I once thought yoga was the domain of lanky, toned women with hipster yoga pants and tiny yoga tops. It was a practice for the incredibly calm and fit, not for women in their 40s and beyond, and certainly not for women like me who sweat like the men in those World Strongest Men competitions who pull aircraft across fields. And, if you did yoga in a hot room, you could lose weight. Or pass out. But you’d be smaller when you passed out.
That’s pretty much what I thought yoga was about. Oh, and a lot of weird chanting and finger poses.
Then I met Lisa and learned that yoga is so much more.
Lisa teaches yoga at her studio (among other locations) here in Atlanta. As the name of her studio proclaims, Yoga is For All Bodies. Lisa’s classes are a diverse, beautiful mix of women and men of all shapes, sizes, ages, spiritual beliefs and ethnic groups. She also has a wicked sense of humor. None of which I’d ever associated with yoga before.
After I injured my knee I was looking for something to do that would keep me moving without further aggravating the knee. And, as with so much of what I do in my life (somewhat unfortunately but I’m working on it), I wanted to do something that would help me lose a bunch weight (that day!) or at the very least, not gain any.
But instead of a practice that focused on weight loss, burning calories or out-yogaing (that is a word) fellow classmates, what I got was a practice and a teacher whose focus is on the whole self, the importance of breathing, and listening non-judgementally to our bodies – no matter our shape, size or age.
I had a chance to talk to Lisa after class one afternoon and several things she said resonated with me;
This practice is about surrender and acceptance.
It’s about viewing our bodies more compassionately.
As we get older, our fitness is less about appearance and more about practicality – for example, a strong core might look good, but more importantly it means a healthier back.
And through regular practice with someone who gets the mind-body connection…
I’m learning that in the pause between the inhale and the exhale there’s a stillness and quietness that gives me strength.
I’m learning not to refer to my “bad” knee or “wonky” back, but instead be grateful for the knee that challenges me to listen more carefully to my body and as a result treat it better.
And I’m learning that even when you wipe-out so badly while attempting a pose, that you bounce off a wall and crumple to the floor (heretofore known as Drunken Wipeout Asana), it’s all good.
Initially I thought I’d just take yoga classes until my knee got better, but I’m so enamored with it now I’m thinking Na-ma-ste :-). I couldn’t resist.
Lisa Cohen has been teaching Hot Style yoga for nearly 7 years with 100 hour certifications in both Hot Core Power Yoga and Hot Vinyasa yoga. She has recently finished her 200 hour yoga teacher training to become certified to teach Pranakriya yoga, a kripalu based hatha yoga lineage. You can learn more about Lisa, her very affordable yoga classes, and Decatur Atlanta Yoga for All Bodies here.