Welcome to Zenish Yoga, where you don’t have to be bendy or skinny or a hippie – just yourself. We’ll show you how easy breathing techniques and a few simple moves are all you need to get started on a new, healthier path.
What is Zenish?
I was hooked on yoga the minute my first teacher opened class with “If all you do is sit and breathe tonight, you are practicing yoga.” I thought, “Now this is my kind of exercise class!”
I was a stressed-out 45-year-old junk-food-eating, coach potato who came to yoga class because the doctor said I’d never have full mobility in my ankle once he pinned it back together from the break to my left leg and ankle. I couldn’t touch my toes that first class – and for many after that. But my yoga teacher gave me permissions that I’d never been given before – “It’s OK if you can’t reach your toes tonight, or tomorrow or ever,” she said in class to everyone and no in particular, “Just do what you can do. Get what your body needs tonight.”
Barbara didn’t make me feel coddled or less than because my body didn’t have access to some of the poses. She wasn’t a drill sergeant or a coach, and I didn’t feel pushed into action. I felt a pull toward something – something bigger, something better, something different.This wasn’t at all what I expected. I wasn’t surrounded by a roomful of twiggy teens bending themselves into pretzels. The students weren’t watching me, giving me that “you really shouldn’t be here” sideways glance. I watched them. They were my age. And everyone was practicing at their own level – doing their own thing – together. This wasn’t a “club” that I wouldn’t “fit it.”
I knew I was never going to become a “gym rat” – not that there’s anything wrong with that, just wrong for me. I despised exercise. I ate chili cheese Fritos and drank diet Mountain Dew for breakfast – and that’s not literary license. I really did. For years. And for dinner, I sat in bed watching TV devouring a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips, and an entire block of white cheddar cheese that I dipped in sour cream.
I would like to tell you that I’m a vegan now but, in all honesty, I’m vegan-ish. On occasion, I detour from the straight and narrow and I order the blue cheese on my salad (or worse). But those are now the exceptions, not
The “ish” is my path. My journey. It’s the story behind Zen-ish Yoga. I’m a yogi, but I’m not always so zen. The Urban Dictionary describes Zen as a total state of focus that incorporates togetherness of body and mind. I don’t always have it together. Sometimes I bark at my dogs. Sometimes I’m selfish. Sometimes I still can’t stop the mind chatter long enough to find five minutes of peace in the final resting pose of my yoga practice. And that’s the ish of it. But I am more peaceful, less stressed and generally happier than I have ever been.
And I know that this is just the beginning – that sharing this with others is part of my journey. That teaching and learning go hand in hand. I’m never going to look like I belong on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine. My body may never bend and stretch like that. And, let’s face it, I’m five feet tall and I could stand to lose a few-ish pounds. But every time I practice I feel good.
I started teacher training so that I could keep feeling good – to gain a deeper understanding of the poses and learn how not to hurt myself, so that I could benefit from my practice for a long time to come. I had no intention of teaching. But, just like my first yoga class, teacher training wasn’t what I expected. Something happened along the way, I felt that pull again. The gravitational pull to share what I’ve learned. Not so much as someone who has completed 200 hours of yoga teacher training, who can lead others in mindful alignment, but as someone who is still a student, on and off the mat. “The struggle is real,” as my daughter likes to say. And from the moment that first friend shared their struggle with pain, and asked me – as a teacher in training, “about doing that yoga” – I was hooked. Yet another unexpected and wonderful twist on the path to enlightenment.
That’s what I call Zenish.