Sunday, May 18, 2014

What Yoga Means to Me

I just completed my final workshop for my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Mark Stephens at Santa Cruz Yoga Center.  My heart is a bit heavy because I'm sad to see it end.  Of course, I realize this is actually a beginning, but we've grown to love and enjoy everyone in our group. Our class had 20 students and we all went through the first 100 hours together in January and February.  And we have pretty much all been around the additional workshops for the past 3 months.  Some students have had illness or work ventures take them away, but we've kept those bonds going somehow, as well.

I remember Mark saying to us as we sat on our mats that first day something like, "Look around the room.  You will become close friends as you embark on this path of teacher training together."  I thought to myself, "How is that so?"  And then I watched it happen -- pretty quickly actually.

One of our Midterm questions was  "What to you does it mean to do yoga?"

I want to share my response with you.  As you might be able to tell from the title of my blog and many of my past posts, I love a variety of approaches to physical fitness.  But yoga has reached in and touched me more deeply inside.  For that reason, I've loved teaching it and have longed to share it with others.
For me, to do yoga is to explore my body and my mind simultaneously.   There are many forms of exercise that I love, but none of them resonate with me beyond the practice like yoga does.  When I do yoga, I am able to release my mind throughout the asanas (postures) and through the breath. I am able to explore where my mind tends to go and either redirect or or loosen it.  This is quite a freeing experience for me and I always enjoy it.  It separates me from my usual day and my usual thought patterns.  At the same time, I am able to find postures that challenge me, make me push myself in ways that I don’t always welcome, and discover that I can do more than I realize.  I also find much pleasure in the release of postures that increase flexibility, especially in seated hip openers and back bends.  And I find joy and peace when I allow all of the postures to resonate in my body in that blissful final resting pose.
But after the yoga practice has come and gone, yoga extends beyond the mat for me.  I learn lessons through each experience on the mat that I carry with me throughout the day.  I learn to let go when I might normally hang onto tension or unfruitful thoughts.  I am able to step away from my thoughts to explore what is happening before I continue to react.  I am able to slow my breathing and enjoy the moments of each day much more.
I know that many see yoga as a stretching practice and that's part of it.  But there's much more.  If you haven't clicked with yoga in the past, try another class with a different teacher or try one of the many dvds that I love. You may just find it blessing your life for many years to come.

P.S.  (I'll give a larger list of yoga dvds another day, but here are some past posts of some of my favorite yoga dvds:  Altar of the Heart with Tilak Pyle, Inhale with Steve Ross, Timesaver yoga dvds, and a quick mentioning of several favorite yoga dvds).

Photos by Suzie's Farm Creative Commons

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