Since my freshman year of college, I’ve been immersed in the world of yoga. During sophomore year, I was obsessed with it, making sure not to miss a day and even taking a yoga class for college credits at school. Here, I learned even more about the health benefits- both mind and body- and found solace in my practice. Unfortunately, a busy schedule and wanting a more intense workout has resulted in me not practicing for a while now. Often times I glance over at my mat sitting in the corner of my room and realize “wow, that hasn’t moved in a while…”, which makes me kind of depressed, but there’s no point in being sad about something you can change at any moment in time (something I learned from yoga!!).
It wasn’t until I slowed down on my practice that I noticed how much yoga really does help our minds and bodies. For one, my lower back started to ache and feel stiff. I never realized how much bending, stretching and breathing was really helping my body. Also, I was forgetting the ultimate lesson we learn from the practice: to stop, take a breath and let things go; to stay at an even level at all times.
But fret not Erin! Today was exactly the push I needed to restart my yogi journey.
In 2013, yoga instructor Amanda Reh started Yoga in Lake Eola Park with the intention of bringing awareness of health and community to Orlando, and today I got to be just one of 173 practitioners who took part in this “yoga mass”.
It was beautiful weather. The clouds were patchy across an otherwise clear sky. We set our mats down under a tree providing shade in the back (because we were late… what’s new??). I kicked off my practice with a quick sun salutation to warmup, drawing into myself and quieting my thoughts. Even though the weather was nice, it was sweltering hot. But the heat was actually really motivating, because it forced me to quiet my mind and be ultra-focused on my breathing and poses.
This Sunday we had Amanda as an instructor. She, of course, looked like an awesome yogi, with her dreads piled high into a ponytail and a big megaphone projecting her instructions to the back of the crowd. During warrior three and tree pose, she had all of us grasp our neighbors’ arms for balance. Personally, I love when instructors do this. When you’re in a big group of humans breathing and moving simultaneously, you can really feel the vibration of energies all around you, and being physically connected to the person next to you creates an even more intense flow of energy, giving me the strength to hold a pose longer or stretch further.
Now, the main intention of Sunday’s practice was learning to let things go and forgive. Usually, you’re supposed to take these intentions with you into the real world and utilize these tools to get you through your day. I never thought these lessons would actually come in handy during the class. As we all meditated with our eyes closed, a man came up to my friend and tried to steal her phone!!! She caught him just as his fingers slipped under it, and she was able to grab it before he pretended to fall on the ground and run away. My friends and the people near us were all distracted by the scuffle and couldn’t believe he would try to steal from someone as they did yoga and meditated- talk about bad karma. I’m guessing he probably does this every week, unfortunately. Even though we were all pretty surprised at what happened, my friend laughed it off, noting how the intention of the practice related to the situation so closely. Sometimes people do bad things. You’ll never know or understand why they do them; its out of your power. All you can really do it let it go, move on and forgive.
After the class we walked over to the Orlando Farmer’s Market and ate some refreshing acai bowls (the best post-yoga snack), grilled corn and tacos. But, in the end, there were too many cute dogs walking around for me to handle and we just had to leave.
All in all, it was a great day and, as I said earlier, the perfect push I needed to restart my yoga journey. It reminded me how good it felt to take a moment to breath and move with intention, especially among such a large group of yogis. So… here’s to hoping I stick with it!