Tuesday, March 3, 2015

From Reluctance to Reverence: A Yogini's Journey


Image result for yogaEight years ago, when my husband finally convinced me to try yoga, I approached it with serious skepticism. Yoga, I thought, was for those who could not handle the weight and interval training that I was accustomed to. At that time, my yoga days masqueraded as my “easy” days. I had no idea that yoga would, one day, be the catalyst to a grand change in my internal landscape.


Since I was a teen, I’ve always exercised religiously. At times, I’ve even equated going to the gym as my version of going to temple, minus the yarmulkas, Torahs, and conservatively dressed devotees. While my methods for shaping my body have varied, (swimming, spinning, zumba, personal training, running, hiking, biking, etc) my goal was always the same. To lose weight. Only in the last decade have I dropped my preoccupation with appearance, replacing it with a desire to feel healthy; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But it wasn’t until after I had my second child, four months ago, that I decided to take a leap, and make yoga my primary practice.

I’ve always known that good yoga is supposed to affect more than just the physical being. That it is designed to move a person into an alternate state of consciousness, where expansion and contraction affect more than just muscles and skin. But recently, the intellectual awareness that I have has started to integrate into my being, sinking lower, further, toward my heart. It’s as if something inside me has clicked, and the emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga have started to present themselves to me. I can’t take credit for discovering any of what I’m about to explain. All I’ve done is practice yoga daily. The rest has settled upon me like dust on a ceramic cat. Or a cat doing yoga.
Image result for yoga catImage result for yoga catImage result for yoga cat

Okay, enough cats. For now. 

Some of the realizations that have entered my mind focus on generalization, or, the way in which the qualities that I am seeking through my yoga practice spread to other parts of my daily life. For example, I now understand that finding balance in Half Moon pose will affect the way that I balance activities throughout my day. That seeking stillness in Warrior Three will allow me to quiet my emotions when a triggering situation presents itself. That being upside down in Shoulder Stand will help to expand my perceptions to be able to look at things from a different viewpoint. And that garnering strength in Three Legged Dog will bring forth an ability to set boundaries in relationships, and say no when I need to. I don’t know why all of these insights are so surprising to me. Perhaps, it’s my tendency to compartmentalize and put everything neatly in boxes, each issue in it’s place. But learning that everything is, in fact, connected, in ways that I can barely comprehend, has a calming effect. Maybe I always had this knowing deep down, the way that the Moon knows that the Sun loves her. Why else would he dim himself, each night, to let her shine?

Image result for sun loves the moonImage result for sun loves the moonOther lessons have centered around the idea of letting go, and the paradoxical nature of doing less to experience more. When I relax into a Seated Forward Bend, it’s about letting my muscles release, which unexpectedly assists my body by improving various functions, including circulation, nervous system performance, and illness prevention. In fact, I’ve now come to expect that if I feel as if I did “nothing” in my practice, my body will respond by releasing fluids and expressing toxins. Where “No Pain, No Gain,” used to be my motto, “Let Go and Flow,” is now my mantra.


It’s astonishing, really. The change that this physical practice has had on my mindset. Instead of pushing to get to the next level, or forcing my will over various situations, I have learned, or, I am learning to believe in the old saying that all will be well in the end. And that if all is not well, it is not the end.

Incidentally, I still don’t consider yoga a workout. Instead, I consider it a work-in, one that I practice in a sacred space, complete with all of nature’s elements. I have a miniature rock garden, (Earth), a window, (air), a water fountain, (water), and a candle, (fire), all of which ritualize my experience, helping to bring me to a place of peace, and well-being. In turn, I aspire to recycle those positive feelings, sending them outward into the beyond where they are free, like the wind beneath a butterflies’ wings, to perform Mitzvahs.
Image result for butterfly