Turning Inward, Tuning In

Brooke Dilling | @brookefrances  

I first came to yoga by way of running. I loved running. I wasn’t fast. I wasn’t even particularly graceful. But I found running--the rhythm, the pounding of my footsteps, and the breathing—helped to clear my head. I had some of my best creative breakthroughs while running. And then life imploded.

I found myself in the middle of a marital crisis and navigating the territory of divorce while caring for my two young sons. Suddenly I was very aware my life was spinning out of control. I was scared and angry. I couldn’t fix it. And running wasn’t giving me space to think.  Instead, running caused a vicious cycle of self-deprecating thoughts. I couldn’t catch my breath and I couldn’t get away from my problems. I needed somewhere else to go. So I went to yoga. Specifically to yoga led by Jillian Keaveny.

Keaveny is a fitness professional, yogi, DJ, and all around kick-ass broad (stay tuned for my upcoming interview with Keaveny later this month) who specializes in a particular type of yoga experience. Many of her classes are in an interesting format called “The Sound Off Experience.” This is where the yoga instructor wears headphones with a microphone and participants also wear wireless headphones. Outside sound, like the breathing of the person next to you, is significantly minimized. Nearly the only thing you hear is the instructor’s voice--her encouragement and direction--in your ears as she guides you through your practice.

Keaveny leading a class at The McNichols Building, Denver. Photo credit: Teddy Sirotek

Keaveny leading a class at The McNichols Building, Denver. Photo credit: Teddy Sirotek

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“Yoga is an inward experience,” says Keaveny. “It’s a place where you quiet your head and get to know yourself.” For some of us, it takes  longer to “go inward.” I struggle with this in most yoga classes. I’m the girl looking around at everyone else in the class--comparing myself. And my inner talk goes something like this: “Oh my God, everyone else is so fit and toned. My ass and thighs look enormous compared to them. I am clearly doing something wrong with this fitness thing.”  Or: “I am NEVER going to be able to nail this pose. And look at her; she can do it on her first try. I suck at this!”

Keaveny says The Sound Off Experience yoga classes seem to help people go inward more quickly. And I would agree. With the music and the instructor’s voice is in your ears, you only need to focus on your mat and what’s going on in your head. The instructor’s voice seems to drown out my negative self-talk, and because I can’t hear anyone else around me, I’m less apt to be looking around.

One of Keaveny’s frequent comments is “Who you are on the mat is who you are off the mat.” Yoga didn’t save my marriage. Nothing could save my marriage. But yoga did keep me centered and help me to save myself. Still, I struggle with not being good enough. The Sound Off Experience helps me to focus on being kind to myself.

Keaveny shares the word “Yoga” means “to yoke” or “to bring together.” Yoga is about a lifelong journey of self – the bringing together of mind, body, and spirit. As my life changed, my yoga practice shifted around these three concepts, too. During my divorce, yoga helped me to shut my brain off. But now, my practice has shifted to focus on my mind and body. How do I turn off the negative chatter and and believe I can do more difficult poses, without giving up before I even try?

What can yoga and The Sound Off Experience be for you? Here’s a link to more information about The Sound Off Experience and a schedule of classes.