From early adulthood, throughout two pregnancies and home births, numerous break-ups, and one divorce and now into peri-menopause, I still practice Yoga.
Actually, yoga still practices through me. I don’t think I own it, or that I invented it, or really change the landscape of yoga today. It is more than I channel what yoga is and discover that this changes me.
I teach privates to one person or a pregnant couple. I teach to crowded rooms of over 40 sweating women. I teach inside and outside, in person and on DVD. I teach and I teach and I teach. And the remarkable thing about all of this teaching? I keep learning about myself.
I tell my classes that just because they have done a few Downward Facing Dogs, it does not mean that they know how to do a Down Dog. One does not do postures. I have come to discover that one does not actually do yoga. One allows yoga to move through them.
We put our bodies into a particular shape that encourages an energetic pathway to open that could not have occurred otherwise. The amazing power of the form is then realized by the discovery of what staying in this posture brings. Our stamina often gives way before the secret of this pose has been revealed. Which is why we must come back to it over and over again to learn more of its potency. We learn to stay ever longer in the pose so that, in those extra few seconds or even minutes, we can discover something new.
These postures are mutable, changing and fluid depending on the environment and your emotional, physical or spiritual landscape on any particular day. Coming into a posture with a broken ankle, a broken heart or a broken spirit, you may find very different things from your practice.
It is this channel of energy that we open to that allows the breath of change to pass into our bodies, which we then translate into fuel for our lives. This fuel feeds our relationships and alters the very chemistry of our cells. There is not a teacher on this planet that I know of who would say that they ventured into yoga to make a financial killing. More likely, the ones I know who practice deeply, came to yoga because they were, on some level, required to teach.
A changing circumstance, like pregnancy, is actually the number one reason why most women start yoga in the first place. It eases the pains of a changing body, it stretches the hamstrings of the long-distance runner and balances the mind of hyperactive children. Older people with limited mobility find renewed joy in being able to simply lift their arms high enough to brush their own hair.
I am not kidding—my clients tell me all of this and heartbreakingly, so very much more. I hear of the pain of discovering throat cancer at six months pregnant, finding stillness on the mat when there is anger at home. Of people who find a new center of balance when Post Traumatic Stress overtakes their dreams and makes sleeping impossible. I also hear of others learning a new sense of abundance when financial ruin has decimated a home.
This may all seem like wishful thinking to assume that a physical practice like Lotus or Chair Pose may actually save your life. It lands for many people that yoga is a nice way to get a little sweat in and gain a measure of flexibility. Or it is a way to meet hot men and women in great shape with abs of steel? Indeed, muscle definition and endurance are not the same things. Keeping up has less to do with defined muscle mass than it has to do with the intensity of focus and commitment to never giving up.
The concept of never giving up, of staying the course, of never losing sight of what is more important than momentary discomfort is the power that a deep yoga practice can unfurl, no matter what your BMI may be.
Take away the notion that yoga is a workout. Uncross the idea of spirituality and jargon. Pare down to the simplicity of yourself and find a place to sit or stand or even lie down. Get into what one pose, only one, may have to teach you over the course of time. Let yourself become lost in the watching of your inner child’s cry or your ego manipulating your self-image. Know that mastery over the pose is not mastery over the Self, but it is a valuable way to equip the journey.