When I think back to my first yoga class, I recall with a smile on my face, that the room was on fire, my clothes were too tight and I could barely catch my breath as we moved from movement to movement. My yogic journey started many years ago with a desire to try a different type of exercise program to stay in shape. In the back of my mind, however, I wasn't totally convinced that I was going to enjoy this unknown world of weird breathing, poses and meditation. I definitely had preconceived ideas of what a "yoga person" would look and act like. I had seen a few people who practiced yoga and so I assumed that the class would be full of tree huggin, granola eatin, chai drinkin, super flexible individuals.
DO I REALLY FIT IN?
Tentatively, I decided to give this yoga stuff a decent commitment, so I tried a few classes and was hooked. The first year, however, was mentally draining, because I was holding onto an "idea" of what I should be like if I wanted to advance in the yoga lifestyle (whatever that meant). I had started to read a few books about great spiritual people around the world who "lived" their yoga, and I knew I was no where near looking or acting like them. Regardless of this, I decided to keep attending classes, but every once in a while I would start a new fad I read about in a magazine, to see if that yogic "style" would suit me. It was exhausting... it felt as though I was trying on a variety of costumes to find the best fit. I was clearly missing the bigger picture.
COFFEE, WINE AND YOGA
My aha moment came in my first part of yoga teacher training in 2006, when I looked in the mirror and didn't like who I saw staring back at me. I felt like a fraud and inauthentic. I respected other students who were so dedicated to the yogic lifestyle, but I was not at the stage in my journey to have clear thoughts on the philosophical issues they were working through. I needed to let go of what I thought other people would expect from me and go with what I knew to be true in my heart in that moment. So I stopped hiding certain things about myself: I liked coffee instead of green tea; was practicing postures instead of meditation; and enjoyed going out for "sometimes too much" wine with friends. After "coming out," I felt a huge sense of relief and freedom.
Once I dropped the veil, I had a look around. Everyone on their mats, whether young or old, men or women, injured or flexible, were perfect. It was so refreshing to finally allow myself to be part of something where everyone fit in. And so it dawned on me, that yoga was not an exclusive club for those who could put their legs behind their heads, but for everyone who wanted to enter into this mystic world and learn from different teachers at their own pace.
JUST BE YOU
Diving into yoga over the past 9 years has given me a deeper understanding of the vastness and beauty of the practice. However, regardless of my new found knowledge, the key to the smile on my face is the enjoyment I feel from the physical practice and by living each day authentically. Being a yogi does not mean eating, acting or looking a certain way. It is about finding your own rhythm, being an individual and keeping true to who you are... while maintaining a love and connection for others. Maybe you haven't even tried yoga before and are freaked out by what you think it's all about or perhaps you gave it a try and thought you weren't ready to "Ohm" and wear see through leggings. C'mon, try one more time, with a slightly different mindset. Walk into a class, step on your mat and just be you. All the other stuff will come in time if you decide to go there. If not, just enjoy a beautiful break out of your day and a good stretch for your body.
Enjoy the journey!