By Kai Simmonds
the anti- yogi
Let's rewind the clock....
I grew up playing competitive sports, first soccer and then basketball. The GOAL was NOT to just have FUN, it was to WIN!
I even played Collegiate Basketball in New York when I was 18 years old.
All the while, whenever I saw people practicing Yoga I would roll my eyes, make fun of them and mimic their "weird poses."
Ah how little did I know 😂 that 10 years later I would become a Yoga teacher!
From Collegiate Basketball to Muay Thai, I had always gravitated towards highly masculine and physically demanding sports. NO PAIN no GAIN right?
I kept this attitude/approach to my physical workouts and LIFE until I was around 26 and I met my boyfriend ( now fiancee- thats another story though ;) and he was into trying new sports. I said I'd try anything except Yoga - because of how " stupid " Yoga is.
So he challenged ME- he dared me to go to a "Hot Yoga Class" (it was actually Bikram- one of the most masculine types of Yoga) and you know your girl does NOT back down from a Challenge.
He was supposed to come with me- but he was "sick" the day of the class.
my holy sh*t moment
That first Bikram Class, was probably one of the worst experiences of my life- LOL!
Yeah you can imagine an ANTI- Yogi taking a 90 minute Yoga Class forcing my body into poses they have never done in their life? Sweating and shaking!
But it was a CHALLENGE- and my competitive nature would not let myself quit or give up.
Then it happened- in SAVASANA.
Pure Bliss, absolute peace- the extreme physical exhaustion allowed my anxious/stressed mind to go quiet and I found PEACE for the first time in my life.
I was always anxious/over-thinker ( that's another story too lol) and this is the FIRST time in 26 years I found stillness.
There in Savasana, I had my holy sh*t moment. I realized this WHY people practiced Yoga and did those "weird poses."
And since that day, I never looked back.
I practiced Yoga almost everyday if I could, and tried so many classes, teachers, styles and was obsessed. Chasing that "high" I got in savasana, that moment of peace that stillness.
My competitive mind, still thought the GOAL of yoga was to master all the physical poses in order to ADVANCE.
Whenever I walked into a Yoga Class, I would look around the room comparing myself to others, trying to outperform as many people as I could and always challenging myself with the MOST difficult pose- which is NOT Yoga at all.
I was new, I still didn't know any better!
the little one liners
As I practiced different styles and teachers,I started to move away from the physically demanding Bikram classes and towards the more fluid and flowy vinyasa.
I also found my favorite teachers.
My favorite and in my opinion the best yoga teachers are not the ones who can do the most difficult poses, but the ones that help you connect to yourself more- physically, mentally and spiritually.
It was their little one liners- about how you are MORE than just a physical body and reminding us to always show gratitude -that changed the practice for me.
They used breathwork, they incorporated stillness, and exploration of the body first then mind and soul.
I would leave those classes not just feeling physically restored but rejuvenated inside and out.
One day, a teacher said that Yoga is not about the Physical poses (ASANA) - it is about a connection between mind and body- and that was it! It awakened something in me.
I wanted to KNOW MORE!
the one good thing about covid
Although I didn't want to become a Yoga Teacher that was the only way I could learn more about Yoga.
In 2020 COVID hit, I was locked up in my apartment and had all this FREE time and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training.
Although, the studio was just 20 mins from my house due to COVID we spent the first month taking the course online, this was the one good thing I got from COVID- time home to become a Yoga teacher.
This when I learned Yoga is so MUCH MORE THAN a PHYSICAL Practice.
yoga is not just a workout
Here in the first month, we learned the Philosophy and History of Yoga. This opened my eyes to the realization of so many things.
Yoga is more than a physical practice it is a WAY of LIVING.
We learned about the Bhaghavad Gita and Pantagali's 8 limbs of Yoga.
This is when I learned the Asana was actually less than 10% of Yoga! Yoga has been practiced for 1000s of years, and there are so many different styles.
My SOUL awakened during this training and learned that Yoga is not just a workout but a Spiritual practice and a way of life.
We use our bodies or the physical practice ( asana) first to practice awareness and mindfulness then we transcend the main and later the soul.
The breath is key- the breath is the link between the mind and body without the breath Yoga is really just a bunch of random poses.
Once we incorporate the breath, the mindfulness and the spirituality and philosophy - your Yoga practice transcends from just physical movements to a Soul Embodiment Practice- and this is the TRUE magic!
And once I learned this, once I was awakened to this- there was no going back!
Here I was an ANTI- Yogi, a non-believer/skeptic becoming a Yoga Teacher.