The most important thing I've learned...
I consider myself a recovering Type-A fitness freak show.
Let me back up... As a collegiate basketball player sidelined by a season-ending back injury, my doc prescribed yoga to strengthen my core and unstiffen my hammies. I remember being like, "Ha, right." But it was San Francisco, and yoga seemed to be part of the experience, so I figured what the hell, and if it helped my back, that would be an added bonus. Long story short: it not only helped fix my back, but optimized my athleticism in a major way. As someone who is athletic, but has always relied more on grit than gifts, this made a world of difference in my sport. I was hooked. Believe me, my teammates thought I was totally nuts.
Post-hoops, I decided I wanted to teach yoga. This was around 2007 and, honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was that I had to say. So I did what most rookie teachers do: I regurgitated other teachers' words, sequences, and music. Before I knew it, I was racing around town teaching nearly 20 classes a week, while continuing to work out like a competitive athlete in training. To top it off, I felt like to be a good yoga teacher, I could only eat goji berries, I had to be skinnier, and I’d need to find a way to get psyched about busting a move for 90 minutes in a tiny, steamy room with 30 other people… in 100+ degrees — ugh.
Frazzled is not fit.
Here’s the problem: I was frazzled. And I love hamburgers.
I was the epitome of what I now refer to as simply “the stressed out yoga teacher.” And who wants a stressed out yoga teacher?! Especially when you’ve come to class to de-stress. It took some time for me to realize that, while my message was positive and my classes were big, something didn’t feel quite right. In class I was encouraging ease, and yet at home I was running myself ragged and feeling like nothing was ever enough. This disconnect was deeply unsettling.
It was time for me to a) Figure out what it is that I have to say, b) Close the gap between my external and internal dialog, and c) Start eating more burgers.
So, I returned to what initially hooked me, and my inspiration to teach in the first place: yoga will make you a better athlete. It’s a passion I somehow lost touch with while I was so busy trying to remember the Sanskrit words for everything and marching my classes through a ton of chaturangas (if you don't know what that is, consider it a good thing).
I’ve been fortunate to have amazing opportunities to work with athletes of all kinds. Admittedly, at first it was tons of trial-and-error, because there were so few resources available at the time. You ever try getting a linebacker into downward dog? It’s tougher than you might think. And what do you teach a 7-foot-tall NBA center? That took some critical thinking. Over the years, I've written my own manual — literally, you should have it in your hands later this year. Despite the ever-changing challenges of working with this demographic, the solution has been consistent: balance.
Witnessing my students discover greater balance — between strength and flexibility, left and right, front and back, top and bottom, as well as effort and ease — and feeling it for myself as I've learned to chill the eff out, has brought me a tangible shift from "ugh" to "aha." I've come to understand that, when you’re in balance, you’re most at ease — and anything, everything is optimized. Balance is the new performance-boosting secret weapon. Ease is the new beauty.
So, when I talk about "hitting reset," I'm talking about using yoga to return to balance, and to sustain balance. I'm not suggesting we scrap workouts altogether and start some kind of Legs Up the Wall Olympics, I'm reminding athletes (and myself) that we have to rest easy so that we can go hard. And that often, yoga could best serve us in sports and in life not just as another way to push ourselves, but as a balancing factor that optimizes all our other hard work. Plus, lets be real: moaning about how tired, sore, and stressed we are just isn’t impressing anyone, or improving our performance.
One of Jasyoga’s coaches recently said that she realized, “I don’t have to get it all ‘right,’ I just have to find the right balance.”
The sentiment is becoming a more common revelation — that’s why I consider it a revolution. I don't claim to have all the answers, nor am I saying this is the only way, but the fact that so many people have been wowed by the power of yoga to restore balance indicates that this emphasis, this approach, is one that many people just haven't considered. Jasyoga is growing and as more athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all kinds join what we call the “Reset Revolution,” never have I felt more inspired to practice what I preach. As an athlete, the urge to go hard will always be there, but I’ve learned to recognize when to get after it, and when to kick back — and, most importantly, to give myself permission to act accordingly.
Your own perfect balance is there already — you just have to listen… and be willing to respond.