“Once we practice yoga, we come to realize its ananda (bliss)” [K. Pattabhi Jois]
I cannot remember when I first learned about yoga, but my first real class was in 2009. I read about an introduction to yoga class taught by a local teacher, and decided to give it a try. I was a year into grad school and experienced intense back pain so I figured it was worth a try. If nothing else, I figured I would feel relaxed!
The class was at a local community center and I remember feeling very warm and excited. It just so happened there was one other person there who I knew and after the class we talked about how refreshing it was. I left the class feeling relaxed and hopeful and decided to give it a try. I fell in love with vinyasa (especially sun salutations) and I looked forward to classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays!
I attended those classes for a few years until I moved to another state in 2014. My yoga practice helped me deal with the transition and crazy adjustment to a new phase in life. I was fortunate to find a yoga studio when I moved in 2014 and found a good community. In the past 3 years, I’ve felt a bit unstable in terms of attending yoga classes. At the beginning of 2020 it seemed like I finally found a good fit with a studio and teacher (after moving again) and then the pandemic took over!
I decided to deepen my personal practice by going through a yoga teacher training. I learned a lot more about yoga, learned some new things about myself, and saw how the training transformed my personal practice. I also spend more time focusing on practicing yoga off the mat (how I live my life). My practice continues to evolve, and each experience on and off the mat is filled with lessons and messages for me. Here are a few lessons I learned throughout the years since I started this yoga journey:
- yoga is a spiritual practice for me: I know that some people see yoga as a workout and for some reason, I have never made that connection. I discovered that when I get on my mat it is a sacred practice and an important time for me to connect with my mind and body. It’s a flowing meditation!
- music is distracting during yoga: I use to LOVE practicing with music and had several playlists depending on the “vibe” of my practice. I use to love getting to class and being pumped up by the music – good times! However, in the past few months, I realized that music during practice is a distraction (every now and then I put on music to flow to, but not often). Now, I appreciate the silence so I can listen to my breathing and try to intentionally connect my breath with movement.
- sun salutations are comforting: If there’s one sequence that I find comforting and safe it’s sun salutations! There is something very therapeutic and reassuring about knowing what happens in the sequence and I get into a zone when I start flowing. I also discovered that Ashtanga is grounding and soothing (because of the consistency of the sequences in each practice), especially when I feel anxious. Of course, the distractions are endless and there are times when I find it hard to focus on linking breath with movement, however, my practice is forgiving and I can always re-center.
- comparison doesn’t help: Some days I have more discipline than other days and that does not make me any less of a yogi or human! I’ve learned (and still learning) to make space for flexibility with my practice. Sometimes, it’s more important that I practice than how long I practice. Other days, the yoga off the mat has more meaning and impact than an asana. I’m learning to go with the flow without judgment! (not always easy).
- my practice is my guide: I’ve learned so many important lessons on my mat. I have cried, I have felt intense emotions, and I have felt inspired and empowered. My practice holds space for whatever I bring to it and when I slow down enough to listen, I can find some insight and direction either during or after my practice.
I look forward to seeing how my practice evolves this year and I allow myself to be open to whatever may come.
With deep gratitude,