“Why did I even show up?”
“You want me to take my socks off?”
“My foot has to go where?!”
“I thought this was stretching?”
“Everyone else is flowing and I’m just falling.”
“Should I be practicing?”
“Savansana, finally a pose I can do.”
These were some of my thoughts when I took my first yoga class. The smart thing to do would have been to try an easy/gentle flow class. Instead I went to a vigorous Vinyasa class. My first class was definitely an experience.
Anyways, let’s back up. My name is Jacob McClellan. When Nikki and Kate asked me to write this I was excited and then confused. Because who wants to hear a yoga story coming from a 21-year-old kid who listens to too much angsty punk music and eats far too many granola bars and Cheez-Its. Well- this is my story. I hope you all enjoy!!
I came to my practice about 2 years ago, and I did it by accident. In 2017, I was a sophomore in college majoring in music education, with a vocal focus. This program is very demanding, as I was required and expected to take over 20 credit hours every semester to graduate in a timely manner. During the fall of my sophomore year my life took an unexpected turn when I found out that my sister was diagnosed with mental illnesses, which meant that she would have to be taken to a hospital and given medicine to help regulate her mood and mind. This created stress and worry at home which only led to more stress and worry about school. So if you’re keeping track this means that my whole life was consumed by stress and anxiety, all while trying to live up to expectations of others.
My body was a prisoner to my mind, and my mind was a prisoner to my reputation and what others thought of me.
I finally broke down crying mid song at a choir rehearsal. Fun fact: it is impossible to sing well and sound good while crying. (the song was Run to You by Pentatonix if you’re interested). Everything hit like a ton of bricks all at once, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
After I had some time to collect myself I realized that I hated everything about my life. I hated the way my body looked, I hated singing and all things related to it, and I hated that I felt alone even when I was surrounded by friends and family that loved me. I knew that something had to change, I just didn’t know what that change was.
I met with one of my professors and told him what was going on. He simply asked me when was the last time I did something I wanted to do? I honestly couldn’t think of one thing in the last 2 years that I did simply because I wanted to do it. He also helped me realize that I had no hobbies in my life that were not music related, so I began my quest to try something new, make new friends, and hopefully feel better about myself.
For some reason the first thing that came to my mind was to take a yoga class. I always thought yoga was a very mysterious thing. And I had questions: why are they chanting? Is this some kind of cult or secret society? Who volunteers to go into a 90-degree room and stretch? Do they really live in caves?
Side note: I just think it is funny that I literally could have tried any activity or club. Like what if I attended an underwater basket weaving class. Would I be weaving in the waves right now, who knows. Either through the power of the universe or fate I chose yoga. This is probably for the best, even though underwater basket weaving could be on the rise, because, you know, global warming.
Yoga was love at first sight for me, even though I was hyperventilating through the whole class, there was something about the poses that really intrigued me. After walking out of my first class I felt different, it was like for the first time my muscles finally relaxed and I was able to breath using my whole body. Yoga for me started off as a once a week thing, pretty soon it was twice, then it got to a point where I was upset on the days that it didn’t fit into my schedule.
As a wise yogi named Kevin once said, “yoga and the poses don’t change, you do!” This could not be more true in my life, as when I started my practice it was hot power all the time, I mean why would I stoop to what I thought were subpar types of yoga like gentle and restorative. Then one day after a hot power class, a teacher invited me to a restorative class. I found out that it was all about breathing and relaxing. The restorative class also includes some of my favorite things which is laying and rolling around on the floor.
After an entire summer of practicing yoga almost every day I was about to start my junior year at Akron. I knew that I had to find a yoga studio close to UA so I could further deepen my practice. So I started Googling all of these yoga studios in the Akron area, there was about a handful that I was considering. I ended up picking Yoga Squared almost exclusively because there was a 5:30am class, which meant that everyday no matter what I was doing I could practice yoga. I think that I have been to most of the 5:30am classes since I found the studio almost a year and a half ago.
One of the most important things that yoga taught me was breathing. Being a singer, I was taught how to breathe the “right” way to get the most out of my breath and to create the best sound possible. But in yoga it isn’t about breathing the right way, it is simply just being aware of the breath and how it makes you feel, and if you don’t feel good change it!! My favorite part about breathing is linking it to movement, there is just something powerful about the breath and the body moving in unison.
This past fall I decided to start my journey to become a yoga teacher, by enrolling in Yoga Squared teacher training. I was incredibly nervous, because I am a quiet person that gets nervous when in large groups. Teaching yoga would require me to do two things that I was uncomfortable with which is talk in front of people, while also moving my body at same time. I was able to overcome both of these things with the love and support of my fellow trainees and the teachers.
I have truly loved every moment and experience that yoga has given me. Even those times when we are down dog too long, or when warrior 1 is cued (come on!! just cue crescent warrior). I guess this means that I have completed my goals of trying something new, making friends, and just being more aware of how I feel, so I can change it.
This is the end of the story, well for now at least. Its just crazy because if you were to tell high school graduate Jacob he would be writing a yogi transformation story, he would have thought his life went wrong somewhere in his future, like maybe his future home was a cave. I can assure you that I don’t live in a cave (yet). And yoga has done nothing but enhance my relationships and attitudes towards myself and everyone around me. I can’t wait to see where it takes me next!!
Until next time.