Natalie Vavricka
July 24, 2012

As someone who has been a long distance runner for the past 15+ years, I think of myself as an athlete. Lifting weights, sprinting up stairs, treadmills, trail runs, push-ups, and interval training are all a part of my normal routine—sweating is my therapy. I’ve run a sub 3:30 marathon, competed on my high school and college cross country teams and consequently limped my way through far too many stress fractures. I’m proud to say that I can actually do an unassisted pull-up.

But I am terrified of yoga.

Conquering the fear
To me, yoga represents all of the things that I’m NOT so great at: flexibility, balance, staying within the confines of a small space, breathing slowly…yoga is pretty much the exact opposite of running, which is why I’ve gone out of my way to avoid it. Until now. We all know that there is no growth without pain, so with that in mind, I decided to face my yoga fear.

Luckily, I hang with a crowd that includes some ladies who have not only embraced yoga as a recreational activity, but as a career. As a yoga ‘virgin,’ starting my journey with a room full of strangers was not for me--no thank you! Enter Sarah Dade, a dear friend who recently left a successful career in finance to pursue her dreams of teaching yoga and being a nutrition/wellness coach. She’s positive and inspirational and most important, she promised she wouldn’t laugh at my inability to touch my head to my knees.

Sun salutations, warriors, planks, oh my!
Our first session was on Thursday evening, and I’m just now fully recovered from the all-over soreness that hit me the next morning. Sarah warmed me up with some of the essential asanas (poses) to ensure proper alignment and then took me through a basic Vinyasa (which means ‘breath synchronized movement’) flow yoga class. One hour and multiple sun salutations, warriors, planks, pyramids, trees, cobras, and happy babies (my favorite) later, the session was complete. It was really difficult for me—more difficult than running half marathons or leg curling 120 pounds. I had no iPod to distract me through the most challenging parts; I could only listen to my breath and Sarah’s patient instruction.

As cliché as this sounds, an intense wave of emotion poured over me when we were finished. I felt proud because I pushed my body past its comfort zone. I felt muscles and ligaments that I forgot that I had, and I rediscovered my own breath. Most importantly, I no longer fear yoga—I’m actually looking forward to continuing the journey.

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