Hi! I’m Tina! This is the story of [drumroll]
My Yoga Escapade
An adventure, or a daring and exciting act.
An escape from restraint or confinement.
It started with a Groupon
Circa 2010, my friend was raving about this hot (literally) new workout called “Bikram Yoga.” Then a Groupon for a month of yoga at whatever the Chicago Bikram yoga chain was called at the time (it now appears to be called “105F Chicago’s Original Hot Yoga”) appeared in my inbox so I bought it because it was cheap and one of the studios was half a block from my apartment. And then I just sat on that Groupon…
…Until a valve blew in my apartment and caused the heat to go out. In the middle of winter. In Chicago. I was hugging my dog, trying to stay warm, when I remembered the Groupon. “Ah hah!” I thought, “I know what I can do to get warm!”
Thus followed a couple years of going to Bikram Yoga semi-regularly. I didn’t know anything about Bikram Choudury, the personality cult, the scandals, was totally ignorant of the history or philosophy of yoga, I just knew that I felt good after the practice. (I mean there was definitely a class where I got super nauseous and dizzy and just lay in savasana the whole time, but the teacher brought me some coconut water and I did not vomit. Shout out to that wonderful teacher!)
I had danced as a child and played sports through high school, but I am not athletically gifted and wasn’t good at anything, so when I got to college I stopped playing sports (too intimidated). Having nothing to train for, I was bored by “working out” for the sake of losing weight or looking good, so I basically stopped exercising.
10 years later, when I started yoga, I had finished law school and started a corporate law career that entailed sitting in front of a computer for long hours under high stress. Hot yoga brought back my physical confidence because I was relatively flexible for a layperson from my dance background and was the most cost effective way I knew to address all the weird aches and pains and knots I was getting from my desk job. I loved it!
Then around 2013, I moved to Tokyo for work and was unsuccessful at finding a new yoga studio there. Whereas a yoga class in Chicago cost $11-12 with a punch card or monthly membership, a yoga class in Tokyo cost a yearly registration fee with a studio and almost $30 a class. I started running and hiking instead.
I can only practice if I’m hiking!
In 2017, I stayed in LA with a dear dear friend for a week before an attempted thru-hike of the 210 mile John Muir Trail in California (that story here). She took me to the most awesome yoga studio ever, One Down Dog, and I basically made myself a week long yoga retreat. This was my introduction to creative vinyasa flow style classes where the teachers expressed their personality, made me feel confident about listening to my own body and gave personalized instruction that allowed me to finally do chaturanga and confidently flow through a vinyasa. I took yoga on the trail with me, doing dogward dogs on the glacially polished granite slabs in the Sierra Nevada. (I subsequently returned to One Down Dog for a week each fall in 2018 and 2019. I cannot say enough about this empowering and inclusive, fun, community-minded studio.)
By this time, I had quit my law career and was chasing snow and pursuing outdoor adventures, working alongside and trying to keep up physically with people over a decade younger than me. I used yoga mainly for physical recovery, from physical labor, snowboarding and long hikes.
In the fall of 2019, I successfully finished thru-hiking the John Muir Trail and by the end of this 20 day journey (documented here) had developed a pretty consistent daily yoga practice. I would wake up, get on the trail and hike for about an hour or so until I was warmed up and the sun came up into whatever valley I was hiking through and do some sun salutations, followed by a lunge-y flow, ending with some reclined stretching. I carried a Gossamer Gear 1/8 inch Thinlight pad expressly for this purpose. Through this yoga practice, I made it through the John Muir Trail without injury and without taking any ibuprofen.
However, off trail, I found it hard to motivate myself to develop a consistent yoga practice. On trail, it was a necessity; in daily life, it was easy to skip.
Yoga Teacher Training
2020 was a challenging year for most people, and I wasn’t spared. I was depressed and listless because I did not feel like I could plan anything for my future. My anxiety was being jerked up and down by factors outside of my control. I quit my job. I got an online therapist, but what she was telling me to do about my anxiety — mindfulness, breathwork — just sounded like yoga to me. We talked multiple times about how I could only maintain a consistent yoga practice on a backpacking trip because it was a physical necessity. I needed to do yoga so I could keep hiking. My ah-hah moment was that at the current moment, yoga was a mental health necessity. I needed to do yoga to stay a living, functioning human being. So, I quit therapy and signed up for the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with Online Yoga School.
I picked this program because a good friend was already doing it. While it is no substitute for an in person training, the online YTT has given me the tools to deepen and develop my own practice. Steph, the lead instructor says, “What we practice is what we have to share.”
Yoga Escapade is a document of the small bits and pieces from my practice that I have to share. I hope to gradually accumulate enough of these bits and pieces to grow into a confident yoga teacher.