I originally started AnnapolisYoga.me in 2010 to share my personal experience practicing Yoga in Annapolis and as a small way of giving back to the community by highlighting different Yoga events. I also wanted to have a central place to answer the types of questions friends ask me about yoga.
I was hesitant at first, since back then I wasn’t a Yoga instructor and considered myself an intermediate Yogi at best, but my experience is a little different than most. I currently practice Yoga 6-7 days a week, taking classes at most of the local studios. I’m also a guy in his forties who never stepped into a Yoga studio until a few years ago.
Why the sudden interest in Yoga?
Here’s my story (the short one)….
About seven years ago, I came down with a severe viral infection (Parvo B19), The virus is pretty common, it’s called Fifth’s Disease – kids get it and recover from it in about a week. With adults, symptoms can be severe with recovery time a month or more. Doctor’s don’t know why, but I had a freakishly severe (1 out of 10,000) neurological reaction to the virus. I was bedridden with off the charts nerve pain. I eventually recovered fully from the virus, but was left with extensive nerve damage as well as ongoing inflammatory problems. Good new was that I had a good chance at full recovery – bad news was I was told it could take several years.
I still remember walking in to my first Intro to Yoga class. My wife had been trying to get me to try Yoga for years, but I shrugged it off, preferring my typical ‘guy’ routine – heavy free weights, some cardio and a trip or two to the chiropractor each week for the neck and back problems I had. At the time I could only bend down a few inches due to a back injury that had flared up, but nobody seemed to notice and the instructor gave me plenty of modifications so I could fully participate in spite of my injuries. Kept at it for two weeks and made some good progress. My nerve pain was considerably better as were my pre-existing neck and back injuries – I was hooked!
Since then, I’ve made it a priority to practice Yoga 6-7 times a week, taking many classes at most of the local studios. As I’ve slowly recovered, I’ve taken different level classes at each studio – ranging from purely restorative, to gentle yoga, to all levels Yoga and flow. The results have been amazing and I feel the experience has changed me for the better and may have given me something to contribute back to others…
I know now that Yoga is much more than just stretching and avoiding back injuries, but what got me hooked initially was that I could ‘fix’ or better maintain my problem spots and that after my first month, I didn’t need to see a chiropractor any more. Since then, I’ve learned about the power of the breath, living in the moment and achieving a better life balance.
Outside of class, I try to meditate (either silently, using binaural tones or Yoga Nidra) each day and still feel I’m just scratching the surface of what Yoga is and can do.
2011 update: Almost three years later, I’m about 90% recovered and no longer have high blood pressure or recurrent back problems. I also lost the twenty-five pounds I put on when I first got sick and was unable to exercise and have about the same muscle tone as when I was spending hours lifting heavy weights and doing lots of cardio.
Ok – back to why I created this site. When friends learn that I practice Yoga, I get asked a lot of questions. Everyone is different, but I think that a number of misconceptions may be holding some people back from seeing if Yoga is right for them. Hope to blog in detail about this and answer any questions here and on Facebook, but here are the one’s I’ll probably start with…
- That there are some good inexpensive ways to try Yoga (discounted community yoga classes at local studios and sponsored free classes) for those who want to try it, but are on limited funds or already paying for gym memberships. And occasional Groupon like specials which I try to pass on as soon as I see them.
- That Yoga is not just for women. I was one of those ‘macho’ guys bench pressing hundreds of pounds in college, belonged to Gold’s Gym for years and did only a minimum amount of ‘stretching’ – maybe 5 minutes before each workout. Now that I’m in my mid forties, just about all my friends have back issues and many could benefit greatly from Yoga. I get a lot of curious questions and usually offer to take friends to a class with me, but it rarely happens. Was hoping that sharing my experiences in one place might help sway a few people. Oh, in case you are curious, the average yoga class consists of about 10-20 percent men.
- That it’s possible to ‘drop-in’ with no notice, pay $15-$20 and try a Yoga class at a studio or buy discounted blocks of classes. Always surprised that many people at my health club who have been practicing yoga for more longer than I have, assume that Yoga requires yet another expensive monthly contract.
- A Yoga class at a studio with the right instructor can be a very different experience from one taught at a gym. While there are a few excellent Yoga instructors at my gym, due to many factors outside their control, form is rarely physically corrected due to class size, classes are only an hour, lighting can be glaring and the calm of a very short Shavasana (rest/meditation period) is usually shattered by bright lights and loud music as the next ‘power step’ class rushes in to secure a good spot.
- And a bunch of other things which are common sense after your first class, but which can be sticking points for many. That you don’t need any special type of clothes to get started. That it’s completely non-competitive and no-one really cares about your current level of fitness (or flexibility) and that there are modifications for just about every physical condition (active injuries, arthritis, lack of mobility, etc.)
Oh, one more thing… If this is your first time here and you are also on Facebook, please take a moment and ‘Like’ the Annapolis Yoga FB page. This will let you see updates (free classes, special events, etc.) in your normal Facebook newsfeed as soon as they are posted. I usually only post once or twice a day at the most, so no need to worry about getting too many updates.
Thank you and Namaste!
About Barry Brooks
Barry came to yoga in 2008 after a life altering medical event left him with extensive nerve damage and chronic pain which left him bed-ridden for long period of time. After noticing that his first yoga class greatly relieved many of this symptoms, Barry started a vigorous daily yoga and meditation practice, taking over 750+ yoga classes to date which he credits in great part for his recovery.
Barry completed his Level 1 Yoga Vinyasa certification from Tranquil Space Yoga Studio in Washington DC and complete his 200-hr Hatha training training program at the Yoga Center of Columbia. Barry is also the founder of Annapolis Yoga, an online yoga community for over 2,500 Annapolis are yogis and yoginis. When not practicing yoga, Barry enjoys sailing the Chesapeake with his two sons, hiking year-round and building and inventing things “of dubious value” in his workshop.