I started practicing yoga in college (University of South Carolina) during my sophomore year. The “green quad”, our only eco-friendly dorm building offered free yoga classes once per week in a carpeted classroom – not your average yoga studio, and certainly not as glamorous as some of the trendy yoga studios in Los Angeles!
I set my mat up in the back of the room and kept my socks on for extra traction so my feet wouldn’t slip off of my exercise mat (I don’t think it was an actual “yoga” mat). I partied and worked a lot in college – work, workout, party, eat, sleep, repeat – that was the cycle in what felt like a four-year vacation. When I found yoga, I tapped into another part of life (and a part of myself) that offered something far greater than anything I had ever learned in school. Yoga offered a look inside of myself.
Although I grew up playing lacrosse and would generally describe myself as athletic, I never felt super coordinated. At first, yoga exacerbated my fear of being awkward and uncoordinated on my mat, but something within kept me going. That “something” (inner voice, intuition, determination, etc.) is the same voice that got me where I am today.
I started taking online yoga classes via Yoga with Adriene, who offers hundreds of different free beginner yoga sequences on YouTube. She was one of the pioneers of YouTube Yoga – now you can find thousands of videos online for free. So, if you can’t afford a yoga studio membership, I would definitely recommend searching on YouTube!
Although I dabbled in yoga for a few years, it wasn’t until 2014 that I started getting serious about my practice. I threw my back out at age 22 and I knew something had to change. I went from sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day to pushing myself hard at the gym – with no warm-up or stretching in between. One day after work, I found myself practically paralyzed, lying on the gym floor in agony, not sure how I was going to get home.
Physical therapy treatments 2-3 times per week helped strengthen my core to prevent future injury and pain. When my physical therapy treatments plateaued and I felt better, I started going to hot yoga classes at my local gym. I felt such an amazing sense of community at these classes and was connecting with my instructors, asking them questions about the practice, and feeling a lot of relief in my back and overall body health.
About a year later, I was involved in a car accident (t-boned by a guy who ran his red light!) and by the grace of God, only came out with a few stitches and hip/foot/neck pain. After 6 months of physical therapy (dé jà vu?), I looked to yoga again to heal my body. It was just what it needed. I recovered from my injuries (although some of the neck/shoulder pain still lingers) while deepening my practice and love for yoga. I joined CorePower yoga in Baltimore and got hooked on power vinyasa flow (C2) and yoga sculpt!
Four months later in January 2017, after a break-up and starting a new job, I decided to sign up for power yoga teacher training. With training on Tuesday nights until 10:30pm and all day on Saturdays, I practically said goodbye to my social life for that 5-month period and said hello to a rock-solid body and stronger yoga skills. Teacher training was one of the most valuable experiences of my life, involving deep introspection on all aspects of my life and who I am, my goals and long-term aspirations.
I started training in June 2017 at CorePower Baltimore. In January 2018, I was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles with my marketing agency and work out of our West Coast office – couldn’t pass it up! I moved to West Hollywood at the end of April 2018, and five months later started teaching again at CorePower Hollywood.
So why did I stick with this practice? For MANY reasons, but I think it all boils down to this one:
I practice yoga to be the best and most authentic version of myself. My mat is my safe place. It’s the one place where I feel like I am not being judged and that no one is judging me. Where I can just be Sarah. Where I can strip away any perceptions that I have of myself, or reputations that I think I need to uphold while in public. I am stripped down to the barest essence of me, and this way I am more open to shining my light to the world.
That was quite a long summary, but it’s truly only the beginning of my yoga journey. I hope this inspires you to begin or continue your yoga journey as well. Although it’s important to set goals and look ahead to the future and appreciate the present, it’s equally as important to honor our past and how far we’ve come.
What was your first yoga class experience like? Share it with me in the comments or on Instagram – @YogaHealsTheWorld.