I went to my first yoga class almost 10 years ago seeking solace from a stressful engineering job. And though I’d like to tell the story of how it was love at first OM, there was something about that first class that didn’t take. It wasn’t until later that I realized, the failure of my first attempt at yoga had nothing to do with the teacher or the studio or the practice. It failed because I simply wasn’t ready, I was too busy sleepwalking through my daily life. I was fresh out of college, working 50+ hours a week and navigating the delicate system that is work life balance. I exercised regularly and loved to move, but I had succumbed to the inertia of using my physical body as a way to check out. I breathed instinctively when I needed to gather my thoughts or in the presence of tension, but I didn’t know why. I had relationships with others, but they were inauthentic because I was not in relationship with myself (despite my spending 99% of my time inside my head). The truth was, I just wasn’t ready for yoga. It’s like the first of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, “Now begins the study of yoga”, or as Nischala Joy Devi poetically describes, “with humility (an open heart and mind) we embrace the sacred study of yoga.” The practice didn’t land for me until I was humble, open and ready to receive it.
There were several things I needed to do before I would be ready to step into the practice in a meaningful way. First, I needed to shift the trajectory of my professional path toward work that brought me joy and interaction with other happy humans. Then, I needed to bring an end to what had become a toxic romantic relationship and trust in the process of starting over. I had to get curious and scared and uncomfortable. Fortunately, the staying power of yoga meant that by the time I was ready, some 5 years later, the practice was still there for me. With the conscious, gradual shedding of conditioned patterns, I eventually experienced enough freedom to start asking the questions I had always been afraid to ask. I began nurturing the wisdom of my innate spirituality and as I did, I discovered others who were doing the same.
The practice unfolded for me rather quickly, as situations often do when you finally surrender to the yes. I practiced regularly for a year or so and it didn’t take long for the spark of deeper inquiry to ignite. I wanted to go deeper. I began attending workshops and reading the sutras. I started experiencing things on the mat that I had longed for my whole life. I enjoyed fleeting moments of real, discernable connection to something beyond myself. Yoga was the entry point for letting spirituality be whatever it needed to be. And it was ok if it changed from day to day or if I asked a lot of questions that led to more mystery. The difference this time was, I felt deep satisfaction in the potency of unknowing.
Yoga gave me the language with which to articulate my subtle body experience. What followed was a means for relating to a tribe of people who were all present to the same delights and struggles. I no longer felt alone and yet the practice was very intimate, something that felt like it was all mine. So, I kept practicing. With my heart opening a little more with each visit to the mat, I inevitably met someone special. Someone who encouraged me to indulge my yoga curiosity in service to others by becoming a teacher.
Many breaths and years later, my interest and attention are still infinitely satiated in learning, loving and living yoga. Like Richard Freeman says, when you become so taken with a subject or practice, it naturally begins to pour out of you. The teaching part is inevitable, it just sort of happens. As a teacher, I am all the more committed to being a student first. The more I continue to scratch the surface, the more yoga lays out before me as I discover it is so much more than shapes. However, above all else, I am a believer in love. In all forms, in all ways, yoga has taught me that love is at the heart of healing. It is the message that breathes life into every teaching, though unassuming its simplicity. Love is what anchors my yoga practice.
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