I Finally Found Yoga
words by Kelly Krause
photos by Kezia Nathe
First, I'd like to take a moment of silence to give thanks to my new best friend: the yoga block. You know, the thing that sat next to me during my first few yoga classes, unsure of how to properly use. That is, until my instructor Leah came over, slid that thing under my hip ever so gracefully, got me into pigeon pose (think: #4 stretch but on the ground) and finally helped me address the hip pain I've been having.
Ok, moment of silence over, now I'm ready to begin.
Hi! I'm Kelly Krause. I'm pretty new to the cycling world (just celebrated 2 years), but having the time of my life. By day, I run Publicity for SXSW Interactive and curate content for our programming lineup, including SXstyle. I'm also a writer and speaker, talking about my life mantra: Live Kindly, which stemmed from a pretty big weightloss journey I started in 2013 (I lost 140lbs). Cycling has been a big part of that journey, first starting with spin classes where I lost the bulk of the weight (shoutout to Soul Cycle for keeping me on track while I travel). Since I purchased my first road bike in 2014, it's been an epic adventure from the moment I clipped in.
I've gone from being completely intimidated and nervous on my first beginner group ride to racing my first (and last) triathlon, leading rides, traveling around the US with my bike, becoming a Rapha women's ambassador and encouraging women to simply get out and ride and share that same confidence I found in cycling.
Since I've become a cyclist, I've learned that how I train off the bike is key to becoming stronger, both physically and mentally. I'll be the first to admit that I have a hard time with going too hard and constantly pushing myself. It's a by product of learning to manage my excitement. Several friends encouraged me to try incorporating yoga to my off the bike routine and after a few years, I'm happy to say I finally found it.
Through a bit of serendipity, where the universe clearly had my bike, I was invited to attend a yoga + meditation retreat with 49 other inspiring and thought-provoking individuals on behalf of lululemon last month (#TheImmersionATX if you were following on social media). I wasn't a yogi, I don't meditate and I didn't know anyone going, so I immediately replied to the invite with a big YES. I always feel that the biggest changes occur when I spend time outside of my comfort zone.
I had a chance to write about my experience for lululemon's Medium page, if you'd like to give it a read.
While it's only been a month since yoga has been in my life for three short weeks, so much has already happened. In no particular order:
1. I'm sleeping better. Ok, there's a slight chance my new sound machine might be helping, too, but every day I start with yoga, I sleep better than I ever have.
2. My hip pain is completely gone. I truly believe it took deep stretching in pigeon pose to help, but I am no longer waking up at 3am to stretch because of pain.
3. My focus is razor sharp on the bike. In yoga, they call this Drishti, which is a focused gaze and means for developing concentrated intention. At the beginning of each class, our instructor asks us to set an intention. Mine is usually "I'm going to go further than my mind thinks I can today." I focus on that the entire class and always nail it, then carry it throughout my day at work, on the bike, wherever.
4. My breathing is mindful and productive. I know. . .if you would've told me to breathe mindful and productive, I would've given you a head tilt and confused face, like "Am I not doing that now?" In yoga, we practice breathing in full inspiration and full exhalation to help get deeper into poses. Same technique is super helpful on the bike vs. the shallow panting that I usually do.
5. I'm calm. Full disclaimer: I'm already pretty calm and happy, but like I mentioned earlier, I need to learn to contain my excitement. Practicing yoga is helping me get in a calm, no-need-to-grind-24/7 mindset. It doesn't mean I don't throw on the entire Lemonade album and completely go for it, but it does mean I'm learning to pump the breaks a little bit and listen to my body and what it needs.
Because this is a new practice for me, I'd love to hear from you if you practice and have any tips . . .and if you can do a headstand, please teach me your ways, that's on my bucket list after seeing a badass woman do one in class.