Yoga continues to rise in popularity. When celebrities like Adam Levine and Robert Downy Jr. are gracing the covers of magazines in beautiful poses and toting the Mind/Body benefits of the practice, why wouldn’t we all jump in and give it a shot?
My journey was a little different. I toyed with Yoga off and on for many years. As an Exercise Physiology major, I had to learn about all activities and found some fascination in Yoga since it was such a far cry from what my usual high energy workouts entailed. It became my “go to” activity anytime there was a problem with my body. Kind of like prayer, for some people.
I hit a major roadblock a few years ago with my running. I had a serious knee injury and everyone from my surgeon to my physical therapist was telling me that I needed to quit running all together. They had varying ideas as to the origin of my knee problem, but the one common denominator was my tight hips. So, like I had always done – I turned to my rescue of Yoga. This time was different though. I actually began to enjoy it. The classes I was taking were at my local gym. The music was upbeat, and the classes were challenging. These classes were more closely matched to those high energy workouts I was always seeking.
I remember the swirling thoughts in my mind about what I needed to do to arrive as a real Yogi. The first and foremost to me at that time was to nail all the poses. Even if my body wasn’t ready, I was going to try to get into that Forearm Balance if it was the last thing I’d ever do! Ok, so I muscled through the poses. Now it was time to start looking the part. Perhaps a few headbands, maybe even a tattoo? Ok – check. Next, let me get this breath thing down. “Inhale as I rise, exhale as I fold – focus on the breath.” Ok, good. Now what? Well, if I’m going to be a real Yogi, I better venture out of the gym and go to studios. Isn’t that the big time? I’ll buy some Groupons and explore all of these high end studios and even hit up some of the huge venues like the Sedona Yoga Festival and Yoga Rocks the Parks. Yeah, now I even know some of the big “Yoga Locals.” And of course I must read all of the popular Yoga books like Autobiography of a Yogi and the Bhagavad Gita.
One final hump to tackle and then I will arrive – TEACHER TRAINING! I will learn everything that I need to know about teaching this practice that I have now fallen in love with. After all, I spent 15 years teaching group fitness before – why not teach this?
So I did it. I dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s to become a real Yogi. It was all going as planned…..
Until I realized that none of that matters. Although every step of the way added flavor to my journey – none of them made me a real Yogi.
The fact is, this whole journey is simply a learning process. Along the way, I have continued to learn more about myself and about the world around me. I’ve learned about the things I need to work on within myself, and the things I have to offer to the world.
Any of the outward expressions I made along the way, were simply that – a statement to those around me that I was trying. And that is ok. But, I’m at a point in my journey where I realize that for me – it really is an inward process. One that teaches me about compassion, love, acceptance and understanding.
I wouldn’t change one thing about my journey as it was mine and mine alone. But as a current teacher of the practice, I do know this – whatever journey you take will be just as real and exactly what you need. Because in the end, it is not the poses, the clothes, going to studios or large events, who you know, what you portray or your outward expression at all. It is what you experience internally and the offering of the beautiful gifts you unfold to those around you.
“To smile more than we frown, to listen more than we talk, to show kindness more than frustration, acceptance more than judgment and love more than hate. To me, that is what it means to be a real Yogi and I can it do any place and any time.
In the meantime, I have found my place on the mat and am fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful souls everyday at the amazing gym I call home.
So I surrender to the journey. Namaste!