It was during a cabin retreat last winter when I first toyed with the idea of taking up yoga. Surrounded by the peace and quiet of the mountains, I decided that I wanted to incorporate more health and wellness into my life and that yoga might be just the thing I should explore.

When I got back from the cabin, I signed up for a month of unlimited classes at Flow. I remember taking my first class and really not knowing the poses. I looked around at my fellow classmates to try to get an understanding of exactly what to do next. Let’s be honest, that first practice was awkward, slightly embarrassing and not pretty by any stretch of the imagination. The next day, I was sore from having utilized muscles I hadn’t really moved in years. Still, I wasn’t deterred and came back to the mat. This time, I took a hot yoga class and was instantly hooked. The heat loosened up my muscles and helped me to relax. I understood that the teacher was going to guide us through the practice with just enough prompts but it was also up to me to follow along and pay attention to the poses. I practiced through that second 60 minute class and left that day with a “yoga high.” Not only did I love the way I felt after practice, but I loved the way I felt during practice. While I was practicing, I concentrated on my poses and what I was doing from one moment to the next. I wasn’t thinking about to do lists, work, relationships, family—I was simply focused and concentrated on the moment. I was present. It was from that day forward that I kept returning, practicing 3-5 times a week. Today, I practice 4-5 times a week in the studio and have started practicing at home as well. When I started practicing yoga, I never imagined how it would change my whole life, but it truly has—inside and out. Here’s what’s changed in 365 days:

I feel strong. I never started yoga to get fit necessarily or lose weight. But as my practice became a regular one, my body started to change. All of those plank poses, vinyasas, and sun salutations added up to a stronger, more fit version of me. Now, I can see definition in my arms, my core and legs are toned, and most amazingly, the chronic lower back pain I had been experiencing has practically diminished.

My bookcase is full of new books. I’ve always been an avid reader and have a Kindle, bookcase, and nightstand full of great books. But now, I’ve added even more to my collection, based on recommendations by teachers and fellow yogis. Some of these new books are, How Yoga Works by Michael Roach, Yoga Sutras of Patanjalitranslated by Sri Swami Satchidananda, Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates, Journey Into Power by Baron Baptiste, and Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, to name a few.

I became a vegetarian. As a life-long meat eater, this was not easy for me. As a matter of fact, my favorite meal (ever!) is steak frites with a side of mayo. But, the more I practiced and studied yoga, the more I began to think about the yamas and specifically, ahimsa and what that meant to me. To me, it meant that I was going to have to be willing to act on my beliefs. And in part, that meant eliminating meat from my diet. I’ve been vegetarian for about 8 months now and I believe that it’s helped me not only in my practice, but in my life and with my health. I incorporate more whole foods and plants into my daily meals, eat less processed foods, and I’m more conscious of what I put into my body.

My life is more peaceful. When I don’t have an intention in mind at the start of practice, I’ll always fall back on peace. That’s my mantra. Whatever it is that might bring more peace and harmony into my life. There was a time not too long ago when life was not peaceful and I find that keeping peace at the forefront of my mind and acting with peace in mind, has manifested more peace into my life. This has helped in my relationships with family, friends, co-workers and even within myself. So whether it be turning off the news, not sending that email or text, breathing deeply, taking walks, or spending time in silence and solitude, I am making my life more peaceful one day at a time.

I have new friends. I didn’t set out to make new friendswhen I joined Flow, but as I started coming more regularly, I began connecting with some of the same people I saw each week. Then, last summer I went on Flow’s domestic retreat and made a whole group of like-minded, yogi friends! We get together every now and again and stay in touch regularly.

Judging from all of the positive changes this year has brought to me, through yoga, I can’t wait to see what another year will bring.

Namaste.

— Michele Novy

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