Loleta is a retired middle school counselor and gives THE best hugs after each class. Loleta did not always love physical activity but finds safety in her yoga practice. Loleta is what a yogi looks like.

off

1.When did you start doing yoga and why? I started doing yoga in July, 2010 because my daughter, Mona, kept urging me to give it a try. She had been practicing for several years and had become a real devotee. I suppose I did it out of curiosity; and maybe to shut her up, the way mothers do sometimes. My first class was a community class with Phil, and all I remember is how HARD it was! I don’t think I had poured out so much sweat in my adult life. As I think about that time, though, there were other factors in play. For about 10 years I’d been walking/jogging on a track early in the morning. I’d hated every minute of it, but it was my only form of exercise. For a while a little voice inside me had been saying that there were better ways for me to exercise. And since I’d retired the year before and didn’t have to go to work every day, there was no reason for me to go to the track every morning@ 4:30. Now I believe that deciding to give yoga a try was a case of “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? Once, when I was in a class that was pretty intense, the teacher said, “And people think we just sit around and chant,” which is probably one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding yoga. When I began my practice, I didn’t know what to expect, but I probably didn’t expect it to have as much of an impact on my life as it has.

3. What is your favorite pose and why? As for poses, it would be easy for me to list poses I don’t like; but trying to name my favorite one is sort of like asking a mother to name her favorite child. I love the richness and safeness of child’s pose, and I love the poses that are relatively easy for me. But I appreciate the challenge of poses that make me work. One of the many things I love about yoga is watching myself get better. Poses that I couldn’t quite “get” at the beginning of a class are easy by the end of class. With other poses I can see progress over time.

child's pose

4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? When I first began practicing yoga one of the teachers talked about listening to our bodies. I thought that was something I’d mastered in childhood; but after practicing for nearly 6 years, I realize that listening to your body isn’t something you master. You just learn to listen more carefully. Before I began my practice, I never thought much about my body beyond how it looked; and I didn’t like the way it looked. Although I may never love the way it looks, now I love and respect my body. It has been good to me even when I wasn’t good to it.

5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? My view of yoga is that it isn’t just one thing. Although I know very little beyond the asanas, I believe that anyone can find something that will make his or her life better. It seems to me that race, religion, age, gender, lifestyle don’t matter, yoga has something for everyone.

6. What do you love most about yoga? It’s so hard to say what I love most about yoga. I could go on for hours about the things I love about it. When I replaced my early morning trips to the track with yoga, I said that yoga is good for the body, the mind, and the spirit; but at that point I had no idea of how good it would turn out to be. I was never good in PE, and I hated it. For me, yoga is the opposite of PE. There’s no competition, even with yourself. There’s just finding your edge. That brings me to another thing I love about yoga. Even though there may be 30 people in the room, your practice is yours alone. No one is watching or comparing you to anyone else or to some standard you have to reach. Which brings me to kindness. Everyone I’ve met in yoga is kind and caring. How often do you find yourself if a group of people who truly love and care about each other? Yoga extends into every part of you, from becoming aware of the real power of your breath, to the way you deal with frustration, to consideration of your place in the scheme of things. Yoga changes your perspective and re-orders your priorities.

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? If someone were hesitant about beginning a yoga practice and asked me for advice in 5 words or less, I’d say the same thing my mother said about eating broccoli: “Try it, you’ll like it!” And then I might go on for another 500 words…

Thank-you, sweet Loleta!

Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com.