Stretch Your Abilities

Learn the benefits of being a ‘lifelong student’ of yoga

By Alexandra Argila
Photographs by Jay Vaughan

Lydia Solazzo began her yoga journey 12 years ago.

Being an avid and competitive runner, she began to feel the toll her body was taking from constant high impact training. A friend suggested she come to his yoga class, but Solazzo was skeptical.

“Eh, I tried yoga once at a gym, and it was so boring,” she said. “The entire time I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ It was awkward, and there was no sequence. It was a big turnoff.”

However, Solazzo went to her friend’s class, and it was like nothing she had ever tried. Although she struggled, she realized how beneficial yoga could be.

“I was weightlifting. I was running. I was teaching fitness classes, so I thought I was very strong,” Solazzo said. “It was a humbling experience for me because I couldn’t get my heels down. My shoulders were super tense. My entire body was tense, and I wasn’t able to touch my toes the first time I reached for them. I remember being like, ‘Wow, this is a huge eye-opener.’ I was dripping sweat, and I felt ringed out both physically and emotionally, and it felt amazing.”

Fast-forward 12 years and Solazzo the student became Solazzo the teacher. She still commits herself to the practice, specifically power flow yoga with an emphasis on the Ashtanga Method Primary series, which she teaches to her students at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C. Her yoga journey has not been easy and “putting in your work” is a phrase she tells her yoga mentees. After years of teaching, Solazzo still dubs herself a “lifelong student” and encourages those practicing to never feel like they are done learning.

Lydia Solazzo instructs a class of college students, but yoga can be practiced by a wide variety of people, regardless of age or size.

7 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT YOGA

1.  Commitment

Nothing is going to happen overnight. Go into class with an optimistic light… This is the beginning of a new journey, and it will only get better from this point. Follow through with your commitment; it’s an investment for yourself.

2.  Your age, gender and body type are not an excuse

“I don’t care how big, short, round, skinny or old you are, yoga is available to everyone.” Solazzo has had clients in their 60s and has practiced yoga with women late into their pregnancies. She works with Coastal Carolina University’s football, baseball and track teams. Desmond Wallace, a member of the CCU track team, said, “I’m a 110 (meter) hurdler, and it has really helped me with quad flexibility, and it has truly helped me to hurdle faster.”

3.  Acknowledge past or present injuries

Tell your teacher of any past or present injuries before beginning. You may be asked to modify or sit out on some poses. The yoga practice is a powerful application for healing the body if approached correctly.

4.  The importance of the breath

Known as “free breathing with sound,” the breath is one of the most important and rewarding applications of the practice. Breathing is the essence of yoga. It eases anxiety and tension, both on and off the mat.

5.  Finding a compatible practice

There are several types of yoga methods, and it is crucial for you to find one that is harmonious to you. But do not limit yourself to something easy. Once you become accustomed to the flow of a practice, you will eventually reach a meditative state. Yoga should not be boring. So if necessary, explore different classes. They are each unique.

6.  There’s a right teacher for you

You should always feel confident that your instructor is going to lead you through a safe practice. Building a relationship with one another is key to progressing toward your goals. Similar to different yoga methods, teachers are all going to orchestrate the expressions differently.

7.  Do it for yourself

Breathe, be conscious, and be present. There are so many reasons to get on the mat. You may want to get toned, get stronger, improve your game, de-stress, or repair an injury. This is your journey, and you may be surprised how much you learn about yourself in the process. Do something for you this year and discover your inner yogi.

— Namaste


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