Have you ever found that one thing in life that resonated so deeply with your first experience of it that it stayed with you always? The practice of Ashtanga Yoga was transformational and life-changing for me. It is a practice that I was fortunate to find at a pivotal point in my life and continue to utilize on a daily basis to this day, almost twenty years later.
YOGA by definition is a Sanskrit word which translates as “union”. The age-old practice of yoga is what I lovingly refer to as:
The art of finding balance…
Not just physical balance as one would think (yes, that happens as well), but more of a balance in life in general. A symbiotic relationship with body, mind, and spirit that opens you to receive all the beauty the world has to offer. It is not a conscious endeavor when first beginning the practice, but instead, one that finds a firm purchase of its own accord.
My life-changing journey with yoga began when I was 37. It was 1999 and the yoga was just coming into popularity. I was personal training at a local gym at the time, was a fairly new mother, and was just diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus. I noticed a class being held weekly and observed that the class was growing exponentially. Being curious as to what all the hoo-ha was about, I decided to join in on a class. It was a traditionally led Ashtanga Yoga Class. I was hooked.
Immediately after that class, I stopped personal training and immersed myself into a six day a week practice with the yoga. The effects of this practice were immediately felt. My body transformed from one that couldn’t touch her toes on that first day to a more supple and flexible one. My mind began to focus and find a stillness it had never had prior. This stillness allowed me to find joy in the smallest of things. My heart opened, allowing me to receive that joy more readily. Through asana (practicing of postures), my body began to teach me.
All my life people who didn’t know me well always told me they thought I was “stuck up” until they got to know me. This used to frustrate the heck out of me as I knew I wasn’t “stuck up”. I could never figure out why they initially thought that of me. If I couldn’t figure it out, how could I change it?
Several years into my practice I was walking down the street and almost every person I passed said hello without any prompting from me. A lightbulb suddenly went off. I was walking with confidence and an “open heart”. I was now open and available to receive what had always been, but that I was never energetically available for. I had been leading my life closed off to all that was being offered.
My first few years of practice were intense. Not only was my body transforming, but my focus on nutrition completely changed. I wanted more of a clean diet, one filled with organic meals. I began cleansing from the outside in. As my daily routine shifted to a more appropriate diet (juicing, and a more plant-based diet), I began to heal. My energy started to increase, my joy returned.
I had the privilege of studying with some of the most renowned Ashtanga and yoga teachers. Teachers who have been practicing and teaching for thirty years and more. I was extremely fortunate and grateful for their time and insights. I was able to consistently explore teachers and different lineages, and although grateful for every class, always returned to my heart, Ashtanga. The beauty of this practice is, once you learn the system, you can self-practice anywhere, anytime. You are your best teacher, bar none.
I taught this wonderful practice to those who wanted to learn for over ten years. My students were my greatest teachers. Being able to observe a student just starting, feeling awkward and unsure, to one that has blossomed with confidence and surety, was an amazing gift. I always loved using the analogy of a pebble thrown into a still pond. The ripples (change) begin small and slowly, but grow in size and strength as they expand. This is the transformation that is offered through the thoughtful and long-term practice of the yoga.
I still practice almost daily. Me, my mat and usually my trusted friend, Yogi, nearby. At times I have family who join me in my breath. I have eased a bit on the asana practice (I don’t practice as intensely), but have actually found that I have grown by taking what is perceived as a “step back”. I have learned to be gentle and non-judgmental with my practice. That we come into this world with a breath and leave with a breath. There are only breaths in between the two. To be present, and in the moment.
Yoga is accessible to everybody. It does not discriminate on age, gender or physical abilities, size or shape. Its gifts are available. It takes work, effort, and dedication. But the rewards are immeasurable and there for the taking.
Thanks for taking a peek at my experience with the yoga! Have you practiced before or always wanted to? Ask away or drop me a note and let me know about your time on the mat. Love to hear from you!