Welcome to our online birthday party called celebrate12!
I just couldn’t grasp how this could be an effective “workout” and honestly, I thought it was rather pointless to sit on a mat and breathe. How boring! I did a few random yoga classes with friends from a groupon and a “free first class” here and there, but never liked it enough to go back.
A trusted friend recommended Evergreen Yoga Center during a time when it was critical for me to learn awareness of my mind and body. Some people are naturally intuitive about what they need emotionally and physically, while others need guidance on how to grow into an intuitive being. So, with a gentle nudge I compromised in trying yoga one more time. I suppose the hope was to either grow my awareness or to simply listen to the wise people around me and see what happens. In February 2014, I opened up my mat at Evergreen Yoga.
At first glance of the studio, I wondered why there were no mirrors and why do we use blankets? Are we going to take a nap? I really don’t have time for that! I was particularly interested in what could come of the ropes…..what kind of yoga is this?
There have been many twists and turns throughout my yoga journey, but I do distinctly remember a strange discomfort in Savasansa. During my first year, I often had had Leah place different weighted sandbags and bolsters over me when I was in Savasana which helped with my discomfort of being still. I felt more grounded, and was able to relax.
Leah showed me this picture of Mr. Iyengar which led me to more questions than answers.
I was grateful for being more grounded than ever before although still feeling pretty uncomfortable in my own body. This type of relaxation and grounding enabled me to slow me down and increase my awareness of the effects of my practice. This was the point in which I knew that yoga was an important part of my self-care.
Over time, I have come to understand that our “props” (what we use to support our poses at the yoga studio or the supports I choose to have in life) are there to help me meet myself where I am — without judgment. My props give me the confidence to get quiet enough to know when to move forward or when to simply just be.
Having no mirrors in the studio (which by the way, am a big fan of) helped minimize my distraction. I became less focused on the external, and learned to trust my inner being.
–Yoga is the ability to direct and focus mental activity.–
Yoga consists of keeping the mind quiet and wakeful so that one is totally present to what one is doing. Thoughts no longer rush forth of themselves in all directions, but are fully controlled and directed.
I’m thankful for my upcoming 5th year of yoga practice and all the ups and downs that have come with my learning. I continue to learn more about each pose that we practice. I discover new ways to use props and understand what things in life throw me off balance. I have a lot of energy in my yoga practice, but I now know that stillness tastes equally as satisfying.
I am currently on faculty at The University of Memphis and co-owner of Memphis Nutrition Group where I practice as a Certified Eating Disorder Dietitian. I have the privilege of helping people heal their relationship with food just as yoga has healed my relationship with bringing awareness to both my mind and body.
I regularly attend the Barefoot Bootcamp and the Saturday Level 2 class so I hope to see you around the studio. You might find me bringing friends to class, as I love to share yoga with others who are curious or craving for stillness just like I was.
So if you find yourself reading this blog post, or more importantly, attending classes, consider yourself in good hands at Evergreen Yoga Center.
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”
Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to describe yoga. Especially to new people who are asking questions about yoga. What is yoga? Will it help me lose weight? What do you do in a class? Why do you spend so much time teaching/studying/practicing?
When I first started thinking about how to describe yoga to people, my purpose was to come up with ways to “market” yoga and Iyengar Yoga. I wanted to help people find us, come to class, and introduce them to our practice.
I think about marketing sometimes. As a studio we depend on having students. Without students, there is no studio. And it is no secret that the practicalities of paying the rent, keeping the lights on, utilities and so forth are important considerations.
It is in the “marketing” of yoga where I get stuck. It’s hard to describe Iyengar Yoga to those who have not experienced it for themselves.
Of course, I could quote the benefits of yoga:
heal from injuries & chronic conditions.
I can cite articles with the scientific research backed by statistics on percentages of people who have achieved relief from pain and calmed their anxiety.
The usual attention-grabbing advertising words do not work here.
But there are benefits other than the surface ones. These are hard to describe.
Common advertising language has no words to describe yoga practice. Sure, the physical benefits attract people, but those who continue to practice over a period of months and years do so because the yoga gives them more than a healthy body.
Those who stick with it find something deeper. I could say “rich, deep, and profound.”
Even these descriptions fall far short of describing what yoga brings. Yoga is the ability to quiet the mind. It helps us provide a deeper experience of who we are — and we turn inward.
After 20 years of practice, I am just now starting to crave a deeper connection to myself…
Wanting to shift my attention inward. Wanting to focus less on the externals.
I have not always been interested in this.
It can be scary to go to an unfamiliar place. And spending time with myself and my ever-wandering mind has never souned appealing.
What will I find there? Maybe nothing. Maybe something I’d rather not see. Or maybe I can catch a glimpse of a new, less external (what am i wearing? how can I be fit?) way of living.
Inner connection has never been on my to-do list. Until now. And I can see that is a process — it comes in stages.
My first stage toward change has been to wish I wanted to.
And in the case of big changes, I am only capable of being willing to want to change.
These stages can last a very very long time before any real work happens.
I find myself in the middle of it now. Maybe you do too.
It helps to hear what others have to say on the subject.
Here’s what John O’Donohue, the Irish poet/philosopher says:
“The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you toward wisdom and holiness.” – O’Donohue
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” – Iyengar
“Can I do it?” you ask.
