Lunch Break Yogi: Dana King
For many, a yoga practice begins almost accidentally. A friend takes you to a class, you try it to help recuperate from an injury, or a studio is so conveniently located you that can’t help but check it out. Once you’ve opened yourself up enough to just make it to the mat, you have some fun, maybe gain a new insight about the way your body responds to different stimulus, or maybe you are finally able to live mindfully in the moment for those 60-90 or so minutes. For most, the connection is subtle, indistinguishable at first. It is a little tug from within urging you to keep exploring. Dana King’s practice began in this vein; a good friend took a teacher training on a whim, said friend got Dana to practice, and from that little seed her practice grew. Dana’s practice has become a constant through some very major life changes. Seemingly paradoxically, this constant has been the mechanism that has allowed her to change, adapt, and grow to meet the the challenges and discomforts of a transforming life from a grounded perspective. Sporting her recently cropped blond pixie cut Dana is the embodiment of a sprite--quick witted, candid, and playfully engaging, while somehow retaining an air of illusive mystery. On a bright sunny afternoon, she joined us in our Wellness studio to chat yoga, babies, and personal damage control.
Five years of practice has encompassed graduating from law school, the Bar Exam, two babies, and some big moves for Dana. Falling prey to ego and time constraints the first year or more was primarily a home practice, as she felt “too embarrassed” to practice in the studio setting. That dedicated home practice was her outlet as she studied for the Bar and into her first pregnancy. She laughs as she explains she needed something to release, something that was just for her, something that wasn’t food; yoga seemed to hit the mark. We laugh as the indulgence of food continues to haunt her practice: the GPS on her phone seems to be under the impression that she’s taking an hour long lunch at Bittersweet Bakery next door rather than her daily noon practice, and how bazaar the digital world we live in is that a daily hour long visit to a bakery is somehow more plausible than a regular yoga practice.
Dana maintained her home practice until about a week before the delivery of her son. She credits the stamina she built in her practice, lessons on breath, and being open to change to easing her labor and delivery. In the words of author Anne Christian Buchanan “To be pregnant is to be vitally alive, thoroughly woman, and distressingly inhabited. Soul and spirit are stretched – along with body – making pregnancy a time of transition, growth, and profound beginnings.” Without yoga, Dana says this process seems unimaginable. Yoga gives us the space to explore our limits and to exceed them methodically. The intense, almost panic-like sensation produced by the sympathetic nervous system when we are in uncomfortable, unfamiliar places in our body (during our practice and in life) often trigger the impulse to retreat, back away, or distract ourselves. For many, these sensations occur throughout pregnancy and definitely during labor and delivery and Dana admits she can not fathom being able to cope and adapt to her body’s changes and the extreme sensations of labor if she had not had a yogic discipline. For Dana hip openers were one of these deeply uncomfortable places, she endearingly refers to it as the “oh f#@k” place, working to breath through the “oh, f#@k,” and conditioning the body to cope with healthy stressors prepared her for pregnancy and parenthood in ways she hadn’t anticipated. Prenatal practice fortified her trust in her body, her intuition and her ability to be in the moment--lessons she admits may have made her overly ambitious in returning to her practice postpartum.
Feeling blessed with an uncomplicated birth and seemingly easy baby, Dana leapt back into her routine practice just two weeks postpartum. The body awareness she cultivated sent up flairs, warning her she may be trying to do too much too soon. Admittedly, Dana was annoyed with her diastasis recti (a common condition in which the large abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy) at first, she wanted her power back sooner rather than later. Patience and acceptance for ourselves where we are is an essential element of yoga and one Dana reflected on, took to heart and utilized to heal, rediscover and empower her body safely.
The confidence Dana cultivated in her practice and the impracticality of a home practice with a full time job and a baby brought Dana to us here at Reyn Studios. The sacred space of the studio quickly became her preferred venue for her practice, and she became a staple in our mid-day krewe quickly. Our music, collective breath, ample space, and dreamy windows established themselves as a well earned break in her work day. Acknowledging challenges and trusting herself to surrender into moment advanced her practice further than she was even aware of. We at Reyn witnessed her growth on the mat as well as the swell of her belly with her second pregnancy. Like her first pregnancy she found yoga to be essential in managing the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy, parenthood, and work. Through her practice Dana was able to accept her ever changing body and surroundings. She feels that yoga has not only taught her to accept these things, but to make the most of them, to learn from the hard parts and to not try to desperately change things when they aren’t exactly as you’d like them to be. The physical and mental benefits of yoga facilitated more independence and ownership over her body, which many women lose during pregnancy. These coping devices allowed Dana to have an unmedicated birth with her daughter.
As a busy mother of two, Dana applies pranayama, surrender, and the cultivation of inner strength on and off the mat. Witnessing the development of her children, Dana says she feels connected to that cosmic curiosity about our bodies and their limitless potential they exhibit naturally. The limitless potential of yoga, and sense of ownership over her body, is a necessity for Dana these days. Constantly shifting perspectives literally and figuratively allow her to remain sane, she laughs. Yoga is damage control for life, she says casually, but it calls to mind bKS Iyengar’s thoughts on change, ““Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.” Dana’s “damage control” strikes a fearless embrace of change and her transformation into exactly who she is meant to be.