Photo of a lotus flower in a pond

The lotus flower, symbolizing renewal.

I never thought I’d say this but here goes: I like yoga. Not the hot kind or the trendy kind or the “power flow” kind or the intimidating kind, but the gentle kind. Mindful. Yin. Restorative. Reachable and modifiable.

For the past twenty-ish years or so, I aspired to like yoga. It seemed like something I would benefit from. My therapist would casually bring it up every now and then—a subtle nudge here, an outright ask there. She would espouse the advantages of connecting your mind and body; of paying attention to your breath and improving the long-length exhales we practiced together. But I would demur.

“I don’t know,” I would sigh, twisting my hands in my lap, looking away from her laser-beam-sees-right-through-me eye contact. “I don’t think it’s for me. I’ve tried it. It’s not a good fit.”

Of the handful of times I had tried yoga, defeat always met me at the door with a knowing nod, whispering in my ear that this was no place for me. Once I went to a “gently heated” class, which left me woozy and salt-depleted. Another time was with an overbearingly fit teacher, who seemed to be in it for herself and not the students. Yet another try left me ego-bruised; I just couldn’t keep up with the positions my body couldn’t safely reach; my tight IT bands and hamstrings and kinked up traps protested. There’s something embarrassing about being a former dancer and struggling through a yoga class. But, as I recently learned, the problem wasn’t me. It was that I hadn’t found the right place or the right teacher.

When I was studying dance, Pilates was always my go-to cross-training choice. Joseph Pilates’ rehabilitation regimen was (is!) revered among many in the dance world, and rightly so: it’s an excellent complement to dance, especially ballet. I loved that it didn’t require building meditative skills—just an ability to breathe and count at the same time, and to become familiar with your neutral pelvis. Working on my core strength was an effective distraction from working on my mindfulness.

About eight months ago, I went looking for a Pilates mat class (not equipment, not cardio, not “flow,” not “fusion,” not any other bastardized version of the real deal. Just a good old-fashioned mat class taught by a certified professional.) I finally found one, booked a private session for an evaluation, and crossed my fingers it would be a good fit. It… wasn’t. Not exactly. I liked the instructor and the session, and it certainly pushed my limits, reminding me why I need more strength and flexibility training at this stage of my life. But it also sparked a thought, or a realization: what if, actually, I don’t need to “go back” to what was, if not an easy routine, but an easy choice? What if familiar wasn’t the right idea, right now?

And so that’s how I landed in a class called mindful yoga, a yin practice, with a kind teacher named Tida who admitted the name of the class was redundant but got the job done. The first time I attended Tida’s class, in the soothing stillness in which we sat cross-legged, our hands in namaskar mudra, palms pressed together, I felt tears pricking my eyes. I felt enveloped in such overwhelming comfort. In permission to just be. It was exactly the kind of feeling I hoped my own clients might experience in coaching, this empowerment of the self.

From there I started attending Tida’s gentle yoga sessions as well, a more active practice but in a manageable and modifiable flow. I began to learn more about how to use blocks and straps to help support my body, and most importantly, to start listening to my body more. To appreciate what its capable of, and to pay attention to when it needs power and when it needs rest. I marveled at Tida’s ability to keep each class fresh while still building our skills. There is an honesty, a realness, in her energy as she takes us through poses yet continually reminds us that yoga is not about what is on the outside, but what is on the inside. It’s a mindful connectedness that supports our physical bodies in where we want them to go.

So, here I am, now fully invested in the power of yoga, an idea I once would have scoffed at. I still love Pilates and of course, still love all things dance—but I love yoga now, too, and have begun to incorporate it into my everyday life. It feels like a renewal from the inside out, a reinvention of how to take care of myself. But in order to arrive at this place, I had to let go of the ideas about what I thought I needed. Thank you, Tida, for shifting my perspective. I’m grateful for each lesson and hope to pay it forward to others in my own way as a coach.