I love my studio not only because of my practices; I love the community, we have the best instructors in the city, and I love leaving my house for an hour or three a day. When you spend a large amount of your day with a small human whose day is governed solely on how many popsicles he gets, it’s the highlight of the day. I need the daily release.
After learning different aspects of yoga it came to me that there is more to it than losing weight and touching my toes. Yoga isn’t a competitive sport where you win trophies, and celebrating personal victories are important to me. My biggest reward is my body doing things it never could before, even when I was a teenager.
Lately I’ve been in a bit of a hard place, not feeling completely excited about my practices. I went from frequenting the studio on a daily basis to once or twice a week. I needed a change. The only way I can describe it is if you go on the same date a million times in a row. It always ends well, but the excitement sometimes diminishes. You need to switch it up, right? A couple of instructors and I decided to take the morning to go on an adventure through one of our gorgeous state parks. A nice 40 minute drive up the newly completed 540 to the Ozark Mountains led us to Devil’s Den, the first of our many yoga trips this summer. We found the perfect spot to salute the sun once we arrived; the water was low so we trekked to the bottom of a rock dam separating the 8-acre Lake Devil. The water fell in a perfect rhythm against the rocks as it splashed at our backs, creating a serene atmosphere. I felt connected to our practice as Anna and I took turns calling sequences of Half Moons, Standing Bows, and Eagles. We took planks low enough to feel waves dance across our torsos, but not enough to submerge. We climbed the dam to demonstrate the gorgeous Mermaid pose and left soaking wet but happy.
Eventually we moved on to the wooded area. Lizards with blue tails and neon-green spiders scurried in the brush while frogs the size of my pinky fingernail hopped around like they owned the place. I couldn’t help but notice the freedom all the creatures enjoyed despite their size. It made us feel like guests in their beautiful home. Anna, the daredevil of our trio, found the perfect tree to climb and made it look simple enough to try scaling the trunk ourselves. Elisabeth, our Barre girl and talented photographer, found solace in fallen trunks; her grace came naturally. For all we knew she was a forest nymph taking an afternoon to fraternize with us humans.
Yoga in nature is a completely different experience than I expected, coming from a lady who isn’t much of a hiker. It’s a major game changer in my practices; I’m not staring at my reflection in a mirror, I’m feeling my Asanas, working with my breath, and allowing myself to enjoy everything around me. I’m not getting distracted by my afro because it’s become flat from my headstand. The hustle and bustle of our woodland creatures, water crashing against the rocks, humidity and heat created a beautiful outdoor studio that allowed me to focus only on my practice.
I realized that my practices aren’t limited to the studio or my living room, I just need a sense of adventure, a little gas in my tank and a couple of girlfriends. Arkansas is full of hidden places for us to explore and expand our practices, and we have plenty of time to do it.
-Shannon Hensley, Yoga Lover, Softball Smasher, Mother, & Wife