If someone told me five years ago that I would spend most of my free time in yoga pants, stay a weekend at the ashram, and watch Netflix while in relaxing in supta baddha konasana, I would have laughed. No, I would have rolled my eyes. That is my move.
But all of that is true.
Nearly three years ago, during an intense time for me at work and personally, two friends told me that I should give yoga a try. I knew nothing about the practice of yoga or its philosophy. But I figure if I hear something twice from two different people it’s worth a try.
So, I did what I do, and bought a set of 6 private sessions with the founder, master teacher, and yoga therapist at the local studio. There was no way I was going into a group class, even a basics, without knowing what I was doing. The ego knows no bounds.
Shortly after my first session I knew something was happening. I was reading books and signing up for workshops and within six months I was in yoga teacher training. It was a whirlwind romance.
So what was reluctant about it? I am a Christian of the born again evangelical variety, a fun but pretty rigid lawyer by trade, eatin’ up with common sense, and not very open to woo woo. I had heard other Christians, particularly preachers, criticize yoga as heretical, as though it’s a religion. It’s more common for lawyers to release their stress at the bar, not stretching and Om-ing in bare feet and yoga pants. From the outside yoga seems silly to people like me, you know the people who say that they “aren’t flexible” or don’t need to “just breathe.” I am a sixth generation Appalachian-American we are of the tough-it-out-get-over-it-suck-it-up school of dealing with life. And while I think the woo woo (crazy yoga stuff) speaks for itself – let’s say after three years and nearly 500 hours of training I still don’t know if I believe our bodies are filled with 72,000 nadis (little rivers) that move prana through the body.
But, what I do know is that yoga can make a significant positive change in anyone’s life.
I spent the better part of my thirties becoming a whole person, a real adult, emotionally and mentally. So by the time I met yoga three years ago I thought I had myself together. Turns out I was missing one leg of the stool – having your s&*t together emotionally and mentally is not enough. I had to get out of my head and connect my head to my body – as my teacher says, “our issues are in our tissues.” Yoga is the first practice or activity that allows me to quiet my mind. And not to worry the Christians out there – I don’t quiet my mind to empty it, I quiet my mind so that I can hear what is most important. I have a very active mind – sometimes it crosses from a great problem-solving machine to a worst-case scenario generator. Yoga helps me to keep the mind active and moving toward the positive by focusing and concentrating on what matters – changing my behavior, rather than trying to change my mind. It isn’t magic, it’s work but when something changes it certainly feels magical, productive and, more importantly, healthy.
Of course there are physical benefits to a regular yoga practice – I am strong (I can see muscles now), more flexible, balanced, and I can stand on my head. I love all those things, but what I love most is that my regular yoga practice has allowed me to become more calm, quiet (literally and figuratively), and more focused (on the right things).
I figure that if yoga is for me then it is for anyone, anyone who wants these outcomes. Turns outs you don’t have to believe it all, you really can take what you need and leave the rest. Maybe one day I’ll need to believe in the nadis. Until then my yoga romance will continue because I can’t wait to experience the depths of healthy that I now know are within reach.