September 29, 2013

I Was a Competitive Yoga A**hole. ~ Christy Vanest

I am a recovering competitive yogi.

It all started with heated Power Yoga—I was good at it and I knew it. I took to it like a fish to water. I have a crossfit and long distance running background and I was already quite fit when I started this journey. There are times in my not so distant past where I rocked a six pack proudly.

I carb starved and compared myself to others.

A year ago, I thought I needed some stretching. I was getting injured from my intense training and I’d read that yoga was great for such injuries. I found a Power/Bikram studio and went, and went again and couldn’t stop going.

The room was heated to a cozy 100 degrees. Big deal; I ran my last half marathon in the sweltering August heat of Atlanta. There were inversions, arm balances, difficult asana and vinyasa flow that kept my heart pumping through my chest. Perfect.

There were wall to wall mirrors and a room full of people I knew I was better at yoga than.

I looked around at the few more advanced yogis, busting out a bind I’d never seen, keeping an audible ujayii breath the entire practice, or easily going up in an inversion I’d never tried before. Hey, I could do these things, so I did. In less than a year, I was adding every difficult variation to every pose I possibly could.

And then things got real. I don’t know exactly when the change happened, but it did.

I started to read yoga philosophy. I went to even more yoga and started feeling an ease and love for myself and others that I’d never felt before. I began a daily meditation practice.

All of the sudden, I didn’t care if I was in the front of the room so everyone could see how bad ass I was. I stopped looking around. Hell, my eyes were closed if they weren’t fuzzily focused on some random spot on the floor. I didn’t care what the chick next to me was doing. I began to add other studios to my practice and regularly visited a studio with no mirrors and a slow practice that focused on pranayama with chanting.

I was practicing slowly with old ladies and it was okay. It was still yoga, maybe even more so. I needed yoga or meditation each day to feel right. Asana became about moving meditation; not about how I can do side crow like a rock star.

I got it. Yoga changed me, as it does everyone it touches.

I read somewhere that when you know better, you do better. There are still tons of people out there that don’t “get it”. They may never and that’s totally okay. Maybe yoga isn’t their thing. We are all on our own journey.

Wherever you are, is exactly where you are supposed to be.

If I see an egocentric competitive yogi, I giggle to myself and say “Been there, done that”.

I can also say that I am really glad that my heart opened up. I am glad that I’m not over training, under eating, and striving for a level of athletic perfection that was created for who knows what purpose.

This is a much happier place, and I am so grateful to be here.

I still run Tough Mudder every year. I still run trails every weekend and lift heavy weights. But now, I know when to stop. Now I do it with an open heart and mind.

Now I run and lift, as a Yogi.

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Assistant Ed: Kristina Peterson/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Christy Vanest