great option for beginners or anyone looking to improve their physical fitness, flexibility, and overall well-being.

No matter what type of yoga you choose, remember to listen to your body and honor your limits. With regular practice, you’ll be able to find your flow and take your yoga practice to the next level. I also recommend trying out a variety of styles; you’ll find the ones that speak to you and that you enjoy the most!

Benefits I’ve noticed from practicing yoga regularly:

Not only does yoga help to increase flexibility and strength, but it also has numerous benefits for your overall well-being.

Reduces stress and anxiety:

Yoga provides a space for you to connect with your breath and quiet your mind, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety. As someone who’s battled anxiety in the past, I know firsthand the benefits of incorporating yoga into your wellness routine. Yoga provides a safe space to connect with your breath, release tension from your body, and quiet your mind. By practicing yoga regularly, you can learn to manage stress and anxiety more effectively, which can lead to a more balanced and fulfilling life. Additionally, certain yoga poses, such as forward folds and inversions, can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to calm the body and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Improves flexibility and balance:

With regular practice, yoga can help to increase flexibility, improve balance, and potentially prevent injuries. This is especially important as we age and our bodies become less limber. It also involves getting on and off the mat, which is a great skill to maintain as we age. Many of the movements are functional and require core strength.

Strengthens the body:

Many yoga poses require strength and stability, which can help to build muscle and increase muscular endurance. Plus, yoga is a low-impact form of exercise, making it great for those who want to avoid high-impact workouts.

Promotes mindfulness and self-awareness:

By focusing on your breath and body during yoga practice, you can develop a greater sense of mindfulness and self-awareness. This can help to improve overall mood and well-being.

Connects you to a community:

Practicing yoga regularly can help you to connect with like-minded individuals and build a supportive community. This can be especially important for those who may feel isolated or disconnected. Something I learned during teacher training is that sometimes adjustments are the only physical touch that some people receive for the entire day. That was powerful for me and a reminder of how much we need connection and human touch to thrive.

My experience with yoga teacher training:

Selfishly, I did yoga teacher training just for me. I never really had the intention of teaching – I taught regularly when we lived in Valdosta but have only subbed here and there since then – but wanted to to deepen my own personal practice and learn as much as I could about yoga.

If you’re considering teacher training, here are some of the amazing things you can experience:

Deepen your practice:

Yoga teacher training is an opportunity to take your practice to the next level. You’ll learn new poses, refine your alignment, and enrich your understanding of the practice.

Learn about the philosophy of yoga:

Yoga is more than just a physical practice. In teacher training, you’ll learn about the history, philosophy, and spiritual aspects of yoga. I especially enjoyed reading the “Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga” and learning about primordial meditation.

Share your love of yoga with others:

As a certified yoga teacher, you’ll have the opportunity to share your love of yoga with others and help them to discover the transformative power of the practice.

Join a supportive community:

Yoga teacher training is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and build a supportive community. You’ll be surrounded by others who share your passion for yoga and who will support you throughout your journey.

Challenge yourself:

Yoga teacher training can be a challenging experience, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. You’ll push yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and come out on the other side with new perspective and a stronger practice.

There ya have it, friends! 20 years of practicing yoga has been an amazing journey filled with challenges, growth, and transformation. Through this practice, I’ve learned to connect with my breath, calm my mind, and listen to my body. I’ve gained strength, flexibility, and resilience, both on and off the mat. I’ve met incredible friends and had the opportunity to learn from some of the very best teachers. And most importantly, I’ve learned to cultivate a sense of inner peace and well-being that, along with my faith, has carried me through life’s ups and downs.

If you’re new to yoga or have been practicing for a while, I encourage you to stay committed to your practice, and allow it to guide you on your own journey of growth and transformation. <3

Are you a yoga fan or not so much? How often do you practice? What’s your favorite style?

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