Pushing 200lbs, I remember once struggling to run 8 minutes without stopping in Iroquois Park. At the time I was a caregiver to my parents: mom with cancer and dad with Alzheimer’s. The stress of this situation wasn’t helping my own health – I was eating my way into a size 18.
Then, my niece, Emilie Dyer, invited me to a free class at 502 Power Yoga. In the past I had used yoga successfully to stop smoking, so I figured it could also improve my overall health. At one point in my first class, I remember the instructor said to “kiss your knees;” I couldn’t do it. It really hit home then how big I had gotten. I’m going to have to work to get this off, I thought.
Rather than feeling intimidated by others at 502 Power Yoga, I was empowered by this community. I decided to take on the Sunrise Challenge in 2014, and also completed the 40 Days to a Personal Revolution program. Through these experiences, I gained insight into my emotional eating. I learned to be aware of what I was putting into my body and why. I gave up sodas and coffee, and today I only drink green tea, water and sometimes black tea. I have sweets as an occasional treat, and not with every meal as I had in the past. I witnessed these physical and emotional transformations slowly change my body. Over time, I saw cellulite on my knees diminish. I was able to do my first Flip Dog with Mimi’s instruction. I was inspired, and I fell in love with the community.
After some time, it seemed like my daddy was doing fairly well, or maybe it was me. Maybe I had learned to move with the universe instead of work against it. Yoga had become my retreat from all the drama of hospitals and doctors with my parents. I truly believe my yoga practice helped me stay calm throughout every situation and provided me the opportunity for self-care.
I can see how life has come full circle for me. The beginning of my transformation was the Sunrise Challenge in 2014, and more than a year later, after the 2015 Sunrise Challenge, I’m a size 8. My faith in God, my program of recovery and daily asana helped me physically and emotionally through those trying times. I feel those previous limitations fading behind me and conquering Iroquois Park is next on my list!
My first class at 502 Power Yoga was a Karma class. The room was packed beyond capacity, and the energy was high; you could feel the love when you walked in—which, when you’re new to this style of yoga, like I was, can feel overwhelming. My friend and I were the last two people to lay our mats down and I was ready to get my zen on and tune the world out — which is my default.
When class started and the instructor asked us all to generate hellos/give hugs/shake hands, I freaked out. She wanted me to what? No. I had come to do some yoga and stay in my own secluded world, not to meet new people or hug strangers. Not to mention, I was already sweating, as was most everyone I was asked to hug. Instinctively, I went directly to my friend and hugged her, but soon found I couldn’t avoid contact with other yogis any longer. I hesitantly shook hands and hugged two other already-sweaty people. I felt self-conscious for the entirety of my practice, worrying that the people I hugged were judging me for sweating before class had even started.
Coming into a class at a new yoga studio can be intimidating. However, when I started to meet new people at 502 Power Yoga, I realized that I was NOT alone. Instead, I was in this together with every other yogi in the room. I was connected to a room full of 30+ people—talk about powerful! Side note: The room is hot, full of badass yogis, and everyone is sweating. Nobody is judging!
In that same class, the instructor had us support our neighbors in Airplane Pose. I remember internally having a strong “Nope, nopeity, nope, nope” reaction to this; there was no way I was throwing off my balance to put my sweaty hands on someone else’s sweaty body. And then I felt another yogi’s hand on my shoulder supporting me, which gave me the nudge I needed, and I reached out to support my other neighbor.
Where can you go in your practice once you’ve moved past what is blocking you? For me, letting go of insecurities led me to become more consistent in my practice and made me fall in love with the Baptiste Methodology, which led me to taking the BIG leap to sign up for teacher training with 502 Power Yoga. Removing my rocks opened me up to following my passion and creating some pretty amazing friendships in a community that thrives off of supporting others.
It works that way; the support and community. You may come in feeling nervous, scared, or vulnerable, and then you realize we are here for each other. That support can move mountains (or fly airplanes in my case.) From that, strength in your practice happens. Growth in your life off your mat happens. Big things happen. The sweaty hugs are actually something I look forward to now.
Embrace the sweaty hugs and handshakes—it’s the beginning of something spectacular.
Let’s be honest, 502 Power Yoga is always awesome, but it’s even cooler in the winter (not literally of course!) While the cold starts settling in, the holiday dinners get bigger, and the winter blues start singing their tune, 502 Power Yoga has a lot going on to keep Jack Frost from chilling you to the bone.
1. The HEAT.
This kind of a no-brainer, but I think it has to be said. It’s getting cold outside and the studio is always warm (about 90 degrees warm). Not only do power yoga classes provide that external warmth we crave during these chilly months, but it also helps create that internal heat (tapas) that we can carry with us throughout our entire day.
