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Feature photo by Lululemon Athletica

I’ve never been the type of a person who has been into yoga or anything considered “New Age”. However, I have secretly envied those who could tune out, find their center and not let stress negatively affect their lives.

Most of us either have negative thoughts running through our minds or have a stressful situation we are trying to deal with. But how does one really “deal” with it? Most of the time, I just push it aside and hope it goes away. Or I brainwash myself to believe that the situation doesn’t exist and I can go along my merry way. There comes a time when those tactics just do not work and you need a new strategy. I don’t know what my strategy is going to be, but I can tell you that more than ever, I have this need to quiet my mind, release any tension or negativity, and be one with the Universe. I know sounds like I’m going over to the light side!

The other week, my friend Nina asked me if I wanted to join her for a yoga class at Yoga View studio in Bucktown. I had only done yoga a couple of times in college and I always thought it was a bit of a snooze fest. However, considering my recent stress level, I agreed to tag along and figured those Yogis must know something I don’t.

We entered the warm studio and awaited our class time.  I felt nervous as we walked into the hardwood classroom and watched everyone grab mats and blocks. The room was peaceful and had a candle lit in the front. I saw that there were boxes of tissues along the windowsills and I wondered why they were there. Did people cry in class? Was this like a therapy session? Weird, I thought to myself.

Our instructor, Sara, started the class with us sitting on our mats. She said in life, when it comes to decision making, when we say yes to something, it means we are saying no to something else. And in life and in yoga, she said it is important to understand our decision making process. We need to understand what we are saying “no” to when we say “yes” and vice versa. She told us the story of her walking her dog who started to eat the poop of some other dog. She tried pulling her dog back and said “NOOOOO”, but it was too late and her dog had already eaten some poop. Gross, I know. So she proceeded to take the poop out of her dog’s mouth, and then she walked a few blocks with poop in her hand. She said by saying “no” to her dog eating poop, she said “yes” to having poop in her hand.

I sat there and thought about how profound this life lesson was and the odd sense of peace it gave me. Before I knew it, Sara instructed us to put our hands together in front of our hearts and chant OM. I immediately felt a warm energy running through my body. Soon, she led us to chant in a beautiful song. I didn’t participate since I didn’t know the words, but it was so beautiful that I started to cry…just a few drops of tears ran down my face as I listened with my eyes closed. I desperately wanted to grab a tissue but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

After the chant Sara told us we would be doing handstands towards the end of the class. As soon as she said this, I automatically had an internal freak out and thought, “WHAT? There is NO WAY I’m going to do a handstand. This is my first yoga class!”

Sara interrupted the negative conversation I was having in my head.

“If you are automatically thinking “no” I’m not going to do that, think about what you are saying yes to. Are you saying yes to fear? Yes to not trying something new?”

And I thought, “Fuck no, I’m not going to say YES to fear!”

So I did a handstand. Okay, it wasn’t a full handstand, it was half way, but I still attempted it with her instruction. And I committed to perfecting the handstand … which I was able to perfectly do as a teenager. The truth is Sara pushed me to push myself by thinking through what I really meant when I said “no”. I don’t think I would have even attempted the handstand without that internal questioning.

For the duration of the class, Sara walked us through various different yoga positions. Somehow I managed to keep up with most of it, although I’m sure my form was not perfect by any means. But what was perfect is I opened my heart, listened to my body and enjoyed every minute in that studio where I said “yes” to doing something positive for myself.

Nina and I walked out of the class astounded at how much we had gained in just one class.

“Who knew life lessons came with yoga classes?” Nina asked.

“I know. I loved it! I’m so glad I came with you. Do you think that people who practice yoga ever go to a therapist?” I asked.

“No, they probably don’t need to. They probably just do yoga and smoke some pot to blow their troubles away,” Nina said.

We giggled as we walked back to our car and decided to attend yoga class at least once a week.

Sometimes the most important life lessons are learned at the most unexpected moments. And what truly matters is listening to your body, your heart, and knowing when you need help. Whether that’s attending yoga class, confiding in a good friend, seeing a therapist or spending time alone doing whatever it is that brings you peace and joy.

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