Updated: Nov 4, 2020
My first yoga class is burned indelibly into my mind. I was in some pretty serious daily pain - chronic hip pain due to degenerative hip disease that could only be remedied by a hip replacement. My daily routine due to the pain had all but eliminated physical exercise which had once been a mainstay of my every day. It was a major accomplishment to walk 25 feet without intense pain. A friend recommended that I join her for a hot yoga class. I had never practiced yoga or rarely even stretched prior to the class other than a quick pre-post run stretch. Upon entering the studio which was unbearably hot I truly wondered what I was doing there - it seemed crazy to even be attempting to bend in several directions when I could hardly walk. I noticed immediately that everyone seemed fairly serious about their "practice" and that having fun with this was likely out of the question. Admittedly, I did not make it through class without several giggles in my friends direction as I tried without much success to emulate the moves being performed by the other students.
I was extremely proud of myself for making it through that first class, given the extreme heat and having no idea what I was doing. I felt something happen though which was completely unexpected. I felt a longing to come back and try again. I am not sure if this was due to ego and my wanting to perfect a practice that I was so incredibly poor at the first time or if it was my desire to be as prepared as possible in any way I could for my impending surgery. Regardless of the reasons, I did return time and time again until I developed a fairly decent practice which eventually led to a deeper dive into the meaning of yoga at a deeper level. Yoga got me through pre-surgery, post-surgery, and in a way more important aspect it helped me through many emotional scars and new traumas I wasn't yet aware of. My Mom passing suddenly, my relationship deteriorating with my ex-husband, job changes, my Father passing and so much more. Yoga helps us to bring calm, balance, and the ability to be kinder to ourselves and those around us. It is so worth the fear and embarrassment of stepping on the mat for the first time and not having the slightest idea what to do or what others may think. We all need to be kinder to ourselves and to find ways to create a life of ease.
My practice eventually led me to become certified as a yoga teacher so that I could dive deeper into my understanding of yoga history and to find an explanation for the way that yoga made me feel. I wanted to know more, grow more in this understanding. I had no intention to teach after my certification - it was for my own knowledge, or at least that was my reasoning at the time- likely another fear-based thought which excused me from the possibility of having to get in front of a group of people who were expecting me to know "everything" about poses, yoga terms, how to confidently guide them through an hour of asanas which would bring them the kind of rewards I had gained from my practice. I eventually decided to teach in order to face this fear, what I found was that it was an incredibly humbling experience to share my love of both the physical practice of yoga and to scratch the surface of the deeper meaning in order to encourage others to start their own yoga journey.
We often talk ourselves out of doing something that we see as potentially beneficial solely because it is different than anything we have done before and our innate senses or egoic mind do not want to embark on something that we may not be good at or even worse be able to perfect ! All of this is real - real questions, real evaluation and real scary. The good news is that it is so easy to begin to try yoga in the comfort of your home and to experience the benefits without the fear of failure or putting yourself out there. Yoga is a practice and as such is meant to not be perfected. Better yet - it is whatever you need it to be. The ultimate reward is not the perfect pose, it is a body free of pain, it is steadiness, ease, calm and the ability to be still for longer periods of time to truly learn more about who you are.
Have you ever practiced yoga ? Have you watched yoga create a massive splash in recent years and wondered what all the fuss is about ? Does it intimidate you ? Do you want to learn more but are afraid to dip your toe in the yoga pond ? Does the validity of what you gain or could possibly learn from yoga send you into a tailspin ? Are you willing to face fears or lack of understanding for the amazing gifts of Yoga ?
From the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali "Moreover, one gains purity of Sattva, cheerfulness of mind, one-pointedness, mastery over the senses and fitness for Self-Realization."