I know most people have a favorite number, but I was born on 8/8. The year I turned 8, my youngest sister was due on my birthday. She arrived 8 days late...making me 8 years, 8 days AND 8 hours and 48 minutes older than her. Can you see how the obsession started?
Today marks 8 weeks since I began my fitness quest, with the first hike up Thumb Butte. I celebrated this milestone with a special hike up Thumb Butte today with a friend, my yoga instructor, Katy Kolasa, and her fiance.
Katy Kolasa is my mentor for the week. Registered with the Yoga Alliance, Katy has been a certified instructor of Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Flow Yoga since August 2008 after being trained at Frog Lotus Yoga in Massachusetts. She completed her 500 hour Advanced Teacher Training in Hatha and Sampoorna Yoga at Leela Mata Peaceful Valley Ashram in Pennsylvania. Devoted to yoga since her first exposure to it in college, she has been a practitioner for over fourteen years. I met Katy a few years ago; we reconnected during my week at Fusion of Movement where she taught my candlelight yoga class. I was excited to follow her around for a week; learning more about the practice of yoga.
"I went to my first class and felt like I was walking on a cloud all the way home," Katy shared. "I instantly fell in love with yoga. I wanted to (teach to) share it’s benefits with as many people as possible. I love spreading goodness and light. My motto is "Be free. Love life. Do yoga." but my fitness philosophy stresses how important it is to always listen to your body and honor what it needs. Everybody is different…only you know what you need. Staying with your breath and allowing the mind to be calm can help you tune into what you need. I love teaching Hatha mixed with Flow classes where we move with our breath but also hold poses and stretch. I also really love teaching my students who have been with me for a while because they are able to slip into a place of peace and center in without much guidance from me. It’s such a beautiful thing to experience!"
My experience with yoga this week has been nothing but stellar. I had been ill with an ear infection and high fever over the weekend, and while better on Monday, I worried about what my body could handle. I shared my concerns with Katy, who assured me to listen to my body and do only what I felt confident. Our first class together was at Anytime Fitness in Prescott Valley, and the room was jammed with people of all ages. The room light was dimmed, and I was instantly soothed by the music and the calm instructions Katy suggested. My concerns for my health drifted away as every movement came naturally and without protest from my body. After a long weekend of dying in bed, with every muscle and bone crying out in pain, this session was therapy for my weary body. The simple stretches could be made complex if I wished, guaranteeing the aches and pains were all being addressed. I ended the class refreshed, and believe I even felt the elusive "exercise high" that so many around me have often talked about. I felt fantastic. After feeling like I was at death's door Friday night (I had passed out) and feeling like I'd been hit by a Mack truck on Saturday night, this feeling was amazing. I didn't hurt - anywhere!
Tuesday's session was at Fitness for $10 on Ranch Road in Prescott, and the first marked difference was that the room was naturally lit with large windows. The clientele were mostly older, which delighted me- yoga is truly a sport that any age can practice. That morning I had hiked up the steep side of Thumb Butte for the very first time without stopping or losing my breath; one of my very first goals I had set for myself in the quest. Coming to yoga immediately after the hike, I was curious what yoga would be like after a workout. Katy's calm instructions guided me through stretches, balances and places of rest and peace. The gentle suggestions she offered of movement I accepted, and found it to be almost as if I was enjoying a massage after the long climb. Again, I left refreshed; for the very first time in the quest, I was anticipating and enjoying the workouts.
Being that today was the eighth week, Katy agreed to a special she offers everyone: Hiking and yoga, and per my request, on Thumb Butte. My friend Dotty came along, as did Katy's fiance Keith. I insisted on the "long way" up the butte, needing to test my stamina on this side of the mountain loop trail (I was fine again - another milestone achieved.) Nearing the top, we broke off to the overlook of Prescott, and utilized the flat level surface there as our yoga studio. It was glorious.
Thumb Butte is my favorite hike in Prescott, I have fond memories of hiking it while visiting from Michigan when I was only 18. Adding in this delightful new form of exercise was icing on the cake. We took our photos first, and chatted for a bit before beginning our session. Immediately, the sounds of the wind and the insects changed the mood. The heat of the sun, the kiss of the breeze. Nature wrapped itself around us as we stretched, and it was an amazing experience like no other I've experienced. Katy's soothing instructions were wrapped in the down drafts of the air and the wings of bees, who buzzed around the spring blooms at our sides. With only the occasional distraction of an errant rock on the mat, the session was over too quickly. We all agreed that something special had taken place, and vowed to return. The hike off the butte was a chance to chat and reflect; I look forward to the rest of my session this week with the delightful Katy Kolasa!
Katy Kolasa's yoga class schedule is available on her website: http://www.goodnessyoga.massageplanet.com