The Beginning of My Yoga Journey
By: Marie Williams, Yoga Enthusiast
In 2009, I started distance running to become more active, connect with nature and get in better shape following my father’s passing two years prior. After a few trips to the park, I made fitness a priority, establishing a routine of three runs a week. I was an avid runner, running three and a half to four miles over the course of six and a half years. I ran on the pavement, rather than a track because I loved being outside. Eventually, I developed severe knee pain and my runs grew painful. As a result, I could not run, walk or bend down without excruciating pain in both my knees.
I knew I could not continue to run with constant knee pain. I told my best friend about my problem and she suggested I try yoga to help heal my knees. I felt I needed to try something new, wanted to remain active and was quite desperate for any kind of relief from the pain. She would serve as my inspiration to embark down an unknown path.
In May of 2015, I decided to take up my best friend’s offer and try yoga. My first class was a 30-minute Orientation, in which a yoga instructor discussed with me the various membership package options, proper student studio etiquette, answered my questions and made me feel comfortable. I even received a complimentary bottled water and free mat and towel service.
My first yoga class was a Spark Class at the SunstoneFIT Preston Forest Village location. I found a corner in the classroom and tried my best to copy what I saw everyone else doing. I remember stumbling, falling out of postures and just feeling an overall sense of embarrassment that I could not do anything well. The instructor helped adjust me throughout class.
I ended up choosing a Premier Membership Package. On May 26, 2015, I became an official member of SunstoneFIT at the PFV location, which has become my home-base studio. Shortly afterwards, I received my 10-class wristband in a Fire class after completing one week of free classes. By the next month, my 25-class wristband followed suit. I upgraded to a Signature Membership Package after taking 51 classes and receiving my 50-class wristband.
One of the many instructors I quickly connected with was Beth Stevens. At that time, Beth was teaching both yoga and fitness classes. I took everything I could from her because her ability to provide detailed explanations of each yoga posture during class stood out to me. She helped me with my alignment and to understand the importance of being consistent in my practice. Beth is an E-RYT 500 and completed her yoga teacher training in September 2007. She went through eight weeks of intensive training to acquire this certification.
Since then, Beth has transitioned into a new position with SunstoneFIT. She serves as the Southern Regional Director and handles Human Resources and Teacher Enrichment. Additional responsibilities include staff and class scheduling, along with managing service requests and membership activities. On occasion, she will teach class once or twice a month and give private lessons when available. Beth is also training to be a fitness coach as well.
Beth has many duties, but she truly appreciates her connection to the yoga community-at-large.
“My favorite part is getting to be a part of everyone’s journey and being able to step in with someone and guide them or just be a supportive voice.”
My best friend Sana Cortas and I have known each other for 20 years. She has been practicing yoga for many years. Her love for yoga started at the tender age of 10 in her home country of Beirut, Lebanon. She played around with a few postures, but one day, she saw her aunt doing sun salutations and these fascinated her. Afterwards, she began reading books that included pictures of various postures she attempted to try. At age 13, she read a book that contained information about a yogi’s diet, which she believes should be pure and simple. From this new-found knowledge, she made a choice to become a vegetarian and remains one to this day.
At age 16, she started practicing at a gym with her mom and one other family member, taking Hatha yoga classes. Sana says she never practiced at a studio back then because she was a bit intimidated at first, due to the vulnerability factor, while not knowing exactly to expect.
After making a serious commitment to practice yoga regularly, Sana decided to enroll in yoga teacher training and become a certified yoga instructor with Sunstone. She started her certification program in July of 2010. She recalls taking four Intro Classes, which included both a standing and floor series. These classes were small, interactive, focused on the breakdown of postures and included studio etiquette. Following these classes, Sana was able to take 60-minute classes on her own and enjoy them. However, to become a yoga teacher, Sana had to complete an eight-week intensive program. She finished the certification program in December 2011 and received her 500-hour RYT Certificate.
Sana appreciates what being an instructor at SunstoneFIT has brought to her life. She states it this way.
“One of the most fulfilling things for me is being part of a loving community of yogis who are truly passionate about what they do and who welcome and embrace everyone who walks through the door. In addition, it is a privilege to get to share yoga with others and watch them be transformed.”
When she is not teaching, Sana will take yoga classes with me. Her favorite yoga classes to take are Hot Yoga and Power Flow. Her first class to teach me was a Wood Class. (The named changed to Yoga Core and this class helps students gain mobility, flexibility and strength from their hips to their shoulders with focused, resistance training on the mat.)
“My personal practice is ever-changing and evolving, based on life circumstances. Initially, yoga helped me heal from anxiety, depression and negative emotions. Generally, yoga allows me to deal with life’s small issues and big struggles with a healthier attitude.”
She captivates her personal yoga journey like this: “Yoga has taken me on a beautiful journey, full of gifts and surprises; it continues to transform my life and my friend’s lives every day.”
In the three years I have been practicing yoga, I have discovered some wonderful benefits. Yoga is such a beautiful art form and I enjoy being able to express myself how I choose to each time I am on my mat. Consistently practicing three times a week allows me multiple opportunities to connect with my body, both physically and spiritually. Every experience is unique, but I always feel better emotionally after I leave class. Incorporating yoga into my life has helped me cultivate a necessary balance, while providing me peace of mind.
Life gets complicated and sometimes, I must make difficult decisions. Yoga pushes me to daily challenge myself to love unconditionally, accept myself for who I am both on and off the mat and celebrate life’s small victories. I am truly grateful for the roles yoga plays in my life.
More About the Author:
Marie Williams is a Contributing Writer for Dallas Yoga Magazine. She is an avid yoga practitioner and has been consistently practicing yoga with SunstoneFIT since May 2015. She holds a Master of Journalism Degree from The University of North Texas. In her spare time, she enjoys taking Pilates and Barre classes, reading Yoga Journal issues, listening to music, nature walks and spending time with family and friends. Connect with Marie on both Facebook and Instagram @juggernautwoman37.