Yoga gives direction and purpose to my life. It has helped me define myself—not just as a personality or profession, but who I am and want to be at my core. I was originally drawn in by the physical elements of the yoga practice but as I become more versed in the philosophy, lifestyle and teachings it has become a guide for my entire life and so much more than ‘just a workout’. Looking back on when I began practicing yoga I can say with confidence that it changed my life, not that I felt I needed a huge life change at the time, but it clearly has had an overarching influence on who I am. Yoga helps me to be present and aware, accepting of myself, others, and seeing value in all things.
Yoga asks for an intentional connection between body and mind. It is not just forcing the body in to postures or achieving things with hard work—but learning awareness, patience, and mind/body coordination. I find myself encouraged (rather than frustrated) as I encounter postures that are currently out of my grasp. Asana practice has helped me with accountability towards myself in how I set goals, establish routine, listen to my body etc. In addition, I experience a sense of grounding from asana practice that encourages me in to delve deeper in to my pranayama (breathing) and meditation practices as well. My practice of yoga cultivates a peace and connection that carries over in to all elements of my life.
Yoga has also become a spiritual, maybe religious, practice as I’ve become less comfortable with the religion of my upbringing. While yoga does not have all the answers, I’ve found that it does honor the questions. Yogic philosophies such as the yamas and niyamas, have been a guide for me in cultivating self-discovery, which leads to appreciation, awareness and care of others and my surroundings.
As an instructor, I want students to come away from yoga practice with confidence, feeling strong, challenged, and aware both mentally and physically. I what them to be OK with whatever unfolds in their yoga experience. Ok with frustrations, proud of progress and encouraged to keep learning.
In addition to confidence, I want students to find peace. Peace that comes from breath work, meditation, and taking care of oneself. While yoga may not always seem ‘peaceful’ as it can be challenging both mentally and physically, bringing up things that have been buried or we may not even have known about ourselves, I want students to feel that those challenging times can be part of a journey to greater peace. That physical and mental discomfort is not necessarily a bad thing and should be observed without judgment.
I believe yoga can be for everyone, each person must just be willing to take the step. The root of yoga can be defined as ‘union,’ something that we all desire at our core—to be connected to ourselves and in turn, connected with our surroundings, including other people. Therefore, the overarching practice of yoga can be for everyone. In each yoga journey certain limbs might be more desirable or beneficial at any given time but one of the exciting prospects of yoga is that you can come to it in all different ways, it is not a single, linear path.
Yoga is a personal practice; there are many different styles, elements, teachers etc., so each individual will discover what works for them at any given time in their life. I want to break down the notion that the body or mind have to be or do certain things for it to count as ‘yoga’. As you approach your yoga practice, give yourself permission to grow, wherever you are is exactly where you should start. May we all find confidence in our abilities and peace in our lives.