Why I Go To Early-Morning Yoga Even When I Complain About Being Overworked and Overtired
As a college student with an on-campus job, finding time for myself is a challenge (so much so that I have been neglecting this blog for over a month - oops). The stress of trying to balance classes, a rehearsal schedule, and a social life - all while trying to get enough sleep and maintain a skincare routine - is a struggle many of us know all too well. Living in the age of the 24 hour work day, where we all seem to be competing to see who can overwork themselves the most on the fewest hours of sleep, makes it difficult for all of us to remember that taking a step back and taking care of ourselves is not synonymous with underachievement.
My yoga habit, though, was not born out of a need to break away from this systemic overworking - it was a way for me to try to get back some of the structure that results from having a jam-packed school or work day. I discovered Fierce Grace while studying abroad in London. I don't think I was prepared for the level of culture shock that I experienced when adjusting to life in the UK - how different could another English-speaking country be? It turned out, very. The campus culture at Queen Mary University of London was polar opposite to what I experience in New York at Marymount Manhattan College. I was not used to being in class for so few hours a day, living on campus rather than a twenty minute walk away, or having a room to myself with no one to come home and talk to at the end of a long day. It felt like freshman year all over again while reliving the stress of making new friends and signing flat-mate contracts. All of this, combined with the early sunsets and cold weather, had me feeling more alone and isolated than ever. When I heard the words "hot yoga" in an unrelated Buzzfeed video, something clicked that said "this is the right thing to do". Within the hour, I had settled on a first-month intro offer at Fierce Grace (whether because it was the closest studio to QM's campus or because "she be little, but she be fierce" is one of my favorite Shakespeare lines, we may never know). I went to my first class that Friday and never looked back.
Once second semester came around, hot yoga was no longer just a way to keep myself busy while simultaneously being in a room that kept me warm in the chill of London. I made wonderful friends that I hope I will carry with me for the rest of my life and was in classes that were more rigorous and interesting than those of my spring semester. I was happy outside of the yoga studio, but after seeing how much it had improved both my mental and physical health, I continued to go back anyway. I wasn't attending their classes just because I needed something to do anymore - I was going to Fierce Grace because I loved the sense of community at the studio and the way it made me feel - both physically and emotionally. Their name made more and more sense as my time with them went on. I left class feeling powerful and elegant, like both the tiger and the swan in their logo - ready to take on the world and look pretty while I conquered. I accepted that hot yoga was something I would want (if not, need) to continue once I got back to NYC for senior year. Just as I was about to begin my studio search, FG announced that they were opening a franchise location on the Lower East Side of Manhattan - it simply felt meant to be.
Next week, I will be wrapping up my first month at the NYC studio and I am already feeling more at home than ever. Tricia Donegan has done a remarkable job of taking Fierce Grace's method and applying it to a New York City lifestyle. Wednesday mornings with her at the helm of a 7 AM "The Fix" class never fails to be a grounding highlight of my week. If you told me a year and a half ago that I would be leaving the house at 6:30 AM to make it to a 7:00 yoga class three days a week on top of taking time out of my Sunday evenings to make the same commute downtown, I never would have believed you. This lifestyle change has been as surprising as it has been beneficial.
The positive changes that hot yoga has made to my daily life are impossible to quantify, but some do stand out. Fierce Grace helped me realize that self care goes beyond an hour in the bath with a fancy face mask once a week. I've probably consumed more water in the past year than I have in the five before it combined. I haven't been able to finish a bottle of soda in one sitting - something I used to do multiple times a day - in months. I started taking a multi-vitamin (Ritual) and being more conscious of what I was eating. I've learned a healthy way to set goals and intentions and have a time in my day carved out that is dedicated to reminding myself of them. All this and much, much more has become a part of my life because I was tired of being cold and alone and decided to do something about it. The fear of letting myself get stuck in that situation is what keeps me going back. Even now, when I get home from rehearsal at 11 PM every night and have class all day during the week, I wake up at 6 AM and am out the door by 6:30 three days a week because I know I am only as grounded as I am today because of the ritual that Fierce Grace has brought to my life. Real self care can only begin when we let it, and I am eternally grateful that Fierce Grace guided me towards that realization