I had been waiting months for this moment.
As soon as The Hubs and I booked our annual family trip to the Jersey Shore, I began trolling the Interwebs for new yoga studios I would visit while I was there.
And then I found The Yoga Loft.
One of their instructors, Kathleen, teaches a class entitled "Hips-Thighs & Stretching -Oh My," which is just my cup of tea.
As the name suggests, the class is designed to warm you up through stretching with a great deal of attention being focused on healthy joints. The class description also states that the intention is "to nurture your soul, focusing on self acceptance, through modifications and opening our hearts to ourselves and others."
I mean, really.
It sounds like heaven for a yogi like me with hips tighter than a drum.
I swear, as The Hubs pulled up to the entrance of the beautiful, tranquil Calco Gardens, which houses The Yoga Loft, I could barely contain myself.
Here I am on their front lawn, right before class, ridding myself of some excess energy by busting into a variation of Ardha Chandra Chapasana (Sugarcane in Half Moon Pose):
And when I stepped foot inside, it only got better.
The Yoga Loft is located in the attic of a large, old home on the Calco grounds, and as I climbed the stairs to the studio, the ambiance -- from the warm earth tones, to the aroma of apple pie -- made me feel nothing short of welcomed.
The other students in the class -- about six; all of whom were older than me -- only confirmed my hunch that this class was going to be amazing.
And then in walks Kathleen.
She is a small, petite woman who gives off much more light and energy than I would think capable of someone who inhabits such a small frame.
She's funny and down-to-earth with a dash of quirkiness.
I like her.
For the next 60 minutes she guides us on a journey of delicious hip-opening, quad-lengthening, knee-strengthening postures that, at times, make me want to cry.
Not from pain, though.
Just the opposite.
It has been said that when we as people don't know what to do with an uncomfortable emotion -- fear, guilt, any sort of pain -- we store the energy of that emotion in our hips.
Which can even make sitting cross-legged a challenge for some of us.
But with Kathleen's gentle directive -- and cushy bolsters, straps, and blocks -- these stretches literally felt like tasty medicine.
Like something my body had been needing for a long, long time.
Here are three statements Kathleen shared during the course of the class, followed by why they resonated with me on a personal level:
"Today I give myself permission to be kind to my body."
Yogi or not, every single one of us should say this to ourselves everyday. We beat ourselves up literally by wearing heavy backpacks and/or high heels, standing on our feet while we work, or sleeping for 6 hours (or less) a night, when we know full well we need 8 hours or more. We beat ourselves up figuratively by berating ourselves for eating that last piece of cheesecake or not looking like a 21-year-old fashion model, when, truth be told, she doesn't even look like that in real life. Bottom line: We need to be kind to our body. It does so much for us every single day.
"We get what we get."
There is so much in life that we have absolutely no control over, our bodies being one of them. I do yoga, in part, to be healthy, but there are some things that no amount of yoga is going to change: I ran competitively for nearly 10 years and I have a bad case of shin splints to show for it. Shin spints don't go away. Period. During class, Kathleen talked about the challenges she faces with regard to the range of motion in her shoulders. We all have our own bag of "stuff." And while yoga can't erase these hurdles, it can help us cope better and breathe easier. Yoga gives us the tool of acceptance, to surrender and be okay with it.
"I'm not a naturally flexible person, but I work at it."
Oh my God, was this music to my ears. I consider physical flexibility to be relative. There will always be someone more or less flexible than you -- and it's not a competition, so, really, when you get down to it, our ability to be flexible is something we each have to handle personally. And gently. Don't rush it. Practice, yes. But don't ever, ever rush it. But do hold the belief that if you keep at it, you, too, will one day be able to move into postures that you once thought unimaginable.
Here's Kathleen and I -- all "blissed out" as I like to say -- after class:
Thank you, Kathleen, for the gift of your instruction!
~ Namaste ~