TEF: I just got better

A few months ago, I was really working to master the art of handstand holding, but I was having some trouble. The same thing would happen every time. I would be upside down for .5 seconds and then I would just topple over like a stack of Jenga blocks. I needed to do some serious strength training but, I was reluctant to get to the gym. I wanted it to be all yoga all the time. And, besides the idea of strength training seemed a little intimidating to me. I didn’t know how to go about it and I really didn’t feel like pumping iron with a bunch of guys grunting at themselves in the mirror.

So I kept doing what I was doing, but I was getting quite frustrated and I even ended up straining my lower back. Then, my mom swooped in like the miracle-working-problem-solver she is and suggested I go to Tyler English Fitness, a performance and training facility that offers daily strength and conditioning classes.

It’s been a perfect fit. I am way more steady—no more wobbly warriors. And I can hold handstands like I’ve never held them before. You could say I’ve made some “serious gains.” But, it has certainly not been easy. The coaching sessions are intense. I often find myself muttering “WTF” under my breath (very yogic of me, I know). But guess what? The trainers don’t care that I’m a little uncomfortable. They only care that I finish my burpees and squat all the way down and no one better stop before the timer goes off because we’ll just start over, okay?

You see, TEF has a no BS policy. You will be pushed (though sometimes it may feel like shove) out your comfort zone. Your legs will shake and you will be sore in places you didn’t even know existed in your body. And if you don’t like that, well then you can take it up with the complaint department, which is conveniently located in the big gray barrel. You know, the one that resembles a garbage can.

But, a place with so much passion couldn’t run without heart. Really, the whole gym just operates on tough love because at the end of the day, everyone just wants you to do well, or to “get better,” as Tyler would say. The trainers want that for you. The members want that for you. Even the ones who have been there for years and can gracefully jump squat 1000x without breaking a sweat. TEF is the first and only gym that I’ve belonged to that really encompasses a sense of community.

Oddly enough, I’m going to miss getting my ass kicked at the 8:30 morning class. My body has truly experienced a transformation for the better, and I am leaving for India feeling well prepared (well, physically, at least).

So, to Tyler + all of the other bad ass trainers at TEF, thank you for helping me to #getbetter!




My Journey to the mat

I kind of, sort of fell into yoga by accident.

My yoga journey began last fall when one of my friends was telling me about her gig as the tabata instructor at the campus fitness center. She was explaining to me what the job entailed when I said something that surprised me.

“Yeah, someday I want to be a yoga instructor.”

The words had just flowed right out of my mouth.

You do??? I thought. Since when?

My response had merely been a reflex. I wasn’t even thinking when it happened. Something had just compelled me to say it. Aside from a few beginner classes in high school, I didn’t have much experience with yoga. Yet, there I was confessing some innate desire to teach it. But I felt like I had put my foot in my mouth. I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks because I really didn’t know what to say next. I couldn’t offer anything else to the conversation, so I quickly changed the subject and silently challenged myself to go to a class soon.

A few weeks passed and I hadn’t forgotten entirely about the whole ordeal, but I hadn’t quite pursued it either. Until, my friend, Emily, asked if my roommates and I were interested in going to Yoga In The Park, a free weekly series offered by one of the local studios. With finals looming, we needed a distraction from studying so we agreed to go. I didn’t even have a mat, just a beach towel, but in the soft grass, it was enough. It was a slow practice that matched the pace of the setting sun. I left feeling light and rejuvenated.

When I returned home for winter break, I vowed to dedicate my time off to doing yoga. My best friend, Jena, and I found a local studio that offered student discounts. Both of us were unfamiliar with the different styles of yoga so we blindly wandered into a hot power flow class. It was a disaster from the start. We exchanged confused glances when we realized the instructor was not there to demonstrate the moves for us. And we grew even more confused when she started using the Sanskrit terms in her monologue. I spent the entire 75 minutes wishing for it to be over. I felt woozy from the heat and weak from holding myself up.  After that first class, Jena and I rolled up our mats and walked to the car in silence. Once both of the vehicle doors were closed, she looked at me and in full seriousness said, “I will NEVER do that again.” I immediately burst into laughter.

Despite her claim, we decided to give it another go. It still sucked. But around my fourth or fifth class, something happened. My body was stronger — I could move through chaturanga without collapsing! And, I didn’t feel the need to succumb to childs pose so often. I was finally able to focus on the act of doing yoga, rather than the pain or the passing time. I was really starting to enjoy it.

When I arrived back to Tampa for my second semester, I was determined to keep up with my practice. As fate would have it, there was a lovely studio in walking distance from my dorm. I committed myself to a three-month unlimited package and went as often as I could. Sometimes twice a day.  Eventually, it became a part of my routine. Now, yoga is so deeply integrated into my daily life that it is a part of who I am. It’s like yoga is embedded into my DNA. Corny, but true.

I can’t go a day without stretching my body or mind in some capacity. I can’t eat certain foods without noticing the effects they have on my body. And, I can’t even go to sleep without first expressing gratitude.

Yoga has brought upon a sense of awareness that I didn’t have prior to starting my practice. From being more mindful, I started to see patterns in my life. I noticed there was a direct correlation between my attitude and how I perceived certain experiences. I learned there is beauty in letting go and there is power in positivity. Simply put, yoga changed the way that I live and I am beyond grateful for that.