I’m an Athlete – and I Do Yoga

I was never a yoga person.”

It’s true. I knew how good yoga was for you (me). How it could be beneficial to the mind, stress levels, flexibility, spirituality, body and fitness levels.

I promise, I knew all of this.

But still, I said, “No, no, I don’t do yoga.”

You see, I grew up an athlete. I played soccer and swam competitively and I was always taught to give absolutely everything you have – every single time. I pushed through discomfort because I knew it would make me a stronger competitor. I didn’t allow myself to be anything less than the best. I couldn’t.

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And so, I didn’t do yoga. Until one day, I did.

I remember it vividly: the year was 2011. I was working at a job that wasn’t enjoyable, and I was in an exercise rut. I’d go to the gym and bang out the same forty-five minutes on the elliptical and then do the exact same ab exercises until it was time to go.

Boutique fitness, specialized classes – not a thing yet.

Then for some reason I signed up for a yoga class.

I Googled the studio closest to me, which happened to be The Pad Studios. I signed up for a 6pm class and brought my “yoga clothes” to work with me – leggings, a cotton tank top… and socks (which I immediately removed after glancing around the room at my fellow classmates). I fastened my curly hair into a top knot.

There, I was yoga.

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Yoga on a pier in Miami. I could get used to this.

I settled into the very back corner of the room, next to the stove that was, at that current moment, turned off, and very cold.

When the teacher, Courtney Harris Stephens, walked in, she was all the things I thought yoga wasn’t. She was bubbly, laughing, outgoing, and had an ease about her. I came in with the very real preconceived notion that yoga was, well, crunchy. Not for athletes. Not for me.

I mentioned it was my first time at yoga… ever. Courtney made me feel like I wasn’t the new kid on the block. Like I’d been there a thousand times. She told me to follow her lead, go at my own pace, give myself the breaks I needed, and… to take it all in.

She proceeded to lead the class through a vigorous vinyasa flow (and I sweated out every ounce of water in my body once the stove that was next to me turned on) – calling out modifications and adjustments, and telling us to take breaks when we needed it.

Wait, what? I thought I told you. I’m an athlete. I don’t take breaks. I push through.

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#socialsweat makes yoga that much more fun

But in this class, I couldn’t. The chaturangas were intense – I was a cardio queen with virtually zero upper body strength. I had no balance. I could run up and down soccer fields but my hamstrings were so tight I could barely touch my toes. So I took child’s pose. More than once. More than five times, really, but less than ten.

Despite the difficulty, I continued to return multiple times per week. There was something about Courtney’s teaching style and her personality that drew me in and made me want to take class from her, to learn from her. Also, as an athlete, I wanted to be good at yoga (I now realize it’s truly a practice that is ever-evolving).

I feel like yoga, as with any experience, is all about the person you get to learn from. My journey into yoga started with Courtney Harris, and as my yoga practice continues to evolve, I know I have her to thank for helping me begin. She welcomed me into a place that I thought I wasn’t allowed into, and she let me know that it was okay to go easy on myself when I needed it.

I’ve taken that with me off my mat.

Want to try a class with Courtney? Check out her teaching schedule to find out when you can move with her next.

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