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Heart to Heart

Falling in Love with Yoga

Written by SYJ student Kristen Domonell

My relationship with yoga hasn’t been very long but, like with human love, sometimes you just know when it’s meant to be.

My story is also pretty typical: Girl feels lost; Yoga finds girl; Girl finds self. Unique or not, I’ve been falling out of bakasana and ardha chandrasana and into love with yoga and SYJ since February.

It all started with feeling stuck. Over the last couple of years I had found myself feeling a little out of control of my own life. I was constantly scheming up ways that I could be a little happier in my adult life, but not really doing anything about it.

Part of this slump involved always worrying about what’s next, a problem I think I share with a lot of people my age. I grew up an overachiever, always striving for something. In high school it was getting into college. I’d replace fun elective courses with an extra math class, even though I hate math, just because someone told me this would help me get into my “dream school.” Ask any of my friends and they’ll vouch for my awful math skills (I can’t even figure out the tip when we go out without grabbing for my phone).

Once I graduated from college and got a job, I had that feeling of “so this is life.” It wouldn’t last four years (hopefully), and honestly seemed, and still seems, really daunting at times. Over time, being stuck in a cubicle from 9-5 working a job I didn’t love started to take its toll. I’ve always been really active and social, but I stopped going to the gym as often or going out after work. Things I once lived for started to feel forced.

In the midst of this slump I decided to get away. In February, my boyfriend and I went to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica—a great little surf town filled with expats who moved there to enjoy life. They run businesses, but mostly surf, and everyone gathers on the beach each night to watch the sunset.

One of the first things I noticed was that the people there all really did seem genuinely happy, and not the least bit stressed. And that’s how I felt after just a day there. A perk of the trip for me was that I completely unplugged. No texts. No calls. Just a single email to my mom to let her know I’d made it. It was really nice to get away from Instagramming every exciting moment and checking in on what everyone else had going on. I could really just allow myself to be present (an idea I was much less familiar with before stepping onto my mat).

One of the things that made me love this trip so much was—you guessed it—yoga. I had dabbled here and there before the trip, but I was never all that impressed. I always wanted to be the “type of girl” who was into yoga, but at the end of the day if I couldn’t count the calories on a screen it wasn’t worth it. Something about the place where I was in my life and the way I felt at the end of class just clicked for me that week. The open air yoga deck and sun kissed and free-spirited instructors cooing about self-love while rubbing lavender oil on me in shavasana certainly didn’t hurt the cause.

When I came home I felt a little changed. I thought about quitting my job and moving to Costa Rica, but instead I decided it was time to dive headfirst into yoga. I dumped the gym I no longer had a good relationship with and searched for a studio. That’s when I found SYJ, and I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t believe that there was such a welcoming place (that would eventually help change the way I think about life) just up some worn steps in a random part of the town where I’d been working for two years. I had a fired up feeling that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

I can now walk into class feeling like complete crap and within 10 minutes I don’t even remember what was bothering me. And it’s not just me (or most of you reading this). Researchers from Duke recently found that yoga provides a benefit in depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, and problems with sleep. Studies have also found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores. If you practice, you already know this to be true, but the journalist in me needs to present the facts.

Not only does it make me think differently, it’s had a huge impact on my body. Before I started practicing I couldn’t touch my toes, but now I’m more flexible and stronger than I’ve ever been. I also get really excited every time I master a difficult pose. The first time I got into headstand I couldn’t stop doing it in my living room when I got home from class; I felt like a little kid. I made my roommate watch, and then take a picture, which I then sent to my mom.

And that’s the beauty of yoga. There’s always something new to learn.

I’ve heard a lot of things about my generation: that we’re entitled, coddled, self-absorbed. We were given trophies just for trying, and our parents raised us to believe we could do anything if we put our minds to it. And while we shouldn’t expect we’ll be famous actors, or have starting salaries of $100,000, I don’t think our parents did us a disservice at all. Because at the end of the day, I think that everyone, regardless of generation, is entitled to simply be happy. I’m still figuring out what this means on a daily basis, but yoga helps me deal with things better, and know myself better—and I’m grateful for that every day.

You can watch Kristen give her 5 minute speech at Ignite Stamford about falling in love with yoga here.

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