2. Yoga Helps You Stay Healthy
It is widely known and highly suggested that working out makes you less likely to get sick. Studies have shown that it can even prevent you from getting a cold. Not only do you sweat out toxins, but practicing hot yoga creates fluidity in the joints and more flexibility in your body. This is especially important as our bodies start to feel as stiff as holiday peanut brittle. Stay healthy this winter by sweating it out on your mat.
3. Avoid the “Holiday Hunch”
It’s come to that time of year again where we start wearing jackets, coats, scarves, and hats. Without realizing it, we naturally begin to hunch over to create more warmth in our mid-body (and to joyfully sip on that freshly brewed hot coffee/tea that warms our hands). Practicing yoga gives us the space to open up again. Taking time in those amazing heart and throat opening poses like fish, camel, wheel, and even upward facing dog, can help counter-act this “holiday hunch” and create more space in your physical body.
4 . Ward Away the Winter Blues
When it starts getting cold outside, I tend to go into hibernation mode. Yes, this is cozy and wonderful, but sometimes I get a little stir crazy. I can only carry on conversations with my dog for so long. That’s why I believe connection and community are so much more important during these chilly months–luckily, 502PY has a great one. Simply by just walking into the studio, greeted by familiar faces, is like getting a big hug and can clear the winter blues in an instant. The warm energy that’s shared by the teachers, assistants, energy exchange-er’s, and, of course, the ever-calm and loving Kelly Meadway, is the best reminder that even though we’re all bundled away in our separate homes, cars, and lives we are all still connected.
5. 40 Days to Personal Revolution
Instead of a New Years Resolution, why not make it a New Years Revolution. This 40-day program is truly the “meat and potatoes” of the studio and one of my personal favorites. Happening Jan 31 – March 13, this program encompasses all the practices of Baptiste Yoga (and then some!) including asana (yoga practice), meditation, inquiry, and diet. Not to mention, it also comes with an amazing group of fellow revolutionaries who will support you along the way and help get you through those begrudging “after the holidays” winter months. Trust me, you don’t want to miss participating in this program! #40daystoPR #whybaptisteyoga
6 . HOLLAAA for Yoga Malaaaa!
108 Sun Salutations, 12 different yoga instructors from all over the city, and one unforgettable experience. I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome 2016 than to breathe, move, and ignite the new year with 100+ other yogi’s all in one space. All proceeds benefit the Africa Yoga Project. Be up to something bigger than yourself this year and come to this amazing event happening January 2nd.
7. Hands on Assisting
If you love those amazing Savasana assists at the end of class, Hands on Assisting is your chance to learn the art of assisting. This is a full weekend dedicated to deepening your practice and learning the tools to effectively and appropriately assist others. January 23 & 24 are the days this “hands on” experience is taking place. Make sure there’s time in your calendar for this one!
Just because the days end earlier doesn’t mean your practice needs to come to a halt. We have a lot of fun before and after the holidays, and hope to see you all in the studio soon.
P.S. If you have kiddos getting cabin fever, 502 Power Kids is a great opportunity for them to stretch themselves and get all those jitters out on the mat.
“You can do anything for just one more breath!” How often have we heard Sarah, or another teacher, say this in class? While it’s true that a single breath may be a short time, the ability to hold that thigh-burning Warrior II also comes from the breath itself. In his book Journey Into Power (JIP), Baron Baptiste says, “Maintaining steady, rhythmic breathing is the single most important element of yoga practice.” And if you have ever accessed that powerful breath, you have likely experienced the difference; but it still may not explain the “why”. We breathe all the time, so understanding how changing the breath in yoga can make such a big difference may not be very clear. Baron breaks it down for us in JIP.
Why is Breath so Important?
It’s efficient- By taking deep, even breaths, you are able to continuously feed your body with the oxygen it needs to work through the practice. Ujjayi breath, the controlled, smooth and audible breath we use in yoga, is said to create respiratory efficiency. I know I have a tendency to hold my breath during abdominal exercises, which can leave me gasping for oxygen. Trust me, it’s better to keep breath flowing.
It’s your connection– Your breath is a tool to bring you into the present moment. By linking our asanas with breath, we are connecting the body and the mind. When my monkey mind starts to wander while in Half Pigeon, I remind myself that the flow is in my breath, and when I focus in on my breath, I am able to stay present.
