14 years ago Yoga found me, as it usually finds everyone, by accident. It wasn’t on my radar. I had all kinds of irrational assumptions about it, and I plainly didn’t see the point of it. Stretch, breath, meditate – Yikes! All of this related in no way to my usual miles of marathon training or strength conditioning. Who wants to waste an hour being quiet and contemplative?!
I took the class. I was a disaster. Anxiously watching everyone else, hiding out in the bathroom when the dreaded head-stand was offered. Only to find that upon my return the teacher suggested she assist me with the pose. After several failed attempts, she quietly yet not-so-quietly informed me in front of the entire class that my body is riddled with fear, I’m emotionally not there yet to successfully achieve the pose. I left and didn’t go back. Yoga was exactly what I thought it was. A pretentious group of people, propped up on their muted colored yoga mats like little statues wanting desperately to be admired, but pretending like they were humble and loving. It wasn’t until four years after that first class, did I have the courage to attempt a second. The second was not me taking a class, but teaching it! A local Gold’s gym needed a yoga instructor…no qualifications! Yup, that’s right! Thanks to YouTube for the 20 min. tutorial, I landed myself a job and taught three classes per week over the course of four years. During that time, I fell in love with yoga because it fell in love with me first. Week after week, 15-20 people filled the mirror-laden fitness room to escape from to-do lists, the spin class music that still thumped through the wall next door, and the screaming toddler in the child-care room. In that hour I was the one to hold this space, or more accurately to be the facilitator of holding this space. That job, as inept as I was at teaching at the time, brought me into full awareness that people needed yoga. They came week after week, placed their mat in the same spot, took the same deep breath upon entering the room, and presented the same tired eyes and half smiles. That space, with my high school yoga degree and those rubber islands, were all we needed for our yoga. And it was beautiful because it was simple, present, and everything I wished it was when I took my first class years before at the upstairs Jersey Shore Fitness Shop in Belmar, NJ.
Let me entertain you as I compare yoga to Italian cooking. Here’s the truth: as humans, we complicate things. We make the natural, regular recipes of life with far too many ingredients. My grandmother’s marinara has six ingredients, that’s it, just six. I’ve never thought to add more or take away less. It’s a balance of nostalgia and comfort all in the process and in the pot. Its taste brings warm feelings, love, and the savory remembrances of family dinners and the anticipation of dinner to be had. Yoga, just like the sauce, does not need to be complicated. It’s as good and as constant as the way it was created thousands of years ago. And those six ingredients can actually be boiled down to one. That ingredient: Love. To practice yoga is to love yourself and to teach it is to humble oneself to love others. It’s a calling, a place of serving, a place where as the teacher you become a vessel of emotion and faith-inspired themes that mystically present themselves during the energetic fluidity of the practice.
But here we are heading into 2018, more concerned with LuLu Lemon attire, drinking a beer WHILE nailing our warrior one, quieting our minds in our heavy metal yoga class, and practicing with goats and ON horses. Basic Marinara yoga has turned into a full on Italian antipasto comprised of every kind of olive and spiced meat beyond prosciutto. And to add as a disclaimer, I’m not judging as much as I am questioning why we have had to take things to this measure? Let’s instead sift through the sand and stones (as useful as they are in other circumstances) in order to reveal the hidden pearls. Challenge yourself to become consciously aware of the why in your practice. Notice where the ego presents itself and where the higher consciousness and self-love reveal their quiet agendas. And don’t be afraid to feel. To feel all of the raw, crazy, unbounded emotion that is revealed in every 60 minute story you allow yourself to unfold.
Yoga is yoga. It’s basic, it’s pure, and it’s seen in every first breath a newborn takes upon entering the world. These tiny, taintless humans exhibit some of the most beautiful yoga in the world. Their bodies naturally move through poses; child’s pose, down dog, attempted inversions, cat/cow, and happy baby among countless others. They weren’t formally taught these poses in a Baby Yoga class. Instead they are intuitively aware of both the physical connection (more importantly) the energetic core of their unique being. The further we grown-ups move from this place of natural awareness, the more we allow the daily disruptions of life to define who we think we should be. We wear to-do lists, challenges, and burdens like badges of honor. We share our war stories and show the scars to prove them. And what’s worse is that we bring this ALL to the mat. How do I know this? I know because it’s a ball of yarn I’m still unraveling every time I arrive to my mat. I’ve learned that the ball of entwined gold string has created me and every thread comprises my full and complete being. Am I ashamed that I do not better reflect who I was during my first few years of life? No. Besides, that’s impossible! The stuff between then and now has made me who I am and it’s allowed yoga to wrap it’s arms around me every single time I find myself on my own private island.
The message: allow yoga to be just what it is. A mysterious blend of healing guided through fragile vessels just like you and me. Be quiet and don’t be afraid. And just like gold, one of the most precious metals on earth, allow yourself to shine and be valued, because there is NOTHING or ANYONE as beautiful as the love you give to yourself.