Yoga is Cool

Yoga is cool. It might not have been in the 60's. In fact, it was probably pooh-poohed as an elitist group of hairy arm pitted women and men speaking in tongues and getting in touch with their chakras, whatever that means.

Ok, this is what I thought it was when I was a teenager, dating a boy whose dad owned a yoga studio on the upper east side in Manhattan.

When I first went to the boy's home, to 'hang out', he showed me around his suburban NY estate and took me to the back room of his house where his dad's 'studio' was and where, still engrained in my memory, I saw a group of women and men, sitting cross-legged Indian style, in white turbans, eyes closed and chanting words that were certainly not English.

What are they doing??, I thought. I didn't dare ask. I just wanted to hang out with the boy. The whole thing freaked me out.

Cut to, my early 20's. I'm working at a nightclub and hosting a music show that aired Friday nights on NBC. We shot during the day so I basically slept, two hours a night and was up and working all the rest of the hours of the day.

One day, I met with the executive producer of the show at a 'healthy' restaurant in Venice, CA. He was that hippie type of guy that 'did' yoga and always acted 'Zen'.

He could see how stressed out and strung out I was by simply existing in the world.

He gave me a book called, 'The Miracle of Mindfulness' by Thich Nhat Hanh. It's a manual on meditation.

Ok, I thought. Now, I'm going to have to find time to sit still and think about nothing? This is going to go over really well with my schedule, I thought.

I still can't pronounce the author's name, but my dear friends, that book changed my life.

It explained how, by doing simple tasks during the day and focusing your attention solely on those tasks, you are in meditation. How often do we, cook dinner while on the phone and multi-tasking a myriad of other things?

We are always multi-tasking!! We are rarely looking at our task and just 'doing' our task without thinking of the next thing and the next thing.

Dang, did that guy get it right. He knows me so well.

If you asked me ten years ago, if I ever thought I would be teaching yoga, I would have told you that you were crazy.

My first yoga class at 21, I stepped in to the studio all loud mouthed and ignorant, didn't know I was supposed to take my shoes off or anything. I left the studio, quiet and, well, still ignorant. It didn't bode well with me. Many classes later, I still didn't 'vibe' with whatever this 'yoga' and 'meditation' was. I didn't understand, but that is because I didn't have the right teachers. There was nothing wrong with the teachers that I had, I just didn't 'get' it. Their style didn't work with the person I was.

But here's the thing, sometimes it takes a while to find the right teacher to take you to the place where yoga can be designed for you, not what images you might have of what yoga is.

Even now, yoga has been made trendy and accessible to people, but not ALL people. There are still so many people who think they can't do yoga because they can't touch their toes.

They are overweight or can't focus or don't have the time or whatever. Yoga is more of a lifestyle workout than anything else and it takes some time to find out what and where that yoga is for you.

I found this great studio in Hell's Kitchen on the west side of NYC that was the right fit for me.

There were no hairy armpits or skinny ladies telling me to feel the breath in my toes. (There was actually a part of me that thought, am I really supposed to feel breath in my toes? Is that actually physically possible?)

Yea, what did I know?

The teachers were from all 'traditions' and 'styles' of yoga and accessible to me.

Me, who was an overweight teenager, battled an eating disorder and an addiction to diet pills and other unhealthy ways of living. On the flip, I was also a marathon runner, who couldn't touch her toes. I was never a gymnast or dancer which you may see a lot of in studios. I didn't think this type A gal could ever be still long enough to order a non-fat latte let alone move my way over an hour to a place of stillness within that got me thinking....

I'm just tired of living outside of myself, working tirelessly and spending my energy like it was cash on a shopping spree, focusing on pleasing others or my parents or society, trying to do what is right or what I 'should' do.

Let's just take a moment....

And that moment brought me here...

I'm still here...

Are you with me people?

I had never lived inside of my actual body and let what was inside lead and dictate my decisions and passions in my external life.

I'm not getting all spiritual yet, am I?

Seriously though, I found a place to find myself and it eventually lead me to teaching all this stuff because I was THE person against all of what I thought yoga was, only to discover and create what yoga IS to me.

Yes, it's one of those things that you have to be there to get, but I promise you, you can find and get it no matter how insane your schedule and daily life demands are.

Here's the fun part.

Yoga can be whatever you would like it to be for yourself. That's the way those in India did it and do it and that's what we can do.

Yoga can start at anytime with any BODY.

Teenagers can benefit from yoga, as their body is something new every day. It's something, as adults, we long since ceased 'discovering.' But as a teenager, we are just starting that journey. We're not sure what to do with all these new thoughts and feelings that come up as we are growing up. Couple that with school, exams, friends and extracurricular activities and you are looking at a difficult transitionary period. A time, that if neglected, can keep you confused and a little unfocussed even into you 20's, i.e., me. I was all over the place and I needed a good and healthy place to put all of this energy.

If I only knew then, what I know now. If I had a kid and/or a teenager, they would be doing yoga right out of the womb!!

With yoga, you not only get a physical workout, but you get in your body enough to get a mental workout. And by mental work-out I mean you literally work out the things you no longer mentally need to hang on to so that you can be present in all of your activities, more productive and of all things, more FOCUSED.

Woo Hoo!

Yoga works the bod, but in the mind it keeps you focused on what is important and what needs to go away. In this day and age, that is super important. We are inundated with so many stimuli from TV and technology to the friends and family in our lives that hold our attention.

With yoga, we can find out just how important all of those things are and put in perspective the absolute things we need to put our attention towards.

Priorities people!

You might also find that by doing yoga, you can find other things to find 'yoga' in. Yoga translated from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, means, union.

Many people I work with might discover that the actual 'poses' of yoga don't get them feeling Zen, but they find that feeling we talk about when they go for a run or take a spin class, make dinner, watch Oprah while having a cup of tea or even take the dog for a walk. It's about being mindful in your moments not mixing the moments up and missing it all.

Yoga is not limited to a studio where you have a mat, don a cute top and pants and do downward dog.

Not to mention the fact that yoga can be extremely bonding. I can't tell you how many girlfriends or mothers and daughters that I work with or husbands and wives that, in our time together, there is no blackberry or facebook or homework or e-mails popping up in your face.

There is just a mat or two, some breathing, moving and good 'ol chatting and catching up. It's nice to be quiet when you are doing your practice, but a lot of people I work with use this time to just be with each other, be quiet or talk. There is nothing more yogic to me than that.

My image of yoga has changed over the years as I have changed. Yoga has become my life because it is how I live my life. 90% of it is off the mat and outside of the studio, but yoga is what helps me stay fit, focused and happy. I can live with a grade of 90%. It's an A+ to me and on the permanent record of life; I can live with that score.

Be good to yourselves, call your mother and drink a lot of water. And moisturize a lot in this dry heat.

-Laurie

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