FINDING YOUR WAY TO YOGA
Yoga is a form of integrative healing that is relatively universal. Though it’s beginnings were greater than 5000 years ago, there is a yoga studio in all 50 states, most countries, and continents, and is a relatively universal name. What isn’t universal is the understanding of how yoga can help and heal you- in body, mind, and spirit.
The principle dynamics of yoga began with a predominantly male congregation and involved little to no physical activity. It was a spiritual practice of worship which included meditation (breath work) and some limited asana (physical movement).
Today, there are as many different types of yoga as there are 12 step programs. The spiritual aspects of this practice have but all been abandoned. The Hindu roots and humble beginnings of this spiritual practice of yoga is off putting to some for incorrect religious interpretations; while others view the physical dynamics as unobtainable or even unrealistic for them. This is largely due to limitations of the body, mind and/or spirit, including an incorrect knowledge base of what yoga is and isn’t that has nothing to do with the it’s physical aspects.
I discovered yoga in early adulthood. It helped me physically, and then it transformed my life mentally, and spiritually. I began to understand the phrase “a moving meditation” each and every time I communed with my yoga mat. I began to realize that on my yoga mat, there was no judgement, only light and life. There, I began to transform my life by living in the present, honoring my limitations, and moving forward with pragmatism.
The first thing I noticed was, I began to feel better. I suffered a number of injuries and lost a great deal of flexibility and functionality in normal bodily movement that I once took for granted. I learned to be patient with myself, with my limitations, and with my current abilities. I created a safe space within my practice on the mat where all I did was breathe and move. There were days, however; where I could barely move and only breathe, yet I still reaped similar benefits.
I then began to sleep better. A deeper, more restorative sleep. My stamina and endurance increased, my muscles were less fatigued, my cravings for unhealthy foods diminished, I lost weight, my skin was less dry and my lung capacity greatly improved. I often wondered why simple breathing techniques flew under my radar for so much of my life.
The progressive mental aspects of the practice began to work within me too. I had more energy and my overall outlook on life was much brighter. My distress tolerance for difficult life circumstances improved, as did my ability to problem solve. I was less irritable and began to feel less stressed. Overall, I had more focus, I was more calm and far less critical of myself.
After the body and mind improved, then yoga began to infiltrate my spiritual path. Though I grew up in a predominantly Christian home, my understanding of God was fairly limited. This began to change as I engaged in more breathe work and meditation. I began to understand the vastness of my intuition and other abilities God blessed me with at a much deeper level of discernment. The lessons I learned while on the yoga mat, began to transfer into every aspect of my life and I began to mirror my yogic path after the teachings of the eight limbs of yoga.
While this is a blog for another time; the eight limbs of yoga consist of 1. yama (abstinences), 2.niyama (observances), 3. asana (yoga postures), 4. pranayama (breath control), 5. pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), 6. dharana (concentration), 7. dhyana (meditation) and 8. samadhi (absorption). Not everyone has a desire or a calling to learn the spiritual or meditative aspects of yoga in its original state. Some prefer to limit their yoga to strictly asana, which and is also deeply healing and beneficial.
This is how yoga became a way of life for me in a nutshell. In the beginning, I simply showed up and did the best I could with the body, mind, and spirit I had. Every part of me felt broken prior to finding yoga as a path of health and integrative healing. I was told in the very beginning that “you are never too old, never too sick and never too broken to begin again”. Though skeptical at first, this quote from Bishnu Gosh and Hatha yoga rang true to form.
I would love to tell you that life has been magical ever since, but that would be selling you snake oil. Life will continue to happen for those who choose to get well. My practice has reflected this. I have been at stages where I could do nearly any asana despite limitations; and I have been a stages where I could not do ANY postures except from that of a chair. Just because someone has the ability to perform beautiful poses in yoga, it does not necessarily make them a beautiful person. This practice requires you to show up (for you, and you only), objectivity (meaning, judgement stays off the mat), and breath work in order to live in harmony. My yoga practice isn’t about how pretty or perfect my asana’s are. Life is not pretty for most people, so it’s unrealistic to think that a practice that is about healing the body, mind, and spirit in perfect harmony would not be jeopardized from the events or circumstances of life. Human beings are rarely in perfect balance on a consistent basis. We are constantly changing and evolving with the lessons of life and as a student to the discipline of yoga. A consistent yoga practice can definitely withstand the “bumps and bruises” of the person on the mat, but invariably, the person finds themselves in a state of dis harmony when life throws us a curveball.
The truth of the matter is, if you are breathing, you can learn the discipline of yoga while dealing with whatever life throws at you. This is far easier said than done. Where there is resistance, there is also change just around the corner. Even though resistant to getting on their mat after an extended hiatus eventually find their way back to this ancient healing practice.
There will always be an excuse to put off something that has the potential to heal. Some people sight cost, scheduling, or time constraints; while others say they are not flexible, are uncomfortable being in groups, or have other things more pressing. While a home practice is affordable, especially with a myriad of resources available for instruction; I find this truly takes dedication for the novice and advanced practitioner alike. This is not unlike doing anything in life where the owness is solely on the individual to benefit from or not. There is always time to sit quietly and draw a cleansing breath with a few simple stretches. That’s really all there is to it.
Yoga does not require fancy clothing, and expensive mat, or extensive travel to be done both properly and effectively. Your practice is your own; in body, mind, and spirit, and how you grow and heal on your mat is completely autonomous and without judgement.
“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.” ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
I offer both private and small group instruction both in person as well as remotely via an online- face to face platform. Here you will learn from a series of disciplines, meditation techniques and sequences suited for you body, mind and spirit.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Blessing to each of you on your life long practice!