Guest Post by Robyn Coale
I can count on two hands how many times I’ve stretched in the past year.
Five years ago, I found yoga as a means for stretching.
I’ve always been a runner, a cardio junkie. I need endorphins, an elevated heart rate, intensity. My feet pounding pavement, lungs inhaling oxygen, beads of sweat falling from my forehead.
Yoga wasn’t really on my agenda.
But back in 2007 after a sweaty run in 90 degree August, Indiana humidity I stumbled upon yogadownload.com after googling “best stretches for runners.”
Without hesitation, I downloaded my first yoga class. A 20 minute, yoga for runners, podcast. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life. Clenching my jaw and muttering unmentionable words, I questioned how people actually enjoyed this stuff.
Was I actually suppose to bend my body into unusual positions while breathing deeply and remaining focused and calm. All the while trying desperately not to dig a hole in my mat with my clenched toes. That’s a lot to ask from someone all at once.
But I muscled through those 20 minutes.
And the next day came back to my mat.
And for the next several months I found myself on my mat a few times a week, sometimes for 20 minutes, and then eventually 60 and 75 minutes at a time.
I was an 18-year-old freshman in college caught in the whirlwind of late nights, early classes, a foreign environment, unfamiliar faces, and the constant pressure to be a social butterfly. My yoga mat became a place of tranquility and stillness. A place to escape my fast paced reality where I struggled to keep my head above water.
I continued to download podcasts offline until my sophomore year of college when I discovered Vibe Yoga. I had come to terms with the fact that I needed a part time job in college and for once wasn’t entirely broke. Hot vinyasa was the first class I took at the studio. Sweat flowed steadily from every inch of my body, and after those 60 minutes I emerged from the studio looking like I just showered and feeling like jello.
I was hooked.
Over the next three years I practiced anywhere from 3 times in 3 months to 6 times in one week at Vibe. I craved the mental cleansing and sweaty detoxification hot vinyasa provided. And between sorority house food, late night pizza, and college style boozing, I needed all the detoxifying I could get.
I continued to run, but yoga became my main source of strength training and stress relief. Until my bank account began to dwindle and studio classes became a luxury rather than routine. I returned to podcasts and found Dave Farmar. The Michael Jordan of yoga.
His podcasts had me dripping sweat without heaters, and my body sore in places I didn’t know existed. I practiced during the early morning hours in a small study room that nobody used in the sorority house. And with 100 women living under one roof, 6am was the only uninterrupted hour. I relished in it.
Three years into my practice, I realized how much calmer of a person I had become. Instead of growing antsy sitting in traffic and yelling at cars ahead of me, I turned up the radio and took traffic as an excuse to be still and do nothing. When life became so crazy and hectic with applications, finals, graduation I found myself centered and sane. The little things that use to fluster me became, well, just little things.
A tighter tush, and the ability to hold headstand were welcomed bonuses.
As I left familiarity, security, and comfort behind and moved to Charlottesville I clung to yoga. My mat lay permanently unrolled in my apartment bedroom. Some days I would practice 60 or 75 minutes, and some days only 6 or 7 sun salutations. Still broke and penniless, I rotated between 20 or so Dave podcasts over the next few months. Yoga was familiar in my unfamiliar world.
But that unfamiliarity became a comfortable reality. Over the next several months, Charlottesville became home. I met incredible friends, became a Registered Dietitian, landed an amazing job, and signed my first solo lease. And during all the crazy, messy, and unknown I continued to return to my mat for stillness, tranquility, and focus.
Because during those 10, 60, or 75 minutes I was in the present, tuned into myself, and thinking of nothing else but my breath and movement.
But most importantly the journey to holding headstand, or crow, or any balancing pose has taught me patience. Yoga is a practice. Something you do habitually. And to make anything a habit it takes time. And for an impatient “I want something and I want it now” somebody like me, patience is one of life’s greatest lessons.
So 5 years later, at 23 with a salary, my addiction to Whole Foods still requires podcasts. Dave makes a weekly, and if I’m lucky, a bi-weekly appearance in my apartment.
But when life gets busy and my practice gets thrown to the curb, I find myself more frazzled and anxious. Which is when I eat leftovers instead of cooking and return to my mat.
Robyn graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University with a degree in Applied Health and a minor in Public Health. After graduation, she completed her dietetic internship at the University of Virginia to become a Registered Dietitian. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Practice Group. In 2012, Robyn began working as the Director of Nutrition for Revolution Health Center in Scottsville, Virginia where she practices holistic and alternative nutrition centered around plant based eating. Click here to check out her website.