Lately, I find myself talking to a lot of different people about yoga and my personal experience with yoga. So, I felt it was the time to talk about it…because, you know, there are no coincidences. 🙂
A few years ago I walked into my first yoga class at the Durga Studio. My beautiful and spirited friend Jen welcomed me with a big hug and big smile. (she welcomes everyone like that) She had candles around the room and a great big symbol of OM on the wall. There were statues of Indian Deities, fresh flowers, her mason jar of water, and various jars of spray, oils, and whatever else she on the agenda that day. Jen, herself, presents like the Goddess that she is… beautiful curly blond hair naturally wild and free, a feather clip or two mixed in for good measure, the healing traditional kohl around her gorgeous brown eyes, the coolest yoga outfit I have ever seen, and always a smile filled with light that extends all around her. This is not an act, this is the authentic Jen. She does not claim to be perfect and does not expect any of us to be either. It’s all about Love. Love yourself, Love others, spread and share Love, heal with Love, always with Love in your heart. And she means it. She lives this. She teaches this. It all comes down to Love.
Love was not what I expected when I started doing yoga. I wanted the stretching for my tight, sore, painful muscles and joints. I was looking for a gentle exercise but I found so much more. Jen had said to me that ” yoga is more than just the asanas (poses); yoga can be just sitting in silence”. Boy was she right.
For the first few months I cried every time I went to yoga. I had never been in a space or with a group of people who were so positive, accepting and loving. Our lives are filled with so much judgement, stressors, hatred, complaints, gossip, threats, punishment, polarizing politics, degradation of others, and other various negativities towards anything not like us. For example, go on Facebook and check out all the posts that are negative. Negativity fills our way of life. We complain about traffic, the nasty neighbor next door, the barking dog, the kid who smoke pot, the girl who was a sloppy drunk the other night, a co-worker, our parents, a friend’s unfortunate remark, anything. It’s endless. Some people thrive on this. It’s the only way they know to feel better about themselves. It’s so sad. It’s not what I want in life.
So, walking into a space of Love was overwhelmingly emotional for me. It was a safe space to feel good about myself. In this space, I was happy and at peace. I learned how to relax my muscles, quiet my mind, change my thought patterns to be more loving, and learned so much about yoga, the stories and the traditions. I reconnected to my love of Native American traditions, Taoism, Buddhism, and Paganism. I also learned to appreciate the good side of religion and the church.
One of the first few times I went I met my friend Carol. At this time, I think we were all struggling with some stuff and connected over stories of struggle and enlightenment. During our conversation she said to me “it’s tought being an Empath, read this book”. Empath? What the fuck is that? So, I read up on what it means to be an Empath. (you can read about this too…30 Traits of an Empath) Over time, as I payed attention to myself and my reaction to people around me, it started to make sense. I was indeed an Empath who hadn’t learned how to protect myself from others negative energies. I needed to learn to deflect rather than absorb.
Also in this space, I had to deal with my own emotions, past hurts, and painful relationships. I would cry during yoga because for first time I was going silent. In this quiet, those emotions come racing to the surface. With no errands, conversations, or thoughts to compete with, emotions rise to be noticed. Knowing I was in a safe space, I allowed myself to feel and heal. Jen seemed to always know when one of us was going through something and would tailor a message in her opening dialogue to help address and support our struggles. Then throughout the duration of the class she would be supportive and share messages of love and acceptance to all of us, sometimes in the form of a poem, a song, a gentle touch, or a positive verbal affirmation. In this space we were all beautiful and right where we were meant to be. We needed to honor ourselves and where we were at that moment.
I also added the phrase “body clothes” to my verbal repertoire. What a great way to talk about our soul and our earthly body. I love that we were beautiful souls wearing these body clothes. For me, this idea helped me switch my focus from my physical appearance to my soul/spirit as the most important part of myself. My sould was the part of me in need of nuturing. I had neglected inner self for so long it was time to give it some attention. Once I started doing that, it felt like more things fell into place.
I could go on and on about all the gifts and lessons yoga, Jen, and that “community” has given me, but this is getting long enough. So many are looking for that quick fix. Whether it be a pill, an exercise, or a book. No matter who you are, there are no shortcuts in life. Yoga can be a wonderful tool to heal mind and body but you still have to put in the effort. Yoga can provide a foundation and with the right teacher, it can help you grow but you still have work if you want to really make a change in your life. You still have to face your traumas, change your thought patterns, and learn to come at life from a place of Love and Acceptance. It is not easy. It takes time. That journey will never end because we are human. We make mistakes. We are not meant to be perfect. But we are meant to learn and grow.
This is all why I wear my mala’s. They are gentle reminders to love, ground myself when I need to, and not lose sight of who I am and who I am becoming. They hold pieces of my heart and my journey. They remind me to honor myself and be who I am meant to be. They are my yoga.
How do you know when you have gotten to a place of healing and love? I think it is when you can be present, calm, and loving when in the midst of events that generally elicit fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, stress or some other strong negative emotion.
When you can be at peace in the middle of chaos, you have mastered the art of Love.