50 Million Lb Challenge


My first yoga class was an unforgettable experience.

I’d been yoga-curious for a while, experimented with videos and online tutorials. But finally a friend I knew through my old job convinced me to join her at the local free yoga classes at Bayfront Park in Miami. It’s a stunning venue — the lapping water of Biscayne Bay to the front, the glittering buildings of Miami’s downtown to the back. I got down and tried to bend and stretch with the best of them. The instructor was a smokin’ hot dude with flowy white pants. When he moved into a headstand position I was sure nobody else could do, I was astounded to look around and see at least half of the class standing on their heads right around with him. Needless to say, I felt out of my league. And at the end of it, we discovered that my yoga friend had exacerbated a pre-existing injury. That class landed my friend in the hospital with back and neck problems, and made me steer clear of yoga classes completely.

So I kept trying, I gave it another whirl with videos. But it isn’t the same, doing yoga by yourself in your living room with no guidance. I grew to love the Wii Fit yoga — it’s super precise because of the Wii Fit platform, which can detect even the slightest tremor in your feet. But still, I wasn’t motivated enough to want to practice every day.

I wanted that passion the diehard yoga fanatics seemed to exude. I wanted the inner peace yoga seemed to almost-guarantee anyone who practiced it. I wanted to have a transformative yoga experience.

I got what I wanted, when I went to a Voluptuous Vinyasa class.

Billed as yoga for plus size women, it’s all about nurturing your soul, adapting your body, and freeing your mind. The class I attended was led by Yamilee Bastien, a Miami-based yoga instructor who is all about creating a haven for women who may be hesitant about contorting their bodies into pretzel shapes, or who know a headstand isn’t in their immediate future. Yamilee helped to shatter some of my preconceptions about yoga. Number one — it really CAN be for everybody!

Our class began with some sharing and writing, we sat in a circle and identified the things we appreciated about our bodies, our dreams for the future, the things we needed more and less of in our lives. We filled out a harmony wheel, ideitifying the areas in our lives where the wheel needed to be rounder and healthier. Then the session began. Yamilee’s class is intimate and she really takes the time to make sure every student feels loved, appreciated, positioned correctly, and comfortable — which isn’t easy when you’re in downward facing dog. But I’m happy to report, the poses became easier as the class continued. My first efforts at downward facing dog were tremulous and unsure – my hands were sweaty and slippery and I didn’t feel confident I could hold the pose. But by the end of the class, I did! And I finally felt that internal calm that I noticed in the eyes of my friends who regularly practice yoga. By the end of Yamilee’s class, I wanted to make yoga a regular part of my life. It’s a promise I’ve made to myself. Even though I’ve since moved from Miami and won’t be practicing with Yamilee anymore, I’m looking for somewhere in Chicago to pick up where I left off.

My friend in beauty blogging Julia of All About the Pretty rhapsodized about the benefits of yoga when we met in DC, then she sent me an awesome article from Natural Health Magazine about yoga and weight loss. Yoga might not be the only thing to do if you’re on a fitness quest, but practicing it regularly can lead to an increased awareness of your body’s needs, and from there comes a desire to improve your diet and overall way of living. I’m happy to say that now I get it. I understand. I’m a believer. And I plan to make yoga a regular part of my life as I continue on the 50 Million Pound Challenge.

Do you practice yoga, bellas? Share your yoga experience with me!

