The temperature has reached nearly 95 degrees. A humidifier in the corner blows puffs of steam into the air. A diffuser spreads the calming scents of lavender and tea tree oil throughout the room. Everyone around me is sitting and stretching.
My instructor asks us to find a comfortable seat on our mats and focus on our breathing as we prepare our bodies for 60 minutes of intensive movement. First drops of sweat fall onto the wooden floor.
Anjali Power Yoga on South Street near 15th is my sacred place. My mat, with printed chakra symbols, is where I come to destress. I love every second and every pose of it. This is my treasured me-time.
Originating thousands of years ago in today’s Nepal, yoga arrived in the United States in the 19th century. It helps people all over the world find inner peace and improve their well-being — I am one of them.
I first tried yoga during the summer of 2017. I had a membership at a YMCA in West Chester, Pennsylvania, so I decided I’d give it a shot and see what all the hype is about, having no expectations.
I joined a gentle yoga class, designated for beginners, and was the youngest in the room by at least 40 years. I was also the clumsiest.
While all the ladies reached for their toes from a standing position, the floor never seemed more out of reach to me. I tried to copy the movements of other yogis the best I could and attempted to learn the names of as many poses as possible.
Downward-facing dog. Warrior I. Triangle. Cat. Cow. Savasana.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I loved it. My body felt rejuvenated after the first class, and I experienced a new sense of peace. I needed to go back.
Now — about two years later — I can confidently touch my toes while standing, and I’ve learned the names of most poses in both English and Sanskrit.
By its origin, yoga focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. But in the Western world, yoga is more focused on the physical aspect; asanas, pranayama and dhyana. Those are the Sanskrit words meaning poses, breathing techniques and meditation.
During April 2018, I traveled to Bali, Indonesia, where I had the honor of practicing with an actual yoga guru, a person who focuses more on the spiritual journey than poses.
We practiced breathing and meditation. With each movement, we worshipped nature, spirits and each corner of Earth, giving special thanks to Mother Nature.
It might sound like spiritual crap when put into words, but in the heart of the Balinese culture, it was a magical experience.
I found my current yoga studio while looking for a business to write about for my Writing for Journalism class last semester.
Hidden among stores, bars and restaurants, I discovered a modest-looking, narrow house with a blue and brick exterior. A flag hung outside informs passersby about the purpose of the space.
Visitors are prompted to take their shoes off in the front room. The main studio that follows feels calm and welcoming. Light-blue walls are complemented by a painting of Buddha above a wall-mounted electric fireplace and contrasts with the dark-blue ceiling.
The deep blue curtains are tied with golden ropes, and the space is decorated with elephant statuettes hanging on strings from ceiling to floor.
It was love at first practice.
There are various styles of yoga that might differ in temperature, intensity, language and spirituality. This studio focuses on Baptiste yoga, best described as a high-intensity workout in high-temperature, following founder Walt Baptiste’s mottos: “You are ready now,” and “If you can, you must.”
Finding something I am passionate about has helped me cope with the stress of college. Especially in the middle of an overwhelming week filled with exams and assignments, taking a yoga break is what keeps me sane. It reduces my anxiety. Finding an hour to myself, escaping the always-buzzing campus and treating my overworked mind to a well-deserved rest is my favorite self-care practice.
Maybe yoga really improves people’s health or maybe it’s a placebo effect. Either way, it works for me. Yoga is my passion. I hope everyone finds their own fun form of stress relief.