Jen is one of my running heroes. She runs Boston qualifying marathoners like a champ and has a beautiful heart. Jen has been my long time pal and came to the first yoga class I ever officially taught. I was so nervous, but her smile and support put me at ease. Jen is runner, skier and “not a pretzel.” Jen is what a yogi looks like.

Jen

1. When did you start doing yoga and why? Back in 2001, I visited the Nike Employee Store in Portland through my job and was given a stipend to purchase whatever I wanted. (Score!) In between running tanks, shorts and shoes – I bought a pair of yoga pants, because someday, I thought, maybe I’ll start doing yoga. I have never been flexible, and it took four more years before I could get up the courage to actually go to a class. In 2005, I made it a New Year’s resolution to stop making excuses and start going to yoga classes. I started at the gym I went to Redondo Beach had early morning yoga classes. Bonnie was the teacher’s name. She was great! So patient with me – and she could tell that I just wanted to get better at it. We moved to the IE after a few months, and I continued in whatever classes I could find. Starting just above the Fox Theater, then moving to Blue Mud, then onto Inner Evolution Yoga. As I progressed, I found a sense of calming, and a feeling of strength and power that I’d never felt before. I was hooked!

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? Flexibility required! There used to be a yoga series that aired early mornings on PBS back in the 80s that my mom used to watch. She was never flexible and would try her best at the poses, but would get frustrated when she couldn’t do a pose. I always heard her say, “I’m not a pretzel.” And she’d comment that the lack of flexibility runs in the family and I’d never be able to do those poses either. So yoga was never something on my radar growing up, making it that much harder to start as an adult.

3. What is your favorite pose and why? There are so many I love for so many different reasons. My top three are:
-Half-moon – it reminds me how much strength, balance, focus, breath and vulnerability are vitally important to work in harmony to get the most out of the pose. Isn’t that what life is about?
-Pigeon – it forces me to a place where I am not comfortable, and allows me to ease into being more comfortable in that space
-Chair – for the power it gives me. Plus, it’s the BEST pose to get in shape for ski season.

4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? I am so thankful that yoga is so accessible to everyone and anyone – and you don’t need to be a “pretzel” to start (or continue) on your journey. It took me some time to accept that there are some poses I may never master due to my own limitations (cow’s face and twisted pyramid, I’m talking to you), and that is OK. Heck, it took me ten years to be able to touch my toes on a regular basis! I don’t think anyone should ever be made to feel like they have to have a certain body trait to do yoga.

I’ve always been involved in sports. I ski and snowboard, played soccer and used to be a semi-competitive swimmer. Now, I’ve channeled the swimming and soccer into running. I’m into challenging and punishing myself. Often, I wonder what my body would be like if I hadn’t started started a yoga practice. I can guarantee that I would be nowhere near as flexible as I am now (which isn’t very flexible, but much more than 11 years ago!!), and I would probably be nursing many more injuries. Plus, I wouldn’t have the awareness of engaging and relaxing my body as I do today.

5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? Yoga has become deeply personal for me. My husband just doesn’t get it, nor do I ask him to fully understand my reasons why I practice. Yoga helps me to find my own path in the absence of religion. It complements my being, and is one of the parts that make me who I am and who I want to evolve to become as I get older. Each time I roll out my mat and practice, I make a promise to better myself on that day.

6. What do you love most about yoga? Yoga has helped to calm my busy mind, and has allowed me to understand how to live in the moment. Unfortunately, I am a control freak who plans out the minute details in life – traits that can turn negative for myself and my relationships with others. Practicing yoga gives me peace to give in to what I can’t control. Is it an exact science? Far from it. I’m still learning, growing and accepting every day.

Yoga gives me another avenue to challenge my inner self. I always appreciate hearing my yoga teachers tell me to hold the pose one more breath, and if I can hold it one breath, try to hold it one more, and one more after that. Like all things in life, the pose (the hill, the day, the rough times) has an end point. But taking it breath by breath, step by step, day by day – that is living in the moment.

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice?
There is no shame in being hesitant to start. Stepping through the doors of an unfamiliar place seems daunting. It certainly was for me. But once you’ve finished that first class, you will be amazed at what your body is capable of on the mat.

Be honest in what you want to get out of your journey. But also be open to where that journey will take you. You never know where it may lead.

Finally, don’t buy yoga pants because you think you might go to a class someday. Buy them because you signed up to take your first class within the week!

Thank-you, Jen!!!

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.