I have been struggling lately in my yoga practice, trying to define what it means to me now.
When I first started practicing in 1998, I knew absolutely nothing about the history, purpose or various practices associated with yoga. I was in ignorant bliss and loved every minute of it!
As someone who never identified with being an athlete or particularly enjoyed sport, I was enchanted by this new relationship with my physical body. It became even more potent when I discovered it was stretching more than my muscles, tendons & ligaments; it was opening my mind and heart along with other lines of energy I am still curiously discovering. I had found a practice that allowed me to fully inhabit my inner hippie & let my freak flag fly! A practice where I could learn to love more and stand firmly in that love.
Those first few years I felt magnetically drawn to the studio and found a heart-seated home in the fragrance of Nag Champa, the chants for peace and love and, most surprisingly to me, the physical challenges; it was pure alchemy. I cannot remember a time that I didn’t leave that building on 14th Street feeling blissful.
When I moved to Bucks County, PA in 2002, there were paltry yoga offerings. I had to go to Princeton, NJ to practice prenatal yoga. It was wonderful to be back in a yoga studio, one led by a beautiful teacher who was quick to remind me why I loved this practice (and now got to share it with my unborn child).
It was a couple of years before I would walk into the Prancing Peacock which proved to be a fork in my yoga path. Still inhabiting beginners mind, I showed up regularly to unroll my mat and commune with the loving spirit of this space.
While I considered myself pretty loose with my yoga, a nomadic practitioner seeking many voices to discern my own within the din, the Prancing Peacock became my home. Wherever I roamed on this path, the Prancing Peacock’s doors were always open (along with many arms poised for hugs).
I did my first teacher training there in 2010, enriching my understanding with other trainings at Yogadharma & KEYoga, as well as various weekend workshops with national teachers. I felt like Alice, free-falling down the rabbit hole, losing myself, all the while knowing that journey stories always lead us home. Home, not in the external sense, but home in the way that waking up in your own body just feels right.
The last few years, I found the physical challenges less interesting. Meditation, chanting, philosophy and living in the spirit of the 8-limbs of yoga began to color my practice and teaching styles. I questioned the ways & whys we practice and with each new workshop or class I took, I found myself more confused. Inside that confusion, I didn’t realize I had lost the joy; not lost completely, just misplaced.
I think it’s important to emphasize that I had not realized that the romance had waned. I was in the habit of loving yoga (which I still did) but had stopped refreshing that love. Like any relationship, the nature of its origin will necessarily shift – it takes work and awareness to deepen the love beyond the romantic stage; while the quivers of the early days may fade, the potential for a more profound harmony is possible.
Fast forward to 2017 – nearly 1,000 hours of training, 1,500 hours of teaching, 19 years of practice, a husband, three kids and a dog later, I am back to Beginners Mind in a way much more like my first years on the mat than the Beginners Mind that kept me grounded in the interim years.
My formal practices had begun to suffer and I started getting messages from my body, ranging from low level stiffness & wonky knees to tingling and fatigue. I learned that I had a vitamin deficiency which contributed to these conditions, but more than that, I was guided back to my body & the practices that put me on this path.
I took class last night and found myself again. The bliss was back! Committed to deepening my relationship to myself on this winding yogic path, I woke up inspired to step back on my mat. Home practice has been inconsistent over the years, unnecessarily weighted down by distractions and excuses. Not today!
I created a well-lit space to unroll my mat and release past impressions. I moved through 30 minutes of deliberated flow, pausing to feel and allow my own guidance to find its voice, followed by 20 minutes of seated meditation, another 30 minutes of YIN, ending with an eight minute Sivasana.
These words I write are riding the bliss that brought me back home.
Like rolling into fetal pose (garbhasana) after corpse pose (sivasana), I get to start again!