Tuesday, November 6

Miles to the Mat

by Mindi Epstein

After logging hundreds of miles on my bike with a fellow cyclist, she offered me a bit of advice: “You should do yoga. It will help you exercise other parts of your body.”

Other parts? I didn’t care about my lateral body or my spine, for that matter. I just wanted power in my legs.

That was nineteen years ago. So many hours in the saddle had added up to back pain, tight shoulders and over-developed quads. I heeded my friend’s advice by purchasing a videotape, “Yoga for Athletes,” by none other than the human rubber band, Rodney Yee.  

For weeks I played and rewound the tape and played it again to watch Rodney settle easily into poses and to catch his verbal cues to get me there, too. I struggled trying to figure out which foot went where. I fell out of poses and tumbled to the floor.

Then one day, finally, it clicked. I connected movement with breath and found that I could do most of the yoga poses. 

I was extending my spine, twisting to open the sides of my body, and stretching those impossibly tight hamstrings that had been overcompensating for my quads for years. 

Instead of always pushing forward, as one does on a bike or when running, I was finding expression in my entire body and almost incidentally, discovering an overall sense of openness and well-being.

That was my yoga practice, me and Rodney, until last year when I met Meta Hirschl. 

Meta, an advanced yoga instructor and Hoosier, had been invited to the 2011 Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts to present a 2-hour yoga workshop. As the author of Vital Yoga, A Sourcebook for Students and Teachers, Meta qualified as a book festival presenter, but for me, she became “my teacher.”

With warmth, some humor and a wealth of knowledge, Meta taught us that we are perfect just the way we are. In just two hours I learned that yoga teaches us compassion toward ourselves and others. Through movement and breath we learn mindfulness, to appreciate the very moment we are in right now. On the mat, we experience both a physical and metaphysical opening of the heart. We still the chatter of our mind by sitting quietly…mindfully. Ultimately, we learn that we are all one, interconnected by something larger than we can comprehend. I learned all that, and more, in two hours.

My teacher, Meta Hirschl, returns to Indianapolis this weekend for a 2-day, 4-session workshop at the JCC for this year's Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts. Meta will teach to all levels, making yoga accessible to those who are simply curious, as well as to regular practitioners and instructors. 

In the description of her workshop, “Yoga & Body Image, Learning to Love the True Self,” Meta writes, “One of the keys to success in yoga is good company, and so who we associate with may well lay the foundation for happiness.” 

I know that Meta will create a warm environment where we will feel safe to explore movement and yoga’s other tools to help us become our better selves. Whether you can wiggle one session or all four into your busy schedule, I invite you to join me this weekend at the JCC. I promise, with Meta leading the workshop, you will be in very good company. Register in advance online or at the door.

More about Mindi Epstein

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