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 inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.” Edith Södergran
As we begin the new year, you may consider using Heat on and off your mat to kick start your resolutions and fuel your inner fire. Heat is one of the Pillars of the Baptiste Yoga practice; in the studio, the most obvious source of heat is the room itself. Power Yoga uses the warmth of the room to allow muscles to loosen up quickly, and your skin to detoxify itself through sweat.
But this isn’t just “hot yoga” it’spower yogabecause, with each movement of your muscles into the poses, you are generating heat within your body. This internal fire is encouraged byujjayi breath. Ujjayi breath is created by breathing in and out through your nose with the back of your throat constricted. This friction of the breath and the throat actually warms the air entering your body; if you’re like me and remember little else from grade school science, you might, at least, remember that friction creates heat.
In his book Journey Into Power, Baron Baptiste says, “The strong flow of power yoga fuels the inner furnace, and the breath fans that fire throughout your practice.” We are responsible for creating heat in our own bodies, and though 502 keeps the studio at about 90 degrees, generating our own heat is crucial in our practice.
Gaining a new kind of access to stiff muscles, or finding a new range of motion and flexibility in them, can help to heal old injuries and teach your body new muscle memory. And, if on your mat you can stay grounded in a pose in the heat of the moment, just imagine where that can serve you off the mat.
“Your Ass Looks Fat in Warrior II.” It’s all I could think as we held the challenging pose and my Drishti settled right on my rear end. All through the practice at another Louisville studio, I couldn’t resist checking myself out in the mirror as we moved from pose to pose. But not necessarily because I was checking my alignment—although that’s what I told myself—it was because I was concerned for looking good. And I was constantly being disappointed.
I’ve been uneasy with how I look for decades. At 11 or 12, I noticed the uniform skirts fit the other girls in my class differently, and after intense examination in the mirror and self-criticism, I determined what was “wrong” with me: Short torso. Wide hips. Huge ass.
These self-judgements have traveled with me through several decades, through many fashion trends, through pregnancy and childbirth (contrary to popular belief, wide hips do NOT help with childbirth), and now into a career where I live in spandex. Fortunately, my yoga practice has been a space to practice self-acceptance and appreciate my physical strengths. I know that I’m capable of so much more than your average mom-of-a-2-year old, but once that mirror is in front of me, I’m immersed in critical self-talk.
I don’t know a lot of other mommy’s (besides my yoga mama friends) who can do this!
This is why we don’t have mirrors at 502 Power Yoga. Some argue that a mirror is a tool to help you find alignment in a pose, but at 502PY we provide more valuable tools to help you find alignment:
Skilled instructors who don’t practice while they teach so they can see you and speak to what they see and assist as needed.
Assistants who move about the room to help with alignment and foundation in your postures.
Spacefor self-insight so you can create a pose for yourself and truly immerse yourself in their moving meditation without concern for what they look like.
Practicing without mirrors allows me the opportunity to feel as beautiful on the outside as I feel on the inside. For someone with image issues, this 60 minutes of going inside and feeling powerful goes a long way for my confidence. This empowerment causes me to make bold moves in my life, for example, that one time I opened a yoga studio.
The most beautiful I have ever felt in yoga was in a blindfolded practice–it was so liberating to drop all concern for looking good that I actually practiced with my shirt off for the only time in my life. I felt sexy, glowing, and powerful for weeks. Had a mirror been present for that practice, I would probably still be wallowing in a bout of self-pity, drowning my sorrows with pizza and cheez-its.
Every day I am bombarded with images of what the female body “should” look like and then catch my reflection in my mirror at my home and see the discrepancy. Then I roll out my mat, turn inward, and am reminded that I’m strong. I’m powerful. And in that, there is beauty.
What have you experienced in your physical practice or in your self-inquiry by practicing without a mirror? Do you feel like you’re missing your reflection?
#ProTip: If you really need a reflection of yourself, the spots up by the front window often act as mirrors when it’s dark outside.
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.
Student Highlight: An Interview with Nicole Wiseman
by Melody Mayes
When my dear friend, Nicole Wiseman, happened upon the Baptiste Power Yoga studio just down the street from her home she was insistent that the 502PY community was different than other yoga studios. She is the reason I ended up here, sweating it out next to her on my mat. Nicole is always a giver of herself to others. I’m elated that I was able to sit down with her and dig a tad deeper into her yoga practice.
Describe your first experience with yoga: My first experience with yoga was nearly 12 years ago at the University of Louisville. I was looking for something that would motivate me to work out and a grade certainly helped. Prior to that class I wasn’t particularly athletic or really even that active. Sure, I walked to class and moved around but I would never say that I “worked out” and definitely wasn’t what you’d call athletic in high school. That yoga class came at a very challenging time when I was thinking about changing majors and career paths and essentially the trajectory of my life. It was a pretty pivotal moment and yoga happened to be a large part of it.
How do you do it all? : There are way too many important and worthwhile things and I can’t do them all. And it’s ok. I prioritize (and reprioitize) every day. I try to keep the most important people and things first and let the rest go. I schedule my yoga classes using the MindBody app because it keeps me accountable. That 2 hour cancellation window prior to class is coincidentally the same time period when I often would rather take a nap or catch up on Netflix shows. This keeps me honest and helps keep the rest of my life in balance. So far I’ve never regretted showing up on my mat.
Pose that causes you struggle: Crow pose. Freakin’ crow pose. I once asked Sarah if it was lack of arm strength, lack of core strength, fear of falling on my head or all of the above. She agreed that it was probably a little of all of the above. Every day I’m working at all 3 and getting closer. I’m also learning (trying to learn) that I am where I need to be and it will happen when it needs to happen.
What keeps you going when the going gets tough? I love a challenge. That’s one of the things I love about 502PY. They are forever offering challenges, whether they are single verbal cues in class like to breathe through the discomfort, physical cues from the assistants in class or structured ones like the September Sunrise Challenge.
*(That same attitude is how Nicole completed the September Sunrise Challenge AND was one of the winners.)
What pose gives you the greatest peace? Child’s pose. It helps me settle in and refocus on being present.
What does yoga provide on a daily basis? It gives me peace. It helps me focus. And Ujjayi breath. Strangely enough, giving blood is a great opportunity to practice ujjayi breathing. It’s funny because a lot of times they’ll ask me if I’m ok and I assure them that yes, I am and my breath is getting me through. Note: I hate needles so every time I give it can be a struggle. Another side note: my blood pressure has gone down each time I’ve given blood in the past year since starting at 502py!
Who inspires you? It probably sounds trite but truly everyone inspires me. The cancer survivors I work with daily inspire and amaze me because they keep showing up to provide support to those that are beginning a very similar journey as theirs and sometimes the person they support doesn’t survive, but they keep showing up and giving. Other yogis inspire me especially when I see someone that’s been struggling with a certain pose totally nail it. When I see anyone give of themselves in any way; that inspires me. Yoga has taught me to find inspiration and beauty in a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have noticed before.
You won the Sunrise Challenge, now what?! It’s back to 6PM for me. That was a nice experiment but I’m still not a morning person.
Nicole enjoys spending her time with her husband, Mason, her supportive circle of friends and family, and doing awesome work as Assistant Director at Friend for Life Cancer Support Network (www.friend4life.org) and part-time with the Crisis & Information Center hotline. Say hello to Nicole next time you see her!