Monday, January 30, 2012

inside out...

Yoga practitioners each come to yoga for some reason.  I just wanted to lose some weight..that's all.  Before yoga, I'd been running 2 hours nearly every day, in efforts to stay slim, hiding the damage I was doing from my weekly or daily binges.  I was ravaging my body from the inside out...and from the outside in.  It was a violence to myself and actions ground in fear.  Enter Bikram Yoga a few weeks before my 38th birthday (I'm 46 now).  After many months of a friends persistent suggestions that I try it ("uh..I need a real workout, okay?", I told her.  I'd dabbled in some yoga videos and classes about 15 years ago, but never really connected with it), I tried an intro-week of classes and a bridge from fear to joy was under construction.

Yoga is physical indeed...and it certainly is a major factor in the way I look...and yes the physical benefits are still one of the reasons I practice yoga.  But asanas, or postures/poses, are only a small tip of the vastness that is yoga.  Yes, yoga classes can help us reduce stress, and become stronger and more flexible and lose and/or maintain a healthy weight.   After 8 years of a dedicated practice, plus this past weekend's intensive classes with John Friend and several hundred other yogis and yoginis, it is becoming clearer to me that one of the most beautiful effects of my yoga practice is the power it has to infuse into my life, illuminating patterns of thoughts and behaviors.  The power of potential.  Of awareness.  Of perception (not perfection).  Of change.

This has been a challenging path to say the least; however, this nonlinear, bumpy ride has had a beauty around it since breathing in that first possibility in my first yoga class.  I never dreamed I'd be teaching or pursuing my holistic nutrition certification one day.  I just wanted to lose some weight... to sweat.  I wanted to shrink..physically, not grow emotionally or spiritually.  It's scary to change.  We get caught up in patterns (samskaras) and uncomfortable as they may be, they create deep grooves of familiarity inside and are hard to give up.  For me, the familiarity of the misery was less scary than the unknown..even if that unknown could mean living in joy and abundance.

The focus of this past weekend's event was Igniting the Center, focusing on the global shift that is taking place in our world and how that shift first must begin within us individually.  The asana practices were artistically woven around this theme, with the challenges of physically aligning the body in ways to strengthen and heal, while never losing focus on the intention of the weekend.  John began each class discussing some pretty intense concepts in terms that were understandable for the average person while honoring their complexity and importance.  Flowing through the asanas, I embraced these themes inside, on a cellular level, mentally, emotionally, and energetically, as I worked to engage my muscles, honor my alignment and intentions.  To find the stillness and joy in each pose while acknowledging what could be conceived as chaos all around is a challenge, indeed.  To welcome the light and the dark, without attaching judgment to either is a feat as well.  Perhaps one of the greatest gifts I received this weekend was the simplicity and beauty of simply enjoying savasana, or corpse pose after each practice, something I often skip in the busyness of my days and my home practice.

It's been a while since I wrote.  Life has been happening...receiving my holistic nutrition certification, dental woes (and bills), housemate transitions, a nondescript birthday, family challenges of an elderly mom,  leaving a a yoga studio where I'd worked for over 8 years, an incredible teacher training, Grounded Kids, and, if I am honest, the roller coaster ride of emotions that I now accept has been flavored with mild situational depression.  The intensive weekend of yoga workshops, practicing alongside hundreds of practitioners, clarified this process even more clearly: the dark and light doesn't necessarily equate to "good" and "bad".  While I've found myself faced with situations that bring up an old thought pattern or behavior, I've not always been successful in approaching them from an emotionally evolved lens.  In other words, old patterns can and sometimes do come back.  For me, it shows in my body and in my thoughts and actions.

This past weekend was enlightening, joyous, educational, and emotionally and physically challenging.  It allowed me to see and heal some old wounds without judgment.  It was a way to clarify and honor the shifts that have occurred and to breathe in the possibilities of the change yet to come.  Listening, learning, embracing a beginner's mind, gave me hope that it is possible to eventually clear past memories, creating new ones.  Practicing alongside hundreds of other yoga practitioners, some who had been friends for years, others who I'd never met, felt like being wrapped in unconditional love.

Yoga means I am open to changing the way I see the world.  Yoga helps to release the attachment to the "story" I've created and be open to change my perception.  I am once again reminded me that surrender is not about giving up or losing.  Surrender is about ending the war.  It all begins within.

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