February 5 | The Practice |
Taylor Graham practices at YogaSix Point Loma. New to yoga, Taylor is excited to share her yoga journey with our community. Keep your eyes out for her future posts – we invite you to follow her evolution and growth.
I’ve never enjoyed yoga. I’ve never enjoyed exercising, either. My shin splints and tight hamstrings meant I could not exercise and “feel good” afterward. That is, until 2014, when I found barre. I didn’t realize it at the time, but barre was the first step of my yoga journey.
It was the perfect exercise for me, because I could do it in my socks, modify my poses that my hamstrings didn’t necessarily allow me to do, and didn’t involve intense cardio. I loved barre, and when I found barre3 in Florida, I felt like I had found a place that was meant for me. Not only did I look forward to going three or four times a week, but I also found the mental benefits of focusing on me for one whole hour. Barre3 was the perfect blend of yoga, Pilates, and the supportive ballet barre that I had been looking for, because it was just enough of each. As the years went by, I realized one part of class I particularly loved the most: stretching at the end.
Can’t we just do this the entire class? Does such an exercise even exist? I asked myself. That’s yoga, I realized.
But yoga was so weird. I never understood the Sanskrit words. I never knew what the poses meant, and out of all the yoga studios I tried, I never wanted to return. One instructor even told me finally, after seeing me struggle for so long through a class, “Just go into child’s pose.”
In January 2017, my husband and I made our long-awaited move to San Diego from Orlando, Florida. I was able to transfer my barre3 membership, as they had a location right here in La Jolla. I walked into the studio the day after we got to San Diego, saw the kids’ play area, and thought: That’s where my future kids will be.
Exactly one day after my first class, I received an email saying the studio was closing after being open for four years. Never, did I ever—especially seeing how crowded it was at the one class I had taken—think barre3 could close. It was just too popular and too great.
Three weeks later, I was on ClassPass, in a new city, trying every barre studio there was—and nothing compared to barre3. I didn’t enjoy any of the studios, and thought maybe I’d permanently lost the only workout that ever worked for me.
In May 2017, on a particularly stressful day, I decided to try yoga to channel my stress. And I was surprised at how much I knew. There wasn’t a single pose I didn’t know—and hadn’t done before in barre3. However, this studio was a little more on the “spiritual” side than I would have liked, so I didn’t plan on returning, but it opened my mind and heart to the possibility that maybe I could enjoy yoga.
Then I found YogaSix. I figured I’d at least try it to see if they were slightly less spiritual, so I bought one month of unlimited classes. Before that first class, the instructor said to me, “I know I’ve seen you before, but tell me your name again?”
“No, I haven’t been here before. This is my first time.”
“Well, you must just…belong here,” she said.
While that was a little strange to hear before I had even taken one class, her words kept ringing in my head in every class after that. Before long, I felt like, Yes, I do belong here .I felt like I was in the right place. Vinyasa was incredibly challenging (and hot for this Florida girl), but I always felt fantastic afterward.
About a month later, I was told my dog—whom I loved like my own child—might have lymphoma. He exhibited virtually zero signs, which caught us off guard. The mere thought that he might have cancer brought me to tears. While waiting for the test results, my already-nervous, panicky, worst-case scenario nature kicked into high gear. I couldn’t bear it, yet, I still didn’t know if he had it or not. I knew, in order to keep myself grounded, I had to go to yoga every day.
Because yoga is what kept my head in the right place. My husband—and even my parents—were shocked at my dedication.
But it was incredibly soothing. Some of the most profound realizations I had during that time were on my mat. What was I so worried about? We can’t control anything in this world other than ourselves—and our breath. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so we should be grateful for this moment that we’ve been given, because that is all we have. These were mantras that yoga had taught me, and I hadn’t even sought these lessons through my practice.
In early October, right after the Las Vegas shooting, one of my vinyasa instructors said something before class that struck a chord: “We come to our mats not to dodge what we may be going through, or avoid it, but to work through it.”
Three weeks later, my precious dog passed away.
Two days afterward, I showed up to my mat knowing I likely could not make it through the class. I told the instructor what had happened, and right as the words left my mouth, I started to cry. She hugged me and cried with me, and told me, “If you need to cry, just cry on your mat. It’s okay.” And I did. I cried into my towel on my mat for at least half the class.
And nearly every day since, I’ve showed up to my mat not to dodge the pain I feel, not to avoid it, but to work through it. I never thought I’d be so into yoga. After all—it was strange, too spiritual, and a foreign language to me. But I’ve surprised myself. Despite my unusually tight hamstrings (though they may be slightly better) and zero flexibility, I still show up to my mat for the same reasons: to keep my head in the right place and work through my pain.
This month, I’m participating in my first-ever YogaSix challenge. Join me as I share a beginner’s yoga journey and my perspective on each kind of class during this challenge!