Goodnight, Wake Up Yoga West

The studio where I practiced yoga for the very first time, Wake Up Yoga West, closed its doors last night. Fortunately for me, there are two more Wake Ups in this city, one of which is a stone’s throw from my new house. And while I look forward to practicing in those other locations, I will always have a soft spot for the West studio.

The owner of the studio gave one final class, which both Tim and I attended. I knew my pregnant body wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the poses, but nothing would have stopped me from making that class—I was determined to honor this space that shaped my life over the past three years. And determined to honor myself, and all that I’ve become in that time.

The class was emotional. The instructor cried, and if I were more comfortable with my own emotions, I probably would’ve cried, too. You’re likely wondering why the closing of a yoga studio has impacted me so much, so I’ll try to explain. I see two reasons.

One, I’d come to see Wake Up as a safe place, a shelter from the rest of the world. I knew that no matter what was going on in my life, I’d be guaranteed an hour-and-a-half of solace once I stepped inside. The studio helped me through wedding stress, struggles with infertility, the death of Tim’s childhood friend, the reemergence of my mom’s cancer, and the joys and fears of a new pregnancy. In short, we’ve been through a lot together. I would go to class, sweat out all of my bad energy, and leave with a feeling of calm. The studio began to feel like a trusted confidant, one who listened and soothed without asking for anything in return. How often in life do you find that? Almost never, I say.

Two, the instructor talked throughout the class about the cycle of life and how everything has a beginning and an end. This is something that’s been on my mind a lot these days, with the impending birth of my baby girl and my mom’s illness. The instructor stressed several times how it’s important to find joy and peace in the endings, not only because they are part of life’s natural cycle, but because in every ending there is a beginning.

And there it is. The very thing I’ve been struggling with lately: finding peace. I’m having a hard time reveling in all of the joys of now and not worrying about what might be around the corner.

So I’m going to take a moment to do that. Because the truth is, I couldn’t ask for more than what I have right this second—I’m pregnant with a healthy baby girl, my mom is still here with me and I’m married to my favorite person on the planet. Those are just the big three. There are countless other things to be thankful for. And yes, any of that could change tomorrow. But it’s not tomorrow. It’s today. It’s right now.

I’m hoping that you, awesome readers, will also take a tiny moment out of your day today to tally up the things you’re thankful for and to rejoice in what is right now. Because even though everyone says it all the time, and it’s the most obvious thing ever, it’s the thing I forget most often: all we have is the present.

So thank you, Wake Up Yoga West, for everything. I bid you a sweet adieu.


Posing with Victoria, the instructor who taught my beginning yoga classes at Wake Up West.

Why I Love Yoga

I’m not kidding. I loooooove yoga. If I was a polygamist I would so marry it.

When I think about it, I realize my journey to health began with yoga, although I didn’t know it at the time. A little over two years ago, I signed Tim and myself up for a beginner’s class at a studio up the street called Wake Up Yoga. (Fellow Phillyites, Wake Up has three studios througout the city and they’re all awesome.)

Quick backstory: I used to be a runner, but a neck injury from a car accident knocked me out of running commission indefinitely. So for two years prior to the date of my first yoga class, the only exercise I could manage, other than walking, was the eliptical machine. Satisfying? Not so much. I had heard that yoga was a healing exercise, so I figured why not? Couldn’t hurt to try it.

I still remember the day of our first class. Tim and I had very recently gotten engaged. I was elated, but also stressed. The budgetary concerns of a wedding were already in the forefront of our minds. As we walked to the studio, Tim and I were arguing and I got so upset that I started crying. I actually had to take a few minutes to collect myself before I opened the door. I remember wondering if it had been a mistake to sign up for the class. Why was I adding another thing to my plate when it was already so full?

Not only was my emotional stress level high at that time, but physically I wasn’t at my best. I wouldn’t say I was fat, but I definitely weighed on the heavier end of my lifetime weight spectrum. The last two years of limited mobility had taken its toll. I was in pain every day from my neck injury and completely out of shape.

For the first few classes, there were a lot of poses I couldn’t do. I was scared of tweaking my neck and I was completely inflexible. Also, the whole experience just felt awkward to me. There was gaggy incense in the room, hokey decorations everywhere and sometimes we chanted weird sanskrit phrases. Those things were for granola-loving hippies. Not me. Please.

But at the end of each class, the instructor always said, “Think about how you feel now. Do you feel different than in the beginning of class?” And no matter what poses I could or couldn’t do, or what variety of incense was burning, I always felt different. My body felt warm and stretched. It felt alive. And I felt calmer.

By the end of the series, I had mastered some of those poses I couldn’t do at the beginning. I lost weight. I felt my body working again like it hadn’t in years. There were times in every class when I sweated like crazy and my entire leg or arm or whatever was shaking. And I loved it. After class, I would go home and sleep like a baby. In just eight weeks, I was hooked.

Two years later, I am in love. Not only is yoga an amazing, full-body workout, but it focuses on the mind-body connection in a way that no other form of exercise (at least exercise that I’ve tried) does. Yoga makes me feel centered and quiet. It forces me to live in the present moment, to feel grateful for my body and the things it can do.

Throughout everything that has happened these last couple of years, yoga has been a mainstay. It is a safe haven for me, something I know I’ll always have in my back pocket when the rest of the world gets too stressful. Because of yoga, I have deepened my relationship to myself, as well as my relationship to others. I’ve become a more spiritual person. Yes, I’m sounding dramatic here, but I believe every word of what I’m writing.

For real: yoga changed my life.

And guess what? I don’t even mind the hokeyness anymore. Last Saturday I took a four-hour yoga class. At the beginning of the class, the instructor handed out bindis for everyone. You know, those decorative dot things that some people wear between their eyes? I didn’t even blink. I stuck one to my forehead and wore that thing with pride.

So, yeah, maybe I’m a granola-loving-hippie-yoga-freak now. But I really like the person I’ve become.