Zen Mind, Buff Body by Kathleen Kaster
Yoga found meApr 2, 2008
Then I met Moksha
I took my first yoga class when I was 25, living in San Diego, while working as a personal trainer to Dr. Deepak Chopra. One of his very zen staff members was kind enough to pull me aside at my gym job to show me a few Sun Salutations. This act of random kindness, which I felt was divinely orchestrated, lead me to me first yoga class—and that changed my life.
When yoga found me, I was committed to 60 minutes of running or cardio machines, and weight lifting for another hour, with very little attention, if any, to stretching. I now realize I was wearing out my body, especially my knees with severe repetitive use. I had been through physical therapy for my knees over the years, but nothing rehabilitated them more than doing the primary series of Ashtanga yoga daily. In the 80’s we all lived and died by the mantra: “No Pain No Gain.” But I was in pain, and experiencing no gain. So I started to shift to less time with cardio and weights and more time with what was then my injury prevention routine of Vinyasa flow yoga. On the days I did it, the Vinyasa practice was all that I needed: my cardio, weights, stretching, spirituality and much, MUCH more. It can do this for you too.
I held on to some days of cardio and weights until nine years ago, when I decided to open my first yoga studio. With nothing but a leap of faith, I quit the gym and took up a daily Ashtanga practice. At first, my tendency toward extreme exercise behavior came with me onto the mat, where I would spend 2 to 3 hours, 7 days a week, practicing by myself and sweating profusely. Like Freud said, we often replace an unhealthy addiction with a healthy one. And it took me another few years to tone down my yoga practice, but after a few yoga injuries, I realized I needed to listen to the clear message my body was sending.
Today, I do a solo practice to stay fit but the real reason is to experience freedom, called moksha, within myself. Many, many yoga practitioners say that they too have moved beyond mastering poses and practice mainly for inner peace.
I will be 40 this year, and feel like yoga has reinstated the flexible, strong, and pain-free body that I had when I started the cardio craze decades ago.
What can gym rats learn from me? Skip a workout but show up to a yoga class. Sweat it out just like you would in spin class, but see if there is something in your body that feels different. I’m hoping that if you’re reading this, yoga has found you too.
Trust me if you rely on yoga, it will all work out. It might also set you free.