I knew this would require my "I'll try anything once" approach: basically, my attitude toward anything exercise-related is that I need to try it at least once. If I don't like it, then I don't have to do it again. That mentality has really allowed me to focus on the type of exercise I like to do, which naturally makes me more inclined to, you know, go do it.
I knew from previous experience that I prefer a studio over a gym setting. There's absolutely nothing wrong with yoga classes at a gym. Heck, my first consistent yoga practice occurred at XSport Fitness in Chicago; my roomie and I already worked out there and decided to sign up for a class one day, which led to a full year of practicing with an older instructor named Guy, who was very weird and very hilarious and made yoga oh so entertaining. But since then, I prefer the zen-like spaces of a studio because it feels indulgent, like I get to do yoga rather than I have to. And since yoga tends to require budgeting (the high price of classes is my one major complaint about practicing in general), I like to feel as if I'm getting my money's worth.
So I tried several local places, and quickly discovered two that really worked for me on completely different levels: Shakti and Power Life. Brette at Shakti focuses wholeheartedly on traditional form with hatha/vinyasa classes, something I felt I lacked after years of quick power yoga classes here and there; whereas, Power Life offered a wide variety of hot yoga classes (sculpt, cardio, barre, traditional) throughout the week which kept me from getting bored. Most importantly, both studios maintained a really nice balance in terms of spirituality. I think most people who've practiced yoga get turned off by this aspect: either a studio goes too far with the rhetoric ("open up your rib cage and expand your power" or "breathe your spirit to the sun" -- huh? what?) or ignores it entirely, making it all about the body instead of the body and mind. I like the middle ground, where the instructor offers a few reflections or mantras for class and then gets things going.
This week, I attended a Level 2 class with Kirk at Power Life. (He's awesome, so if you're a Des Moines resident and interested in yoga, be sure to check out one of his classes.) Here's how he started class: "How many of you garden?" A few of us chuckled, and some shouted out the different things they were trying to grow. "You have to plant seeds, right?" We nodded. "And if you don't plant seeds, you can't expect anything to grow right?" Right, we agreed. Kirk went on to explain that in life, we get to choose the types of seeds we want to plant. What we plant every day will grow into something later, to positive or negative effect. We can plant seeds of happiness, joy, strength, trust--or we can plant seeds of hatred, fear, anger, doubt.
This mindset is nothing new, but it's incredibly valuable. Our thoughts shape our intentions, which shape our actions. The point isn't to train yourself to think you're the best damn thing since sliced bread (if you do, more power to you!) but to notice the types of mental seeds you're planting, and how they're affecting your life on a short-term and long-term level.
So today, decide what you want to plant--in your own mind and heart, and in the world around you.