Ten years ago, I raised eyebrows in the yoga world by opening my first YAS Fitness Center, a studio dedicated to combining yoga and spinning under one roof and even in the same class (our signature YAS class). I also created a style of yoga for YAS I named YOGA for ATHLETES®. Many people took me to task. Some called what I was doing “sacrilege” —seriously—or at least not yoga. Of course I didn’t agree. But I got it. People have had strong feelings about what’s “real” yoga and what’s not for as long as there’s been yoga. You can see it today in the way people argue about Bikram. I tried not to take the criticism of YAS and my approach to yoga personally: I was an athlete who loved yoga. It was the most natural thing in the world for me to adapt it to fit my life and sports training. And I saw how combining yoga and spinning and YOGA for ATHLETES® opened up a lot of people to yoga who had never tried it before because it was too out there or elite seeming. Still, one thing did frustrate me about the way people dismissed what we did at YAS: I have experienced the same great health benefits “traditional” yoga is credited with from practicing my own, non-traditional approach. I could make a pretty good case that it saved my life at least once and maybe more. I was told that I had brain cancer and six months to live my last semester of law school. That was over 25 years ago. Not only did I survive cancer, I graduated law school. At the time, I was an avid triathlete and yoga practitioner. The calming and destressing effects of yoga on me were huge. I’d been given a death sentence or the “option” of undergoing debilitating surgery that I’d chosen not to undergo. Keeping my head as I pursued alternative therapies—and my law degree (no way was I giving up at that point)—was crucial. The no-nonsense yoga I practiced was my most powerful tool against totally losing it. Which I didn’t do: More than twenty-five years later I’m still here and still practicing yoga my way (though I stopped practicing law years ago). Not that it’s always been a walk in the park. I’ve had a couple severe sports accidents that resulted in life-threatening injuries. Free climbing outside Las Vegas in the mid-nineties, I fell off the mountain and got impaled on a stump. Ouch doesn’t begin to describe it. I was alone, in shock, bleeding internally with broken ribs and a punctured kidney. And I somehow made it off the mountain to a hospital. I know that without the breath control and calm I’d learned over the years from practicing yoga, I never would have made it. (Thank god I didn’t have to cut off my arm!) And it was yoga that played a key role in returning me to health: I can’t see how I would have regained my strength and flexibility without it. All this to say that, if anyone has benefitted from practicing yoga, I have. And though YAS and my YOGA for ATHLETES® approach isn’t “traditional,” I’ve gotten the same incredible health benefits from doing yoga that people have gotten from it for centuries.
THE NO OM ZONE