A few weeks ago, I got the once in a lifetime opportunity to practice yoga on the court at Sleep Train Arena! The Kings Foundation teamed up with a local yoga studio, Yoga Seed Collective, to host a class in honor of NBA FIT Week. Slamson the mascot, a few Kings players + dancers were there, oh, and over 250 other attendees!
Around Christmas, I got really sick and I purposefully dropped any extra physical activity from my schedule, hoping to take it easy and let my body rest. Prior to that, I was walking a lot, and sporadically stretching on my own; It's been over a year since I took a workout class of any kind! But, that's one of the special things about yoga. It's a lot like riding a bike.
I've found that my yoga practice is always there, waiting and ready, for my inevitable comeback.
I have taken and enjoyed lots of yoga classes in the last 10 years, but often felt resistant to practicing on a regular basis. I was first exposed to yoga as a high school student, in my freshman year religion course. (My teacher also taught a World Religions class, plus, he was an avid yogi/Buddhist.) Then, yoga and meditation popped up again, as a junior in Peace and Conflict Studies. In retrospect, these are some of the cool parts about attending a semi-liberal Catholic High School, I guess!
I took yoga classes throughout college, and at various gyms after my original introduction. The class with the Kings was different than anything I've experienced before. And not just because it was by far the largest group of students, and took place in such a unique setting. For the first time in a yoga class, I found it easy(ish) to let go, and focus on my breath. I returned to child's pose when I needed a rest, and felt no guilt! I didn't care what people around me might be thinking, something I would have been preoccupied with a few years ago.
Instead, I saw this hour as a gift to give myself. An entire hour of checking in with my body, noticing how different parts felt, breathing air into my muscles and getting my blood pumping. My favorite line from the instructor was "breathe in... now breathe out, and let something go". An invitation to let something go? It felt like he was speaking directly to me. The ironic part is, I almost didn't go at all that afternoon.
My serious focus on being more mindful, as of late, feels like it's beginning to pay off (aka it's getting slightly easier to remain mindful). Previously, yoga's benefits seemed purely physical: toning, flexibility, possible weight loss. I knew yoga could help with focus and relaxation, but I didn't experience that side of the practice until this class. The possible physical "improvements" have lost much of their shine for me. And in a surprising twist, this time I was truly open to whatever benefits the class had to offer me. Proof that letting go of the outcome, can drastically change my experience.
Yoga can be tricky for someone with anxiety. It can feel a lot like standing in front of a giant emotional mirror. It's really difficult to hide from insecurities and worries, when you're alone in your body/mind for 50+ minutes, focusing on calming your breath. The sensations I experience while doing yoga are both freeing and crazy-making. This time was no different. However, all that mindfulness practice came in handy! Yes, I felt rusty, physically, but stepping on the mat (a pretty new purple one!) also felt like coming home. Moving from pose to pose felt like picking up one of your favorite books - you remember the first time you read it, how it affected you then, what lessons it taught you, and now, while reading it again years later, you see those same words from a fresh point of view.
Yoga taught me something about myself the first time I tried it, but this time I see the potential it holds to open my eyes and heart to something brand new.
See Becca, Andrew, Jason and myself, in the second row of the above photo? Becca and I are bringing the french braid back, and you're invited to join us!
I'm so proud of my friend Katie for making this event happen. Katie works in the Community Impact Department at the Kings, and has been a yogi for as long as I've known her. It was cool to see her get a chance to combine her talents and hobbies in this way. Cheers - er, Namaste, Katie!
I was impressed by The Yoga Seed's obvious commitment to mental health and overall wellness. They teach classes for under serviced youth, as well as in prisons and they offer classes for many different levels at their studio. Check out their website if you're interested in learning more about this awesome local collective.
The Kings made a recap video of the event, which you can view below!
My view from shavasana: lying on the court looking up.