Hey Yoga Mat, It's Been Too Long. Can We Be Friends Again?
Do you consider yourself a yoga practitioner, but often find yourself looking at your mat collecting dust in the corner, and just think "Nah, not today"? Yep, me too. I've been in that zone more times than I like to admit.
I started practicing yoga in 1998.
I was in my sophomore year of college, and I saw a class being offered at the local gym, so I hopped off the never-ending dreadmill and checked it out. About ten minutes into the class, I began to wonder when I had previously met the yoga instructor, and what I did to him that made him torture me in this way. IT. WAS. AWFUL. Turns out, it wasn't personal, it was just my body's reaction to something I hadn't done before. Since then, my practice has seen it's ebbs and flows. When I was in law school I did not go to a yoga class for the entire three years, and I was in Charlottesville, Virginia, which has always been a hotbed of yoga and yogis.
Over the last twenty years, I've seen my personal yoga practice reflect the phase of life I am in.
When I was stressed and busy in law school, I unintentionally cut my entire practice out. Looking back now, yoga was exactly what I need. I needed to get out of my brain and into my body. I needed to ground myself, I needed to put my stress on the shelf and find these moments of self-care. But I didn't - my black girl magic dwindled to dangerously low levels and I was constantly fighting to be the "best student I could be" without putting any intention towards being the "best Shida I could be." I didn't put self-care first and I personally suffered significantly through those three years. DON'T BE LIKE ME!!! I was more miserable than not, and I did not know what to do to get myself out of what often felt like a cycle of despair.
Fast forward twenty years from my first yoga class, I've been a registered yoga teacher for a few years, and am in the middle of getting an advanced teaching certificate from an internationally renowned teacher.
But here's the thing...my personal practice still suffers. When I've got a lot going on, it's one of the first things I let go of. There's always an excuse: "I don't want to go to that class," "I don't have time," "I'll go tomorrow," "I don't feel like practicing on my own." Deep inside, I know when I avoid the practice, it's exactly what I need the most. But knowing that shit and actually doing it are two wildly different things.
This new nomadic life creates even more roadblocks to practice that feel authentic in the moment, but I can step back and recognize are just my mind playing tricks on me.
"I don't know where a studio is," "I don't speak the language, so I won't understand the instructions," "There is no room in this space to practice." Now that I am bringing more attention to how I stand in my own way, I am being very intentional about how I travel, so I may easily practice without the negative voice in my head preventing me from getting to that place of radical self-care which is my ultimate goal.
Here are 5 tips that I have implemented on this #JourneyToWakanda that I hope you can use to get yourself back onto the mat and and into a self-care groove.
1. I bring a travel yoga mat with me wherever I go.
And if I'm hauling this thing around, I'm gonna eventually use it. I like my Manduka mat (eKO SuperLite Travel Mat) - it's light, grippy and folds up easily. I've been dragging it with me on trips for four years and it is still holding up really well. Pro-tip: I hate using loaner mats from studios (hello, my name is Shida and I'm a germaphobe), so I bring my travel mat with me to studios when traveling and roll it out over loaner mats. I get extra padding from the loaner mat, and I avoid other people's sweat and germs. Win-win.
2. As soon as I check into a hotel or an AirBnB, the first thing I do is figure out where I can roll out my travel mat.
Some of the spaces I am staying in are absolutely tiny, but any space that will hold the entire mat will do. If my arms or legs hit the wall, I'll adjust. In the place I'm staying now, there isn't enough room for me to leave my mat rolled out except for when I'm using it, so I fold it up and leave it right next to the practice area when I'm not on it.
3. I look for a local yoga studio before I move to the new location.
I know the two biggest excuses I make for not going to class are 1. I don't know where a studio is, 2. the studio is too far. If I google for studios before I check into a new location, I have cut down on these "authentic excuses" my negative voice comes up with.
4. I look for classes I think I will understand.
Does the website mention whether the teacher speaks English? Is there a style of yoga I am really comfortable with that I can practice in any language? For me, that's ashtanga; I don't practice ashtanga often, but once I'm in class, the sequence will come back to me, and as long as I am not in the front row, I can always get a clue from someone around me. Plus, they usually have cheat sheets for mysore (individually paced practice) that you can use if you need them. For yogis, it might be Bikram; the sequence is always the same, so regardless of the language, you'll understand the instructions.
5. I just get on my mat at "home".
Once I throw on a sports bra and shorts and step on the mat, the practice meets me where I am. I just move. that's all. just move. and if you can't move, just breathe. Just stand there and breathe, and you are doing your yoga - the yoga you need. (sometimes I need a good soundtrack to start me going - Migos always works for me :)