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.
The gentle giant of our planet is a favorite for many. Elephants have a long history of being known for their intelligence, memory, and adorable behaviors. But a lot can be learned from these loveable creatures. They operate much like how we do and offer lessons we can apply to our mat.
Elephants create community. Built in a matriarchal society elephants hold massive communities of multi-generational families. While the males do leave the family unit at a certain age, the bond is still formed.
Elephants are large graceful creatures, and they trip and fall just like we do! When they fall they get right back up and keep moving. There isn’t drama or deeper frustration, they just do. This is something I have to remind myself when in Half Moon and I fall or even when I get stuck with a flat tire on the side of the road.
Elephants play and create naturally. Elephants love playing in mud, with ribbons and even create art! Elephants enjoy the act of creation and discovery. When on the mat or in the world we should learn that play and creation is essential to learning and fun!
Relying on our community, inspiring curiosity, and allowing ourselves to fail can be challenging. But keeping these lessons simplified by looking at our tusked friends, can make these challenges manageable. Namaste, yogis!
Week one of 40 Days to Personal Revolution (40DPR) is here! For many, the most challenging part of 40DPR is sticking with the healthy eating habits. Laura Olinger has taken the time to create some ideas for meals for each week, and she starts us off with some wholesome Vegan Chili to support a heating diet. This chili is great because you can share it with your spouse, kiddos, or save the leftovers for meals throughout the week!
For a heating diet: Vegan Chili
1/2 cup bulgur wheat*
1 cup hot water
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 heaping teaspoon cumin
1 heaping teaspoon chili powder
1 heaping teaspoon cayenne
2 bell peppers, chopped
15-ounce can corn, drained
15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Place the bulgur and hot water in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil on high heat, then turn down low and simmer gently for about ten minutes.
While the bulgur cooks, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté the onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. When the onions are soft and a little translucent, stir in the bell peppers and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, corn, and beans into the pot. Stir, and continue to heat thoroughly on low heat.
Taste the bulgur. When it is cooked and chewy, add it to the pot. Simmer for a few minutes for the flavors to meld.
Serve and enjoy!
*Bulgur wheat can be found in the bulk section of many grocery stores; I buy mine at Whole Foods
For a Cooling Diet: Black Bean and Corn Salad
2 15-ounce cans black beans
1 15-ounce can of no-salt added corn
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
6 green onions, thinly sliced
Fresh cilantro (optional)
Lime juice, to taste
Salad greens, such as romaine or spinach
Combine prepared black beans, corn, avocado, bell peppers, tomatoes, green onions, and optional cilantro in a large bowl and mix.
When ready to serve, place a bed of salad greens on a plate and spoon mixture on top. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice if desired (or top with another light dressing.)
Yoga Mala 2016 is this weekend, and there’s a reason we are all so excited about it. The event will be hosted at the Muhammad Ali Center on Saturday, January 2nd 10 am to 1 pm. Just trust us, you are going to want to be a YES for this one.
Community. This is a phenomenal way to create and be part of a larger community. Yoga Mala will have studio owners and instructors from across the city coming to provide their spirit and energy as they lead us through an inspiring 108 Sun Salutations.
It’s for everyone and every body. Truly. 108 Sun Salutations may seem like no joke (and it is no joke), but you will have the opportunity to get coffee, mingle with new and old friends, and child’s pose is always an option, even if you take it 108 times.
Do something bigger than yourself. The new year of 2016 is coming and this is an opportunity to do something big. Aside from starting off with a strong practice, the other benefit is that half of the registration fee will go to the Muhammad Ali Center and the other half to the Africa Yoga Project. A large impact locally and globaly will be made because of you!
It’s fun! If you have never imaged doing 108 Sun Salutations just know that being in a room with hundreds of other yogis was an amazing way to start off a new year for me last year and it truly can set the tone for the rest of 2016.
Can’t make it, but want to still be part of the fun? Buy a one-of-a-kind Yoga Mala shirt illustrated by 502PY owner Cat Larimore, or make a contribution to help sponsor another attendee. The shirt can be purchased in studio and your registration sponsorship (any amount) can be made in the studio. You can make a donation to the cause by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org