What does yoga mean to me?
I have been asked and answered this question so many times, from teachers, my friends, fellow yogis, and myself.
- the breath/body connection
- being present with oneself
- quieting the mind
The list goes on.
Yogi has meant so many different things to me over the years and continues to mean so much more.
Early on in my practice, yoga was another form of exercise. One that gave me a nice work out, but also gave me an escape where I could forget my troubles, what was going on at work or at home and just concentrate on breathing and downward dog.
In the later years, I came to rely on yoga for the escape and the work out was no longer as important. As a matter of fact I tended to prefer the lower level classes over the more “power” flow classes because I just yearned for a deep relaxation which I felt came easier in the slower classes.
In the most recent years, I have taken a real interest in meditation. The practice of asanas is in itself a form of meditation and that very form that created the “escape” I was so attracted to all these years. I have learned how the asanas are the starting point to getting yourself into that very space so you can just focus on the breath and get into that meditative spirit.
But now I find myself looking for an even deeper form of meditation where I can just sit and be with myself. Not stop my thoughts in their tracks, but allow them to be there, acknowledge them, accept them, and just “be”.
This year I took my yoga even further and went through the teacher-training program. This inspiration only came after practicing yoga with my fiancé. It was so nice to find someone that enjoyed yoga as much as I did, but the way it heightened our connection to each other was a welcome surprise that neither one of us expected. It took our already intimate connection even further. It was then, that I realized this was something I would love to share with others so they could reap the same benefits of yoga that I have. Even then I still wasn’t 100% sure teaching was something I would do, but it was something I wanted to find out more about, and if anything deepen both my education of yoga and my practice.
Throughout my training I held onto the fact that I was forced to immerse myself
in yoga every month for a full weekend and how wonderful this respite was, I dreaded its ending. It wasn’t until close to the end of the training program that I realized something and probably the most important thing I could have learned out of the entire nine months. I realized that this “escape” this “respite” that I have counted on from my yoga was something I could take with me everyday, not just during teacher training or a class. I did not have to wait to get to the mat to feel yoga.
…and slowly, I have learned to bring yoga into my life, in little ways, everyday. Whether it is just enjoying a moment, or accepting where I am at a given time, even if where I am – is not a comfortable place.
This is what yoga means to me.
During the training, right after I taught my first class, I realized something so incredibly concerning to me at the time. I realized that once you go from student to teacher, it is no longer your practice. Essentially, I would be giving up my practice for others. Did I really want this? I knew it was selfish, but giving up my practice to teach others was something I wasn’t sure I was ready to do. Sure I could do both – teach and also continue to practice. This is something all teachers do. But with my schedule, for sure teaching would take away some of my “practice” time.
I continued to train and thought about this often. As time went on, I was still intrigued and saw the other benefits I received from teaching.
Two weeks ago, Christopher and I taught a free couples class at Bradford Beach.
We were not quite prepared for the noise of the cars, volleyball players, and the unexpected stage construction going on throughout our entire class. It could have appeared to be a recipe for disaster. However, we just prepared to project our voices louder and do the best we could.
It turned out that even with the distractions, it was a great class. It was a beautiful night – the weather was perfect, there was a full moon, and we had a great turn out.
When we were finishing up and everyone was in savasana, I looked out across the class and saw all these students laying in that peaceful “savasana” bliss we all look forward to the minute class starts. I am not sure I can describe what I felt, but it was so beautiful and rewarding to see and to know that we guided them to this peaceful place. I felt a tear come to my eyes. While it wasn’t my practice any longer, being able to give others this experience became it’s own unique fulfillment.
That moment will forever stay with me as one of my best yoga moments of all time.
That night, that feeling, that is what yoga meant to me.