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Gee says:
May 21, 2009, 3:07 pm
I want so much to try this.
b. says:
May 21, 2009, 3:23 pm
I love yoga and pilates. Ppl think that both are injury-proof but your post shows otherwise. Standing on the head?? Poses like that are best left to classes that are meant solely for advanced yogis...not a free class where anyone can go. But I digress. I hope your friend is feeling better now! And can you please post the source of that photo so I can see her hair close up???? I am swooning over here...
Wes says:
May 21, 2009, 3:54 pm
Since I lost my job I've been frequenting my gym and taking advantage of their yoga classes as well. I'm hooked- My local Ballys only has classes twice a week but I'm gonna see if I can find another Ballys that has classes on other days as well.
Sandra says:
May 21, 2009, 4:09 pm
I started taking yoga 3 years ago and loved it every since. A good place to try yoga is at the local community colleges, state schools, and universities. You can guarantee the yoga instructors are certified and the classes are usually cheaper.
Shawnta` says:
May 21, 2009, 5:50 pm
Perfect timing for this post! I DO practice yoga. My husband & I actually just started last week and we were hooked after the first session. It was amazing. We love it and have been recommending it to everyone. I want to look into taking pilates in addition to yoga & working out but for now I'm all about yoga.
hiphopmuse says:
May 21, 2009, 6:32 pm
I loooove yoga. I don't take classes, I do it along with the television on Fit TV. I just set my DVR for it and do it when I have time. I could probably use personal instruction, and I'm not against taking a class but it's more convenient for me to do it at home.
pearlsarerare says:
May 21, 2009, 8:47 pm
I have been practising yoga on off for a few years but i have recently gone back to it. I'm doing Bikram "Hot" Yoga it is nuts but it is a one stop shop for curing all, u should try it. But any thype of yoga is good it really gets u mind and body working as one...
Jubilance says:
May 21, 2009, 9:06 pm
I'm so glad you enjoyed your yoga experience! I've done yoga off and on for about 4 years, and I've recently returned to regular yoga practice. I've found that its the only time I can turn my brain/mind/thoughts off and just focus and be. Its very freeing for me. The studio I go to practices heated yoga (not Bikram) and its an amazing detox everytime I go. I'm just dripping wet when I leave but I feel so clean and energized and peaceful at the end.
ChocolateOrchid says:
May 22, 2009, 9:00 am
Bella, I absolutely love yoga! Some months ago, when I noticed my stress levels going up, I knew I needed to get into it. At first, I dabbled with it on my daughter's Wii Fit but then decided to jump in a class. OMG! It was awesome. I actually broke a bit of a sweat (and I was just doing Hatha/classic yoga). After the class, I was relaxed at a level that I've never experienced before. I'm hooked.
Kindred Smile says:
May 22, 2009, 1:20 pm
I'm intrigued, bella! I've never practiced, but let me know if you find anything similar in Chicago!
MoniMoni says:
May 22, 2009, 9:33 pm
Funny to read this today, I just saw a new Yoga studio opened up in my neighborhood, I thought to myself, I need to take this up. Bella, how is the 50lb challenge going? I lost 12 lbs, only to put 6 back during one STRESSFUL week working. I'm so frustrated!
Yolanda says:
May 23, 2009, 1:37 am
Forget the yoga, that chunky twistout she's rockin' is beautiful!!
Jheanelle says:
May 23, 2009, 3:44 pm
I'm more of a pilates kind of girl, but I've heard there isn't much of a difference when it really comes down to it. I've always wondered if that was true, so I guess I'll have to try some and find out lol. @Yolanda: Her hair is out of this world fab. I wish I could get mine to do that lol. But it's not quite that long.
Ellagirl says:
May 23, 2009, 6:16 pm
I'm so glad that you found a class that suits you! I love yoga, my husband and I both practice hot yoga, and from the very first class I was hooked! It was the absolute first time that I tried any kind of exercise and felt that I could see myself doing it still in twenty years.
DblDee says:
May 24, 2009, 4:36 pm
I praticed Yoga everyday. It is how I start and finish my day. It is a great form of exercise/meditation once you find a class/instructor that suits you. Keep up with it and you will see amazing transformations not only with your body but also with your mind and sprit. Oh yeah, get your hubby involved too. The couples yoga is great too. Namaste :)
maddheadgirl says:
May 24, 2009, 9:23 pm
I have been practicing yoga for about six years and I love it. My job can be very stressfull and yoga helps me reconnect my body and my spirit. I love the process of working through a pose. It has taught me to recognize and feel what is happening inside my body. I highly recommend trying it. It is also important to find an instructor that you can connect with. I have been very fortunate to find an instructor who has introduced me to the great benefits of yoga. I use the leasons of my practice in my everyday life.
Aisha says:
May 24, 2009, 10:25 pm
How timely! I am a fairly new yoga student, and I love it already. I want more people to know that yoga is for everyone, not just skinny chicks, lol. Black women in particular could really benefit from the stress relief it provides.
Marisa says:
May 25, 2009, 11:34 pm
There are a ton of studios here in Chicago! Classes are more expensive at studios vs health clubs but if you do a little research you can find one that suits you. Personally, I've gone to classes at Crunch and Om on the Range on the North side.
Kim Major says:
May 26, 2009, 9:10 am
My introduction was in a suburban area more than 12 years ago and every one was a skinny minnie. I felt awkward and there was no body loving session at the beginning as you had, bella. I now live in a rural area of the Pacific Northwest and am hard pressed to find a yoga instructor. I won't give up, though!
Shanon says:
May 26, 2009, 9:50 am
It really IS all about finding a class that will fit what you're looking for. I've tried different styles, beginning with Hatha & Ashtanga Yoga to joining random Yoga classes on the beach. Even when the class is free, you can generally find some press about the instructor. That will tell you their background and training. Some styles are more about breathing & meditation, others are more aerobic. I'm glad you found a fit for you. I look forward to exploring Hot Yoga next & possibly even teaching.
BK says:
May 26, 2009, 3:29 pm
I love YOGA!!! I practice Vinyasa and Hatha and whenever I get the chance.. BIKRAM.. Bikram is my favorite of them all but because of the cost, I have to shy away and only take a few classes per month..
P1TEY1 says:
May 26, 2009, 5:54 pm
I joined a Yoga/Pilates studio last year, I love it!
JenG says:
May 26, 2009, 7:46 pm
I have been wanting to take a yoga class for some time. This is encouraging. I hope that I do not have the same experience as your friend!
Lovenia says:
May 28, 2009, 2:51 pm
I wish I could find something like that here in Maryland. I've been wanting to do yoga for a while now, and I'm determined to start this summer, but admit I am getting a bit nervous about it. So thanks for the inspiration!!
FredJouldd says:
May 28, 2009, 3:04 pm
Thanks, good article.
carmool says:
May 31, 2009, 1:31 am
girl I tried hot ass Bikram yoga fresh out the gates FAIL i wish we had the type of class that u received in California, i am beyond to try it again
Elaine says:
March 11, 2011, 1:51 am
I love Hot Yoga the room temperture is 104 degrees , awesome a good sweat 15 minute workout segments. I usually bring my frozen water and towel and sweat away all the stress cigarettes everything harmful to me in 90 minutes time. Try it you will love it


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