How I found yoga, and how you can find it too!
By Tiffany Carlin
My first yoga class was about seven years ago. I’d just gotten back from studying in Rome for a semester. I spent my weekends being fabulous and now I was back at my parents’ house… How was I supposed to sit around my parents’ house in the dead center of Long Island for the summer? No offense Long Island
I spent my days waiting for college to start again so I could head back to Manhattan. Finally, my sister Kristen, annoyed with my presence around the house, dragged me to Bikram Yoga class- 1.5 hours in a 105 degree room, going through Bikram’s 26 series of yoga postures. I’d never sweat that much in my entire life! Seriously, who knew you could sweat from your knee joint? It was gross and I decided I was never going back.
Flash forward two months later, and there I was on my mat. I was back in the city, living in a shabby apartment in the village. I’d been dating this propitiously, broke “male model.” Although he could hardly afford to buy me the lunch special at my local Thai place, I liked him. He was fun… turns out he was having all sorts of fun, and I was what you would call his “side chick.” Twenty-one year old me was devastated, so I swore off dating, and bought a 30-day pass to the local Bikram Studio.
At first, I sucked. (I now realize you can’t suck at yoga) I couldn’t lift my legs high, despite years of dance classes, and I felt winded. I was what you would call “skinny fat.” I walked a lot, didn’t eat much, drank a lot of Starbucks, and so I was skinny. However, I was out of shape. Although my postures looked terrible, I kept going back. Yoga was reliable, and was always there.
As I began my last semester of college, I found myself at the yoga studio even more. It made me healthier, because in order to get through class I had to begin eating better. It was not only a workout. It calmed me before tests. It helped me reduce stress, because when on my mat, all I had to focus on was my breathing and persisting through the heat. Also, because I was practicing so much my postures looked good and I was proud to stand in the front row.
By summer 2012 I was a full blown Bikram yoga junkie. I guzzled coconut water, and sang the praises of Bikram Chaudry, creator of the 26-posture yoga series. After finishing grad school, I used my credit card to book a solo Euro trip. Every country I went to, I visited a Bikram studio. What’s great about Bikram is that the 26 postures stay the same in every language. I practiced in Spain, England, and France. When I came back, I realized I was becoming somewhat of a “hot yoga show-off,” instead of using yoga to help me relax I was using it for my ego. I decided to start vinyasa yoga- a branch of vinyasa which flows through poses concentrating a breathing, usually at a quick pace.
Vinyasa was difficult. I had to remind myself that I didn’t have to be the best. It humbled me. I enjoyed the flowing, dance-like movements. It wasn’t ridiculously hot. I developed more toned arms and legs as I pushed myself through chattaranga daily. Finally, I decided to go through teacher training. I completed my teacher training in New York, and taught one-on-one classes, and at local studios.
The past seven years, yoga has been my go to for everything. If I have a fight with my boyfriend, I pull out my mat and guide myself through a peaceful flow with great music. If I’m overwhelmed with work (by day I’m a 3rd grade special education teacher) I find my mat that evening. If my class at school is acting wild, we take deep breaths together, and do something as simple as write down one positive thing. On weekends I invite my girlfriends over and lead them in a flowing yoga practice. Now a Miamian, I practice headstands on the beach, and remind myself to breathe.
How can you incorporate yoga into your life? Often when I recommend yoga to people, I hear “I’m not flexible,” or “I already go to the gym.” Yoga is more about the mindset. Start by saying one thing you are grateful for each day. It can be in bed as you’re waking up.
You can also set intentions for different lengths of time. “I intend to make more friends in the next few months.” Or, “In the next year, I intend to have a career where people appreciate me.” Or simply, “I intend to be happy today!”
If you want to get on the mat, find a local yoga studio. Often they’ll give you a free class or price-cut on a one month membership. Don’t worry about being the best, most yogis are excited to practice with new people! Look at videos on youtube.com for 5 minute yoga exercises you can try. I recommend Rodney Yee. Or, dive all in and go on a yoga retreat. I swear there are affordable ones! Check out my current venture, miamiyogaretreat.com
Yoga has been a blessing for me. It helps me through ups and downs. I’ve made friendships through yoga. I look to it for guidance. The universe has reasons for everything. If that guy wasn’t using me to cheat on his girlfriend 7 years ago, I may have never found my practice. Namaste!
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