Trust yourself. Question your habits. Find the reward in trying something new.

For about 13 years, I had taken Ashtanga classes at only one place — Sun Moon Yoga in Mankato. That changed on Thursday when I drove to Minneapolis to take a Mysore-style class at Minneapolis Yoga.

When Mona took Ashtanga off the schedule at Sun Moon, I really missed it, though I understand that it was hard for her to find qualified teachers. It’s true that I didn’t practice regularly at the studio, but there were times when I attended nearly weekly for 3-4 month stretches. So when it completely disappeared from the schedule, I missed it more than I thought I would.

The absence of an Ashtanga class, combined with my resistance to cultivating a home practice, meant that Ashtanga was absent from my life for the last couple of years save for a shortened practice every once in a while at home. But during my yoga teacher training, I felt strongly pulled to taking up Ashtanga again.

So if I was going to be serious about this, I knew I would have to make a commitment to attending a class. Ashtanga is a very specialized style of yoga, so classes aren’t easy to find. In addition, you want to put yourself in the hands of a capable teacher with whom you’re compatible.

I had some reservations going into Thursday. Mostly, would I be doing it right? What would this teacher think of my practice? David Rogers looked nice and kind when I did my research about him, but what if he was going to be one of those hard and critical teachers you sometimes hear about?

But in general I looked forward to the adventure. If things didn’t go well, then I just wouldn’t go back. But if things did go well, this had the potential for cracking something open for me.

In short, it went very well. Two days later, my mind is still spinning. I gained an entirely new perspective on Ashtanga and I feel newly motivated to practice.

Some of my main takeaways:

* Wow, it was warm in the studio! The class before mine was a Bikram class. David opened the doors and windows, but it didn’t really cool off. So there’s me, the yoga practitioner who had always been resistant to a hot practice, on my mat with sweat rolling off my face, down my back, my arms, my legs, etc. And I loved it. In all those years of practicing Ashtanga in relative coolness and comfort, I realized I was not getting the maximum detoxifying benefits. Let the sweat drip!

* I have some habits to break. David pointed out a couple of things with a gentle, “Why are you doing it like that?” One thing that will take a lot of work is doing a chaturanga with my elbows slightly out instead of squeezed into my ribs. He also showed me some poses in which a flat back was not the primary goal — lengthening the spine could come later.

* This was my first true Mysore experience. In traditional Mysore, a teacher will stop you when he or she feels you have had enough. I didn’t quite get through all the forward folds when David stopped me from progressing further into the sequence. I was grateful — I had so much new information to digest and I was getting tired.

* I had the confidence to do things I had never done before. I explained to David that I didn’t do jump backs. He simply said, “Why not?” And I realized that I didn’t have a good answer. So I gave a weak excuse about worrying that I wouldn’t do them correctly or that I would lose form. He went into a speech about how much we worry about something “looking right” that we don’t even want to try. Mind. Blown. I couldn’t see something so simple for myself.

* I also got the feel for chakrasana (the backward roll in Ashtanga to get from one pose to another in the seated sequence). David helped me — I will need some work to get it on my own — but it felt great to go through the motion. Again — Mind. Blown.

* I had a chance to explain Ashtanga to a group of people unfamiliar with it. As I was waiting for class to start, the sweaty Bikram students came out to join me on the patio. Since Ashtanga is fairly new to Minneapolis Yoga, a lot of them didn’t know about it so they were asking me all sorts of questions. They also liked my dedication to the class for driving a total of three hours for one hour of class 🙂 The three hours in the car offered a wonderful opportunity to listen to books!

* I love the built-in community at a yoga studio. That community is evident at Sun Moon, but it’s also a community where I know a lot of people. Even though I didn’t know anyone at Minneapolis Yoga, we all sat around the patio for a few minutes smiling and talking and sharing our experiences.

There’s so much I’m forgetting. Each moment during class was a special one where my brain was working overtime in digesting the information and also soaking in the experience. I look forward to going back! In the meantime, you will find me on my mat practicing chaturangas and chakrasana at home or in the Fitness for 10 studio after teaching my Tuesday/Thursday classes.

