Fitness Friday: Yoga, you had me at Om.

I can still remember my first yoga class. I was in high school and went with my mom. The class was held in the basement of a hospital and the surroundings were anything but relaxing, but I can clearly remember feeling peaceful and at ease while I concentrated on learning poses I had never heard of before. It was like a fascinating new world. I was instantly hooked, and I wanted more.

Well, college kind of got in the way of that. And by college, I mean: friends, parties, and boys. Ok, and studying.

And after college, life got in between yoga and me. I lived in Atlanta for almost 7 years, and maybe practiced yoga once. I worked out a lot. I went to weekly kickboxing and spinning classes. I ran. I even completed the Chicago Marathon. But yoga was still off to the side, patiently waiting for me to pick up my mat and practice. (Knowing what I know now, I think I was completely crazy to put my body through a marathon without yoga. Sorry, body.)

After a move to Chicago 7 years ago, I joined Equinox and started to go to some yoga classes. The minute my bare feet hit my mat, I fell back in love with it, just as I had so many years ago, and thought: “Why have I waited so long for this?”  I loved the dim room – so different from the bright fluorescent lights in the main exercise studio, where it seemed all eyes were watching my every move, waiting for me to screw up. In yoga class, no one was watching me. No one cared if I couldn’t get all the way into my Pigeon pose, or if my Warrior 3 was wobbly. It was just my mat and me. Focusing on my breath and the moves helped me get out of my head, and that’s something I have used almost daily since.

Within a couple of years, I was practicing yoga at least twice a week, sometimes more. My boyfriend (now husband) went to classes with me. It was amazing seeing this big, manly man huffing and puffing through what he assumed was going to be an “easy” workout. Soon he, too, was a believer.

While on our honeymoon in Hawaii, we woke up early every morning for the 7am yoga class on the lanai. The views were breathtaking. (Seeing my husband in Down Dog didn’t hurt, either.) Those moments will always be some of my sweetest memories.

I still try to do yoga at least once a week. Whether it’s at home or in the studio, I have the same feeling. I never regret taking the time to practice, and I end each time looking forward to the next, thinking: “Why don’t I do this more often?”

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