A lot of people do not think of Yoga as a holistic type of medicine, but it challenges the body and mind. While focusing on internal and emotional healing. In the Western society, we lose the connection between movement and thought. We are so caught up with electronic screens, social feeds, things and what our body looks like that we forget the purpose of life: Living.
This is why so many people in our culture suffer from stress, anxiety and overthinking.
Finding my Yoga Practice
When I first started doing yoga, I was in it for the body benefits. I was obsessed with moving my body just to look good. There was no mental or emotional connection to it. I would go to class, bow my head in Namaste and walk out feeling like that same person who walked in. Only, someone who just had a really good workout.
When I transferred universities, I decided to do a 200-hour teacher training at a studio on my campus, Yoga State. Suddenly, I was more focused on my breath and thought during the classes instead of the poses. I was able to fall asleep at the end of my Savasana and was attending a class every day. It was then that I realized that I had begun to practice Yoga. My teacher training took me deeper into my practice, asanas and into the Yoga philosophy. It was a spiritual and fundamental experience.
There is an emotional and thoughtful connection when you practice Yoga vs. “do” Yoga. I began to feel amazing and energized. I was able to handle stressful situations with ease and my body and mind reaped the rewards. At the end of my training, unfortunately, I pushed my body to the limit. I tore my meniscus and was placed on crutches. I was completely heartbroken.
I began to attend physical therapy and sat in on classes to feed off the energy and breath of others. I believe that this helped me quickly return to my mat. I took my practice with me to New York City and continued to grow my practice at a studio called Laughing Lotus. The fluid movement helped me balance the hectic city life. Through Yoga, I learned how to control my reactions to the world around me. I was happy.
Losing my Practice
When I returned home in the fall I was eager to teach. I was given a class a week to get back into the groove of things, but life had caught up with me. It was my senior year of college and that meant job searching, planning for the spring and balancing my social life. After a discussion with my Instructor, we decided that I would not continue to teach for the remainder of the year. At the time, I needed to focus on balancing life off my mat to give more to my practice on the mat. I wasn’t practicing anymore, I was simply “doing” the movements without thought.
That following summer, I lost my practice. I stopped stepping on my mat. I was a mess, anxious and stressed. I had trouble finding balance and making sense of situations. This is when I realized that Yoga wasn’t only about the poses you could hold or make with your body. Yoga was about what you carried with you off the mat. It was how you acted to others, the earth and yourself. Yoga is about sharing and giving love. It is about finding balance and living a pure life. When you become more focused on the poses, you lose the true meaning of the practice. I am not trying to be philosophical but you must look beyond.
When I began approaching my anxiety, I was so turned off by the idea of starting my practice again. I was fearful of what may come up during my practice and I thought people would judge me because my practice was not what it used to be. I was also afraid of hurting myself again. I was reacting out of fear. I tried to attend a few classes at some studios near my work but for some reason, it just did not click. I was back to stage one.
Returning to My Practice
I was afraid of my practice and thoughts until I realized it was time to face them. I did not want to live my life in fear or hold myself back from something I once loved. I knew returning to something I was once so passionate about wasn’t going to be easy, but I was ready to try. I had been in therapy for over a month when I scrolled to an Instagram post of a local Yogi. She was announcing that she was opening a new studio and it just so happened to be right next to my neighborhood!
I knew that this was a sign and that it was time to return to my practice. I bought the 6-week package, a new yoga mat and mentally prepared for the best experience. When the studio finally opened, I attended my first class with zero expectations. As I rolled out my mat and went into child pose, I couldn’t help but let out a deep sigh. I was home.
The instructors focus not only on body movement but also affirmations, yoga philosophy and teaching breath to control the mind. Some teachers focus on the traditional principals of Ujjai. While others will stop the class to teach the proper alignment for an asana or have us match up with partners. There is a sense of community and growth within the classes. I have been practicing for the past 6-weeks straight now and plan on extending my stay at Citizen Yoga. I am learning and growing every time I roll out my mat. It feels right and happy, as long as I am present.
Are you thinking about returning to your yoga practice? I would love to hear your story below!