Written by Suzanne Taylor, Baptiste yoga student, and all around sassy pants.
I'm not your typical yoga practitioner. When you think of someone who practices yoga, you might get an image in your mind of someone very peaceful, very grounded, very mindful, vegan and/or on a raw food diet. I usually think of some of the Kundalini folk in their flowing white robes when I think about 'typical' yoga practitioners. That's not me at all.
I have zero patience, I'm sassy, outspoken, blunt, and I can usually be found doing 15 things at once. I move fast, I think fast, and I'm often considered impulsive. It's just my personality and lifestyle; I do things quickly, and I do a lot of things. I'm a foodie and I couldn't see myself drinking kale smoothies or doing cleanses.
So I don't know where the desire to take a yoga class came from. My friend Dina was always talking about her great yoga classes, and since she is someone I admire greatly I thought perhaps yoga was something I should try, and so I signed up for some introductory Hatha classes at my local yoga studio. Privately, I thought the classes were very expensive for what in my cynical mind amounted to fancy stretching, but I needed to get out of the house and away from my heavy work schedule, and this was as good a reason as any.
I wasn't that impressed with my classes or instructor at first, as it seemed very slow and affected and silly. I wasn't in very good physical shape then either, so holding downward facing dog for what seemed like a terribly long time just wasn't possible. It was soon very clear to me how much I had neglected my body as we learned the poses, one by one. And savasana? Forget it. I could no more lay still and melt into the earth than I could stand on my head.
But little by little I began to look forward to the yoga classes, and I found myself practicing yogic breathing when I was feeling anxious outside of class. Little by little, yoga began to creep into my life and my brain. I found myself balancing in tree pose as I went through my day, or using my dog's back to do half moon pose. Little moments like that began to appear in my life; whenever I was still, I would get into a yoga pose.
When my introductory classes were over, I joined the regular studio and began attending drop-in classes. This studio offered traditional Hatha classes and power Vinyasa classes in a room heated to 100 degrees.
Yoga, in a room heated to 100 degrees. I had to laugh. As if I'd ever torture myself that way. I would watch the people that would emerge from the hot studio after class, in their Lulu Lemon shorts, drenched in sweat, and wonder who would ever do that to themselves. I mean, what a faddish concept this was.
But this is where, of course, I was terribly cynical, terribly close-minded, and terribly wrong. I continued in my Hatha classes, but for someone like me who liked to be on the go, they were just a bit too slow in pace. I was gaining steadily in strength and ability, and I found myself eager to try new poses and move more, but since the Hatha classes were largely populated by older and/or less physically able folk, I was in the minority there.
So clearly the answer to my desire to move more and advance further in my practice, was to try the hot Vinyasa classes. I skirted around the idea for a few months, and asked the studio owner a thousand questions about them. I don't like to be hot. I get overheated easily, and even something like a glass of red wine will send me into a flush. I was also greatly overweight, and frankly I wasn't sure that my body could handle hot yoga. I don't really have the figure for the hot yoga shorts that they all seemed to wear, and I was terribly self-conscious about how I looked in comparison to the other students.
Well, my first hot class wasn't a great success, I'll admit. I was diligent and committed, and I made it three quarters of the way through, but when we flipped our dogs, the room spun and I had to go bursting out of there and take gasping breaths in the cool air of the hallway until my heart stopped thumping. I was quite sure that was my last hot yoga class ever.
But something really important happened. I connected with two of the teachers at the studio, Andrea and Darlene, who in my time at the studio began taking bootcamps with Baron Baptiste, and teaching in that style, and eventually went on to become fully certified Baptiste yoga teachers.
In Baptiste-style yoga, I found a home. I began taking hot yoga classes three times a week to practice this fantastic style of yoga. In Baptiste classes, every pose is flowed to via the Sun Salutations, and it's a very sensible, very powerful, very moving yoga class that uses great energy and focus to do. There was no agonizing slowness and stillness in a pose, there was challenge and movement and heat and every class taught me something new; not only about yoga but about myself and what I could do.
I suddenly lost 40 lb without really noticing; one day my pants fell off and everybody started remarking on how great I looked. I kept attending hot yoga despite not really liking hot yoga because of its hotness. I had a point in every class where I was sure I'd die and I didn't die.
I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists and therefore some poses aren't that accessible to me and I have to modify, but I kept trying, and kept pressing myself, and one night I flipped into my first full wheel ever. Darlene was teaching and she got tears in her eyes. I began to do it again and again, and it always felt like a victory.
I'm still sassy and outspoken, I still do a lot of things, and I still have limited patience. But yoga, even at a power Vinyasa pace, taught me a great deal about pushing my limits and yet respecting them, and how to be mindful in doing so. Baptiste yoga, like it was designed to, taught me to become the best me I could be; to become my authentic self. I still prefer to practice non-hot yoga, but I can make it all the way through a hot class. I learned the difference between trying hard and trying easy. I learned that your wheel isn't there every night, but it's there enough that it's worth trying for every time.
I get anxious a great deal; that's another part of my personality make up. There is nothing that settles me down like a Baptiste yoga class. It supercharges the aspects of myself that are powerful, and reminds me to be in the moment, no matter how fleeting that moment is.
I love Baptiste yoga because I can still be me, my authentic, sassy, outgoing, foodie self, but I'm just a better version of that me with this yoga practice. I don't have to turn into a very Zen person who lives on leafy greens, as some in the yoga world seem to do, I can still be opinionated and cook fancy meals and not do cleanses, and yet still practice yoga and heal my spirit and my body, little by little.
The thing I like best about yoga is that there is a place in it for everyone, for every temperament, even those of us who seem wholly unsuited to yoga on paper. I'm very grateful for my yoga practice and to have the chance to share this with you.