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In June, my guiding mantra is “great things never came from comfort zones.” This holds true when starting, maintaining and growing through a yoga practice—especially when you enter into the wonderful world of yoga with fear, nervousness or insecurity. I know this feeling all too well. Two and a half years later, I now understand that fear does not need to be an action that holds us back, but rather one that springs us forward.
Before yoga, I was stuck in a toxic, long-term relationship. I was plagued with stress, depression and felt disconnected. My relationship, along with many other life factors, became a weight I was obligated to carry around, leading to an overwhelming feeling of stagnation. I needed to take action, or I knew my life would never improve, and my body would ultimately suffer. My first step towards personal recovery: yoga.
One day, I found a local Iyengar studio in my hometown. Starting with a beginner’s class, I was unsure how I would feel and if I would fit in, especially as a woman with a larger body. Yoga is only for fit people, right? I was worried about how I would appear to others, if I could handle certain poses, if I would fall…or fail?
That first class changed me. After years of neglect and disconnect, being in a yoga class where I was immediately forced to find my connection—even with some discomfort or tension as I settled into new ways of moving my body—was exactly what I needed at that phase in my life. Sometimes we stay right where we are, no matter the pain because we fear change. But in yoga I found change and fear to be synonymous with strength. I faced my fear and guess what? I didn’t fail. I blossomed.
I practiced Iyengar for a few weeks before I found and fell in love with vinyasa, which is all about heat, flow, and heart-racing movement. I have also since practiced Bikram, restorative, Buti and aerial yoga, but my heart is in vinyasa. No matter the yoga class, I have practiced with people of all shapes, sizes, and ages and there was never any judgment. I learned quickly that yoga is not discriminatory. It is for everyone. It is for every body.
Each instructor I’ve encountered since beginning yoga always inspires me with the same message: If we fall, we get back up (and we do fall in yoga, many times); we bend so we don’t break. Fear ultimately has the potential to turn into motivation, rather than a setback. By accepting this truth on the mat, I changed how I handle situations outside of the studio—trusting myself to face what I am afraid of. But this doesn’t mean life, or our yoga practice becomes easier.
Less than a month after finding yoga, I gained the courage to end my relationship. An incredibly significant, scary, and courageous decision that I couldn’t have done without learning what I did from my yoga practice. Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments of discomfort and weakness, but focusing my mindset on embracing fear shifts my ability to handle the hardships that come my way. Don’t be afraid to jump! Let yourself fall, and you’ll find that you do get back up. May your practice lead you to the fearless warrior you are inside.
For the first time ever, the globe will be watching surfing take center stage at the 2020 (postponed to July 2021) Olympics. People from all over the world will be appreciating the sport, many for the first time.
This symbolizes the surfing community breaking through centuries of negative stereotypes. Though conditions play a big part in the sport, the biggest hurdle the athletes will have to overcome to see success is mental. The winner will be the one who chooses their waves wisely with their understanding of the conditions and ability to intimidate and therefore overcome components. Meanwhile, they will be challenging themselves to emerge from crashing barrels, fly into the air, and land on the shifting surface gracefully. No big deal.
You’ve probably heard the invention of a wave pool, which creates the perfect man-made wave. In 2007, Kelly Slater founded his wave company with a passion to build the perfectly rideable wave at his surf ranch. It was debated whether the Olympics should be held in the ocean or on a manufactured wave, with many differing opinions on what would be right. The decision was made, and the event will take place in the sea, at Tsurigasaki Beach in Japan, about 40 miles east of Tokyo, where the rest of the 2021 games will be hosted.
As you watch, take a moment to reflect on the century of effort for this to happen. This initiative can be traced all the way back to the 1912 summer games that took place in Stockholm. Duke Kahanamoku, known as the father of modern surfing, won three gold medals in swimming, and while accepting his medal, he expressed that it was his dream to see surfing be added. To add fuel to the fire, International Surfing Association, recognized as the surfing world's governing authority by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), began lobbying for the inclusion of surfing in the Olympics in 1955.
Surfing is a multidimensional sport unlike any other. Nothing compares to paddling out to the serene silence that awaits beyond the breaking waves. Once you get out there, you immediately escape the many annoyances ingrained in everyday life—the constant notifications on your phone and laptop, your back-to-back schedule, answering to other people. You’re no longer on the time that your watch reads, you’re on mother nature’s time. You’re also no longer in control of your surroundings. Now, all you can do is surrender and wait for the next set to come, while trying to position yourself for when it does.
The high from catching the perfect wave is so addicting that surfers would fail on one hundred in a row just to catch that one. After you catch that perfect one, you replay it in your mind for the rest of the day.
A successful session is reliant on so many factors of mother nature—a force way bigger than us. For ideal conditions to exist, a good-sized swell must approach from the right direction, the wind must be flowing offshore, and you have to time your session right with the ebb and flow of the tide.
The sport is always teaching you life lessons. It is humbling, even if you’ve been practicing it for many years. One reason why it takes so long to master is that the conditions are going to be different every time you get out there. You might have caught a million yesterday, but today makes you feel like a kook because you can’t land one decent wave.
The community of people that you become a part of when you surf is special. A shared obsession with the ocean that brings you to dive into the water at dawn to get a session in bonds you quick. When you’re out there, you’ll find yourself interacting with people of all ages and backgrounds. People enjoy sharing the stoke of the sport. When you see someone out there teaching somebody new, you’ll encounter them cheering at the top of their lungs when they catch a good wave, and as you look around, you’ll see smiles all across the lineup. The other day, I caught a long wave in to be met with a cheering crowd of locals who frequent the spot that I do. When I got to shore, a local showed me their secret stash of hot packs to access in case I, or someone else, gets stung by a stingray when they aren’t around.
Being out in the ocean and abiding by her rules gives surfers a deep love and connection to nature. It’s common to see sea animals out there, like dolphins, stingrays, and fish. When you have an encounter, it’s a reminder that we are invading their territory. It sucks when you see trash floating in the water, or on the sand in its route to the water. It’s a sad reminder of the negative impact that humans can have on natural environments. It inspires you to pick up trash and advocate for sustainability so that we, as a collective, can take care of the beauty that we are lucky to have access to.
Tune in to see surfing break into the biggest international sporting event in the world beginning on Saturday, July 24th.
Do you live by the ocean? Paddle out with an instructor.
Don't live by the water, but still want to train for your next surf trip? Consider these classes.
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