written by Amy Morgan, Guest Blogger for SOUL Yoga
I think I am ruined for any other yoga class. That was the thought that popped into my mind about two-thirds of the way through my first class at SOUL Yoga.
Let me elaborate as I offer my review of SOUL Yoga.
I am a hard core runner.
As such, I crave that endorphin high from intense exercise. I like to run, cycle, jump, and lift to earn my calories and fit into my jeans. However, at just having reached a big, round birthday milestone, (We’re not talking 40 here) my muscles and joints aren’t feeling as nimble as they once were. I know all too well that I now need to spend more time stretching, strengthening, and challenging my body in different, more sustainable ways.
In other words, my now 50-year-old self should take up yoga.
However, to be completely honest, (Because yoga is all about being true to one’s self, right?) I have never really clicked with any yoga class or instructor. I have tried. However, I usually find myself bored by the quiet of yoga. Or, I leave a class feeling like the hour I had spent practicing yoga wasn’t really doing anything at all. And nothing is worse for a calorie-burning junkie like myself than to be taking a class feeling as if it is a waste of a workout.
SOUL Yoga is different.
SOUL Yoga with its Founder, Sybil Webb, is like nothing I have tried before.
Before we start, Sybil invites us to include our own spiritual dimension in the practice, if we so chose. She calls this the intention. We take a few seconds to privately and personally dedicate the session to whomever or whatever we want, if we want. Sybil’s manner is completely inclusive and non-threatening, especially to the yoga newbie. I quickly realize that I feel encouraged to include my faith in my workout without having to discuss or share with anyone else.
THE SOUL PACE
I begin to realize that, at SOUL, Sybil is going to continuously keep the pace moving. So, I never feel like I’m sitting around. Yet, Sybil’s not so fast that I don’t know what to do either. She gives clear, concise instructions in a calm and encouraging voice. She enters most poses with us until she gently and ever-so-quietly moves among the class to assist those who welcome an additional push or encouragement that might help them reach a more meaningful stretch. We don’t spend time watching or talking, really. And we don’t just “lie around” like those unfamiliar with yoga might assume.
Yet, there is enough time in a SOUL Yoga class to realize your surroundings. The studio, situated in Alamo Heights, is quaint. It is cozy, like a little apartment with wood floors and an abundance of natural light. The temperature in the SOUL space is pleasant – neither hot nor cold. In case you don’t feel good temperature-wise, Sybil makes sure to ask her students throughout the class if they feel comfortable.
I have done my share of up and down dog poses to stretch, so I know the basic routine. However, after a couple of sun salutations, Sybil has us moving into more challenging poses. I quickly understand that SOUL is not your average gym yoga class. One minute I am in a basic tree pose (which is where you balance on one foot with your arms outstretched). Before I know it, I am holding my other leg aloft as it reaches past my head! Pose after pose I extend, reach, and achieve positions with my body that I hadn’t in years! I am actually a former gymnast (former, as in high school gymnast decades ago!). So, to see that old flexibility return in this new space leaves me feeling inspired and empowered.
On this specific day of class, there are only six participants. Charmingly, one is Sybil’s mother, even. Through a minor break in my own concentration, I begin to watch Sybil’s mother attempt to get into a new pose. I watch her gracefully push her mature body, with Sybil by her side, into a full backbend! I hardly know this woman but find myself wanting to cheer out loud for her. I can feel the camaraderie in the studio.
The sense of peace and fulfillment.
I had no pre-conceived idea going into Sybil’s class just how far I would be challenged in both my ability to achieve poses and see yoga through a new set of eyes. Imagine my surprise when, with Sybil’s help and encouragement, I find myself holding a headstand! I stand there, upside down, thrilled that I could so quickly achieve such an advanced pose! I feel strong and accomplished – a lot like I do when I run.
The class continues much like this. Sybil guides us into backbends and floating lotus, and other positions that challenge each of us differently. Sybil even helps me find a stretch I have been looking for for some time now. She shows me a quadriceps stretch that is just what my runners legs need – truly the best I’ve ever had. Several of us groan in appreciation, and, Sybil’s sweet mom speaks out loud about the stretch what we’re all thinking – Where have you been all my life?
In the last few minutes of SOUL Yoga, Sybil mists something into the air. It smells faintly of this delicious, refreshing scent (Aveda’s Chakra #7). This smell, I think to myself, smells just like yoga. Or at least, how one expects yoga to smell- in a good way.
That’s when Sybil then reminds us to reflect on what we might have dedicated our class to at the beginning.
The effect and, really, whole order of SOUL Yoga speaks to me. It is extremely relaxing.
To be honest, it was a hard week for me, and, SOUL helped me completely forget about my stress.
So, at the wonderful age of 50, I find myself a yoga convert with Sybil and SOUL Yoga. I hope incorporating Sybil’s training into my more typical workout routine will allow me enjoyment of physical activity – for decades to come. I want to be able to hike mountains, ride bikes and run races – maybe even as an octogenarian. That’s another big round birthday still a few away.
Amy Morgan is a freelance writer who contributes pieces to Savvy Media Marketing and Public Relations. Amy’s a mom of two nearly grown men, an avid runner, and, she enjoys volunteering throughout her community.