In the hot, sweltering room my sweat-soaked skin easily slid into the various contortions of my first ever yoga class. It was in a Hot Yoga studio in center-city Philadelphia that my journey with yoga began in 1999. The next day I could barely move. Of course I went back for more. I volunteered to work at my university yoga studio in exchange for free classes and frequented the studio five to six times a week.
I loved the intense physical exertion that came with seemingly simple movements and I often did "yoga party tricks" at frat parties over a few beers to prove how tough yoga really was. Suddenly I started craving olives (a food I previously despised) – it must have been the copious amounts of salt I lost sweating in those 95F rooms for 90 minutes.
Tree pose in Croatia, 2010
Today my practice has evolved to truly feel in and give myself what is most nourishing. Sure there are times I want to get a strong workout in, sweat it out and try my hands at the newest arm balance variation. It is challenging sometimes to realize that I simply can't do the poses the same way I used to. Our bodies change over time, our joints lose their elasticity and our practice adapts.
Yoga is a way "in". To myself. To my core. A way to cut through all the BS going on in and around me, and see and feel more clearly. My personal practice is far more rooted in meditation and energy work than in physical asana. A daily practice of anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes has changed my life.
Yoga has given me so many sweet and special moments where I feel truly at peace with myself and the interconnectedness of it all. These moments are like "touching God" or what ancients refer to as enlightenment or samadhi. And then life gets in the way and I forget. Then Yoga brings me back. Again and again.
Straddle headstand in Patagonia, 2009
In Flores, Azores, 2018
Very flexible at 19, I could do anything I set my mind and body to. I would do headstands in the front of the classroom while we waited for the class to start. I always chose every advanced pose option and never took child's pose to rest.
One day my body gave out. My back actually. I had overreached in Camel Pose trying desperately to touch my head to my heels and I could barely walk for a week.
It was then I started truly practicing yoga. Once I returned to class I spent a good portion of time in Child's pose. I had to get over feeling "judged" by the other students and the teacher. I realized it was only me, my ego that is, that was doing the judging.
I started to listen for the first time. I listened to my body by feeling sensations. I realized I wasn't my ego's voice. I was the one listening and feeling. I had never really been listening to the teacher when she encouraged us to pause at our edges and breathe. I just DID the poses.
Enlightenment is not the ultimate goal. It is not something you reach one day, like living "Happily ever after" as we're led to believe. We've all experienced enlightenment. You know what I'm talking about...
Those moments where everything stops, all is suddenly clear. Maybe during a crisis, or an ecstatic moment of joy and wonder. I used to feel it running track and field races in high school. Then in yoga. Then more often in meditation and through Reiki. Now I feel it more and more often throughout the day.
As a teacher, I feel evermore the student. After nearly 20 years of practice I'm just now diving deeply into the Yoga Sutras, the essence and foundation of Yoga.
The answers are in front of us. They have been for so long. Yoga is my answer.
Yoga is for anyone, there's no such thing as "being good at yoga".