I grew up playing organized sports. I earned All State honors as a high school senior in Colorado and played varsity basketball at Coe for three years. I have devoted countless hours in the gym: shooting 1,000 shots a day to build muscle memory and perfect my form, lifting weights to gain physical strength, and running sprints to establish a high cardiovascular tolerance. I’ve done it all.
But teaching requires a different stamina. How can you possibly train for such an intensive eight-hour workday? I certainly do not have the time (nor the desire) to spend on the basketball court. Those days are behind me. For me, the answer is simple: yoga.
Prior to teaching full-time, I had taken a few yoga classes and practiced some beginner-level flows on my own. Nothing too serious. I had other passions and requirements at the time. However, yoga has become one of the key centerpieces of my time away from the classroom. No matter the type of day I have had in the classroom, whether I hit the highest of highs or lowest of lows, I always seem to find my way onto my yoga mat.
So what does yoga give me exactly? When I step into the studio and place my body on the mat, yoga:
- Forces me to be still. When I am in my classroom, I am constantly moving. I am physically moving as I teach and guide my students through the learning process. Mentally, I am continuously processing what I am seeing and how it translates to student learning. For eight hours straight, my body and mind are operating full steam ahead. When I step on the mat, I must switch all of this off. Focusing on the outside world diminishes the present practice. I must be physically and mentally still. It takes discipline to stay still. I must live in the present moment.
- Provides an opportunity for personal practice and growth. There is no comparison to others. While there is an established yogi community within every class, the focus is entirely inward. I do not have to worry about how my practice is being scored; about how I stack up against my peers. There are no standards to meet. No tests scores. The only thing that matters is my personal growth in the current moment.
- Allows me to be a student again. Yoga is impossible to master. There are countless variations and adjustments that can be made to within a pose or flow that completely change the intensity. This idea is reassuring to me. In the same way that I am not held up next to others, I am also unable to achieve an artificial “mastery” level. This ideal is the lifeblood of my practice.
- Lets me hit my body’s “reset” button. While some may dismiss yoga due to lack of cultural understanding, every class is a full body workout. My practice is mentally refreshing but it is also physically challenging. During every hot yoga class, the studio maintains a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit with anywhere from 40-60% humidity. I walk into every class dry as the desert and walk out wet as a rainforest. My workout clears my body’s toxins and stress. Each drop of sweat washing away the struggles or hardships of my day. I leave it all on the mat.
- Gives me mental, physical, and spiritual benefits. When it is all said and done, and the sixty minutes have passed, I leave my mat feeling mentally refreshed, physically exhausted, and spiritually revitalized. I carry these feelings and emotions with me throughout the night and into the next day, when I am once again powered on and moving full steam ahead.
While this is just a synthesized list, the message is clear: my yoga practice contributes to the teacher I am. The teaching profession requires me to give so much, both mentally and physically. Through my yoga practice, I regain all of my diminished efforts and recharge my body’s batteries. I hope you too can find the activity that fulfills all of your body’s wants and needs on a daily basis. If you have tried and failed too many times with too many activities to count, give yoga a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.