Are you afraid to try yoga? I was too! It was the most bizarre, scary, esoteric thing I had ever done. I was in the military, so while yoga didn’t seem to match the outward persona I tried to project, I took pride in the bravery and counter-instincts it took to walk into my first class. I have memories of driving up to places, new places where I didn’t know a soul, and turning around. So this was huge for me! It’s also changed my life.
The whole reason I really went was because I’d been suffering from a back injury incurred from slipping on black ice in the middle of “Fort Lost in the Woods,” Missouri (Fort Leonardwood). We did not exactly have a local yoga studio or beginner yoga class at that time in 2007 nor would I have known where to look. I then moved to Hawaii having tried the ibuprofen and physical therapy route with no success.
I was a new 2nd lieutenant at my first unit, so opting out of physical training was not an option. Every day to and from work I drove past a banner that said “Jasmine Yoga” and finally curiosity got the best of me. It did not get any more local than that. (Plus, Locals were my favorite brand of flip flops or “slippahs” like a local Hawaiian would say.) I literally passed this place twice a day, so access was no excuse. How fortunate to have this local yoga studio near me!
My first class was not a beginner yoga class, but luckily for me, I’m athletic and I had generally good body awareness. Even if I had not been, I would have felt welcome to slow down and ask questions as needed. The strangest thing was maybe the names of the positions and this kind, local teacher who did not seem to mind that I was a total novice. Oh and the shoes. Everyone took off their Locals and slippahs or, as this was Hawaii, many people came without shoes on at all. They just asked that you wash off the sand with a hose before you come in!
I eventually went back to try different teachers, and this was pretty much the same for all of them! The personalities were distinct of course. Some of them move the class at a slower pace, others play loud music, and some of them might give more hands-on adjustments. But I loved all of them, and soon they learned my name and welcomed me into their family. I felt that I was part of a local community that welcomed all levels from beginner to advanced.
Oh, and did I mention that I healed my back?! And plantar fasciitis that had been plaguing me for years from running and doing foot marches. Going regularly is what really made the difference. Getting a yoga practice into your routine with the right teachers is key. I was able to learn a few things I could use on deployment, and once I returned, I hadn’t skipped a beat.