That special yoga glow, lol!

Scenes from a snowy woods

A lot of people in southern Minnesota were disappointed with the few inches of snow we received on Monday. By early March, most everyone is ready to be done with winter! They are itching for warmer temperatures and clear roads. I admit the icy sidewalks and slippery parking lots quickly become tiresome.

But there’s nothing like snow in the woods to make us realize how truly beautiful the winter landscape is. I spent 2.5 hours hiking today at 7-Mile Park and I’m not kidding, I felt like I was out there for only 20 minutes. Temperatures were perfect, in the mid-20s. The exercise helped me stay warm but it was cool enough to keep the snow from melting and getting slushy. The fresh air did wonders for my state of mind.

What helps you achieve mental clarity?

I LOVE winter in the Midwest!

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On Saturday morning, I woke up to a gorgeous winter scene of hoarfrost. Most of my workouts are indoors, but I like to get outside on a long run once a week. This scenery made my run totally worth it.

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A couple of weeks ago I was in Rockford, Illinois, and ended up running along the Rock River during a light, wet snow. The fresh coat of snow made for a beautiful landscape.

Here in southern Minnesota, we probably have a month left of winter, give or take a week. I’ll admit it will be nice to not have to put on layers of clothes plus hat, scarf, and mittens in order to go outside for a run. It will be nice to feel my fingers again, lol! But winter is so beautiful, and I will miss views like this. However, this is the land of four distinct seasons, so I won’t have to wait long for winter to come around again.

Visiting new yoga studios

Only in the past few months have I made it a point to find a yoga studio when I travel, if possible. When I went to Duluth in August, I took two yoga classes at JEM Yoga: one was a yoga/moonlight paddleboard, and the other was a noon vinyasa class at the studio.

On Saturday I went to 815 Yoga in Rockford, Illinois. I meant to take photos at the studio when I was done with the class, but forgot…sheesh!

I will admit I like my comfort zone. I’ve been going to Sun Moon Yoga in Mankato for 15 years and it’s such a comfortable, warm, inviting space. I sometimes think, What if a different studio doesn’t have that same vibe?

But that’s a negative way of thinking. No two yoga studios are going to have the same vibe. And if I find a studio with a totally horrible vibe, well, then I won’t go back.

Both the Duluth and Rockford studios were wonderful places to practice. I was able to settle in quickly and pay full attention to my practice. It’s also fun to see what other yoga instructors come up with for a flow. I’m always challenged when I go somewhere new!

Going to a local business while traveling is also a great way to feel part of the community. You might see a part of the town you wouldn’t normally see as you make your way to the studio. It’s also great to chat with the locals, especially if you need recommendations for places to eat/sights to see/local shopping to do, etc.

God willing, I’ll be back to Duluth and Rockford before too long and I will return to JEM Yoga and 815Yoga. And when I travel to other places this year, I will make it a point to take a class at the local yoga studio. Wouldn’t it be cool to take a yoga class in all 50 states?

8 degrees! Let’s go for a run!

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Balmy! Hey, it’s been below zero for a few days so a number above zero felt like a gift. I try to pick the best weather day of the week to head out to 7-Mile Park between Mankato and St. Peter.

Tuesday was windy but the park is fairly well-protected. At least in the summer — now without leaves on the trees, the wind does cut through the park. My face was a bit numb at the end.

But the peace and quiet and beauty are worth it. A deer and I locked gazes for a few paces. I did not get cold — I’ve run outside for many years and I can’t ever remember being cold. The right gear, combined with the heat generated by running, keeps me nice and toasty in any winter weather. I went out for short runs Sunday and Monday (Sunday was during a windchill warning) and I still stayed warm even then. I much prefer running in winter than running in the heat and humidity of summer.

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The frozen 7-Mile Creek. Trail 8 involves a crossing. Thank goodness it’s shallow and narrow and quite frozen!