In mid March I had the pleasure of taking a break from New England’s brutal winter to visit the succulent city of Austin, Texas. I was long overdue to visit my best friend Isabelle Barron, who moved to Austin over a year ago.
|Isabelle and one of Austin's massive Agave plants|
I didn’t mind not being able to attend SXSW, I was more curious to see every part of this unique American city that until this point I knew little about. Austin is a young city most people looked to be twenties or thirties. I distinctly remember the one elderly person I met and thought they seemed out of place. Most people have tattoos, I felt unorthodox not having some part of my body inked.
We hiked the arid landscape of the Barton Creek Greenbelt trails, ate fried avocado tacos from Austin’s infamous Torchy’s Taco Truck and shopped at thrift stores in South Congress neighborhood.
|An amazing herbalist shop great for unique gifts!|
My first Austin yoga class was lead by teacher Annick at Yoga Yoga Studio. Annick had the face of a 60-year old women but the body of an 18-year old gymnast. Annick took us through a series of flow Hatha yoga poses, which engages physical and mental strength. Annick had a thick accent. The only time I could understand her was when she told us we would never recover if we fell too deeply into a mere body pretzel pose she put us in. Although her class was rigorous my body felt tension free after. I later learned Annick is South African and has studied yoga at Kripalu. When she started yoga she couldn’t touch her toes.
|Our post hike taco feast at Tacodeli|
A young man with curly black hair named Joshua Wise was our yoga teacher. We set up our mats in a circle in the center of the studio. Wise told us it would be a Prana class, which focuses on meditating and chanting. Wise turned on a meditation box from India that played a droning sound throughout the studio. He told us to sit upright, close our eyes and to say “OM.” Like a chorus we would “OM” together take a deep breath and ‘OM’ again. Although my body was still in the studio with every chant I felt my mind become numb and simple. Our chants filled the room with a hum like the sound of a buzzing beehive. After 45 minutes of chanting my mouth unconsciously wanted to keep going. At the end when I opened my eyes I had to remind myself where I was. After the class I decided to ask Wise what got him into yoga.
|Run DMC graffiti on the Sugar Mamas Bake Shop|
“Self-love has been an issue my whole life,” said Isabelle. “I think I had tried literally every way to cope with it besides being kind to myself.”
Although Isabelle tried yoga on and off since she was a child, it didn’t become essential for her until she moved to Austin. Moving to a new city alone was difficult and not long after she suffered a personal tragic event. While on the phone crying with her father he told her to leave her apartment and walk to the nearest yoga studio. Isabelle listened to her father, took her first Austin yoga class at the same studio she would receive her yoga teacher training.
“It was helping me so significantly and quickly it was amazing," said Isabelle. "I have never experienced anything quite like that and I still feel it everyday,” “Some people go to twelve step meetings, I have to practice yoga. I have to meditate and I have to practice mindfulness.”
|Isabelle doing standing bow pose|
Coming from a small town in Connecticut where yoga teachers struggle for enough students to hold class, I was fascinated being in a place immersed in yoga culture. Each class took me out of my comfort zone. If I was holding a pose that was uncomfortable and I wanted to stop I kept going and eventually the discomfort would pass. Yoga teaches us that when dealing with a painful situation in life to face it because in time that pain will also pass.
By the end of my time in Austin I had completely fell in love with the city. I loved the gigantic aloe plants on every street, the abundance of delicious taco trucks, the unbelievably kind Austinites and the yoga community that taught me there is always room to grow.
|Isabelle and I on my last day in Austin|