The answer is usually one of 4 things:
I don’t know.
The problem with asking “Can I?” is that it implies that there is a simple answer.
But a quest for personal growth & change can bring more questions than it does answers.
While “can I” can be an important thing to consider, there is another question that has given me more fulfillment in my practice. That question is:
“How can I?”
This shift in thinking comes straight out of my Iyengar Yoga learnings over the years.
It acknowledges I am looking toward change/growth.
It reminds me that I am not just “going for it” or “giving up.” I am seeking to improve.
The “can I” question makes things seem too pat. And they are not.
BKS Iyengar’s work illustrates that there is always a how.
In the how, we are encouraged to be curious and interested about our challenges. We are asked to challenge our judgements about what is possible. We can shift beyond judgement about what we can and cannot do. We get creative about what we might try now.
This kind of exploration leads to small steps toward what we are looking at. And any small step toward something put in front of us is one step closer than before.
Small steps add up to big changes.
Changes over time will lead to transformation.
This is precisely why I choose to study/practice Iyengar Yoga.
Yoga teaches us to go beyond the resignation of “I can’t.” Yoga moves us past “I can,” as we are asked to improve ourselves rather than maintain our status quo.
How can I grow at a pace that feels right for me at this time?
How can I work hard and let go of the outcome?
How can I keep moving forward when things seem to be at a standstill?
How can I keep from sliding backward into complacency?
How can I create more time to do the things I really want to do?
Creativity is required. The possibilities are endless.
I have found that these questions are a never-ending process that always takes me to a better place. Contemplating just one of these questions leaves me feeling stronger, positive, and more content.
I love that Iyengar Yoga practice moves me to a fresh perspective and a new part of life to explore
My recent shopping trip took me on an unexpected turn toward the existential.
It’s not every day one sees luck and faith available for purchase — and with faith on clearance.
The iphone in my pocket begged to take a picture. I would have loved sending it to Instagram (or Facebook or Twitter). And the right hashtag (#Targetfunny or #faithluckonsale) to underscore the experience.
But there were errands to run, and I thought maybe I’d circle back to the idea later on.
And just like any yoga nerd, I felt it lingering in the back of my mind.
Why couldn’t I just be contented with having a good laugh about it with my husband?
Because I have to create meaning out of the mundane, and often where this is none. That’s just how I roll.
Still, who wouldn’t be captivated?
I found the holy grail of a happy life – in the aisles of the East Memphis Target!
Clearly some sales executive higher-up deemed luck to be a little more valuable than faith. The powers-that-be slashed a few prices — and voila — the value of faith declined by 50%.
I knew the Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras had something to say about this and wondered if he’d also thrown in any ideas about luck.
So I looked it up.
I found some talk of faith. And very little on luck.
The word “faith” can be a loaded word for many. It can be seen as something religious or spiritual or even out-dated. It brings up early childhood experiences in incense-filled cathedrals and Jesus’ “faith of a mustard seed” speech.
Substituting the word “trust” has been a good alternative for me.
Trust can be something like a seed that develops little by little. BKS Iyengar says that trust comes with experience. He describes faith as “felt trust” and says that it is instinctive. And then develops with effort and reflecting on one’s own experience.
There have been times when I’ve found it hard to have trust or faith — even in my yoga practice.
But I still do it. (Yes, and sometimes even just think about doing it).
I see results. I understand faith through my experience. Over time, I am able to believe that yoga can be of help. And that makes faith worth something to me.
As for luck, I’ve seen a lot of it. I’ve been at the right place at just the right time too often to doubt my good luck.
Luck can provide valuable resources. But I’ve found that, unlike faith or trust, there are very few actions I can take to create more luck.
Except maybe shop at Target, and be willing to pay full price.
For me, the keys to any transformative practice are:
PRACTICE + TIME.
Iyengar Yoga appeals to me precisely because it promises no quick fixes & promises that you will face many challenges.
In fact, one of the main ideals espoused in ancient yoga texts speaks right to this:
“The practice of yoga is firmly established when cultivated consistently, with devotion over a prolonged period of time.” (Sutra 1.14 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali)
Yoga explains the experience of serenity, provides recommendations for overcoming obstacles, and outlines practices to de-clutter your mind.
The ongoing practice of discovery is where I find the benefits of practice.
Through yoga, I remember and re-remember that living the life I want takes time, effort, and a lot of commitment. I learn over and over how I can relate to any obstacles in new ways. I bump up against my stuck places, and yoga practice helps me consider what’s behind the stuck-ness.
Spend just a few minutes on the Internet, and you’ll find 5 easy steps to any intractable problem or diagnosis. Usually, the faster I move to solve a problem (without seeking to understand) only exacerbates the original problem.
Here’s an antidote to “10 easy steps:”
“[Yoga] aims to map out a path that all may follow. It offers advice, methods, and a philosophical framework at a level that even a newcomer to the practice of yoga may grasp. It does not offer shortcuts or vain promises to the gullible…the light that yoga sheds on life is something special. It is transformative. It does not just change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees. It brings knowledge and elevates it to wisdom.”
–BKS Iyengar in his book Light on Life.