It will take you to the edge- With discipline, we are able to use our breath as a tool to grow in the practice. We come to meet challenges with equanimity, on and off our mats. As Baron writes, “Your breath is what sustains you at your edge and allows you to move past it to new mental, emotional, and physical frontiers.”
It keeps you clearer than Claritin- With the changing seasons, it’s important to share some tips around breathing through allergies and sinus congestion. If you find yourself a bit stuffed up, our very own Rebecca Bickett suggests using essential oils. Peppermint oil in particular helps clear airways and improve respiration. Once you’re able to breathe freely, Ujjayi breath can help relieve sinus pressure.
Breath is where your practice really begins. It is what can make or break you in each pose and what can save you when you feel like giving up. We take most breaths for granted hour by hour but on our mats breath is treasured and evaluated the way it deserves. “Breath,” Amit Ray said, “is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.”
She is a wife, doggy-momma, musician, wedding planner, and powerful practitioner at 502 Power Yoga. When asked to describe herself in five words, Baely answered, “First and foremost, Nerdy. Artistic, fun-loving, analytic, and stubborn. My husband definitely wouldn’t let me leave out the word ‘stubborn’…” Baely began her yoga journey back in the fall when Hannah Clore invited her to her first ever yoga class. To set the scene, it is a 6 AM Power Yoga Class with the amazing Mimi Hahn.
502: Tell us about that first class.
I had a lot of expectations in my mind of what it would be like- all of which, of course, were completely inaccurate. I thought it would be very mild and relaxing. I did not expect for it to be as intense as it is. I remember thinking during the sun salutations that this was harder than any workout I’d done with my personal trainer. Somehow, by the grace of some higher power, I made it through the entire class. Completing that first class made me feel so strong and powerful. I started practicing regularly during the 40 Days to a Personal Revolution program in January, and I’ve been obsessed/in love with it ever since.
502: During the 40 Days program, you said the biggest change was how you viewed yourself.
I realized I would look at the mirror, and say, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this. I don’t like this…” During the 40 days program, I didn’t look in the mirror for 2 days, which was more difficult than I initially thought because there are mirrors everywhere begging you to look at yourself. It became really eye opening how much time I waste criticizing myself… Now, I think about the poses I never thought I would be able to do before, and I get really happy when I get into them because I think, “Ha, you couldn’t do this like 2 months ago.”
502: What are your favorite and least favorite poses?
I love poses that make me feel open, like half-moon and fish pose. I have a love/hate relationship with twisting poses and chair pose. I’ve definitely been going through the internal struggle of realizing that some pain is OK. The discomfort I feel in my legs during chair pose is OK, and I don’t have to run from it. (This is a lesson I’m taking with me off the mat as well.) So even my least favorite poses I kind of love, because they teach me something about myself.
What kept you coming back to 502PY after the 40 Days to a Personal Revolution Program?
I love how yoga makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel more present in my body, and it makes me feel like I’m more capable of handling day-to-day life. Yoga has taught me so much about how I view the world and how I view myself. I’ve learned so much about myself since I started practicing, and it’s been a truly invaluable experience for me. In addition to that, I have found that everyone I’ve met at 502PY is so encouraging, warm, and welcoming, that you can’t help but feel like you’re part of a family. Even on days when my body does not want to practice, I come for the people.
What are some of your yoga goals for the next year?
I keep waiting to hear when the next training to be a Studio Class Assistant will be (Hi, Cat and Sarah!) so I can jump on that. Then, in the next few years, I’d love to do the teacher training. In terms of my personal yoga practice, I am determined to get into tripod headstand, and be able to hold crow for more than 2 seconds. I’m also working on wheel pose a lot in my personal practice.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I would love to be working for myself as an event/wedding coordinator. I’m working my way towards that dream right now, but I not ready to give up the day job just yet. I’d also like to be teaching yoga and sharing it with the people around me. And lastly, in 5 years I would love to be a mom.
What does being a YES mean to you?
Being a yes to me means being open to the possibility that anything can happen. Being open to the possibility that my body can do more than I expect of it, being open to the thought that I can reach my goals no matter how impossible they seem, and disregarding the negativity and self-doubt that pop up on and off the mat. Being a yes means that when a teacher says try on tripod headstand, instead of telling myself I’m incapable, I look for what I am capable of doing. I can get my head to the mat and my arms in the correct position. I can work towards getting my hips over my shoulders. I can try every time to pull knees to my triceps. If I fall, so what? Being a yes means being open to the process and the experience.
We love having Baely as a practitioner at 502 PY and see big things for her future in our community. Thank you for sharing and inspiring us through your yoga practice!
Check out Baely’s work at her Wedding Coordinator Facebook page.