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Yoga Journey: Month 1

The first weekend of September initiated my 9-month therapeutic 200-hour yoga teacher certification with Sandy Eimers, owner of Balance Yoga Lounge in Ankeny.  I decided to become certified to learn more about yoga as a philosophy, and become a better MBSR teacher in Des Moines, but more importantly, to dive deeper into self-exploration through yoga (Sanskrit for “yoke” – union of body, mind, heart and divine/source/oneness) so that I can basically be a better version of me, both for myself for those around me. I chose Sandy’s training because she limits the class to 10 people, and views yoga as a healing modality; a way to get more in touch with the nature of the mind and body, how to be more present and awake to this one, crazy life we have.

Yoga is life, literally, not just a series of exercises to make your abs flatter or your butt firmer.  It’s a journey into yourself, if you’re brave enough to go there.

Each month we have reflection and home practice to work on. Our main assignment is to practice yoga for 40 days…in a ROW.  My first thought was “Yikes!”  If I forget, or simply don’t practice, I go back to day 1 and begin again. Sounds harsh, but actually, the mercy in this is that all I had to start with was just 7 minutes.  My mind went….”Oh, but I’m so BUSY (aka the supposed badge of honor we all carry around) how am I going to fit THIS in too?… I guess I can do anything for 7 minutes.”  The idea is to build the foundation a “having a yoga practice”….not just “practicing yoga.”  As Sandy wisely described,

“It is literally impossible to effectively share yoga as a healing art if you have not experienced its power yourself.”

So, I’m on day 17 and pleasantly surprised I haven’t had to “calendar” it in, I’ve just done it.  And what’s been interesting, I’ve only practiced exactly 7 minutes the very first day.  Most times, it’s 10, 20, even 30 minutes during the week, longer on weekends. Of course it has to be right after my feet hit the floor in the morning, before the sun, the beloved coffee, before shower, otherwise the current of the day carries me away with it, and before I know it, it’s 9pm and I fall in a heap on my bed. 

Starting the day pausing on purpose, finding my center, and starting from there, creates more expansion in my day and I don’t feel so rushed and anxious about what’s next.  I did a podcast on meditation with one of my MBSR participants.  He mentioned that life is always the same speed – it’s the wanting it to be slower, or needing things to be different than they are, this constant psychological struggle with time that is one of the causes of anxiety.  How he explained it struck a chord in that moment — Intellectually, I know that life is always at the same speed – there’s 24 hours in a day for all of us…. but anxiety is what arises when we want it to be different. Or we cram too much in and we feel like we don’t have enough time. I’ve noticed that practicing yoga and meditation helps with this feeling of helplessness.

“By staying oriented toward the process rather than the result, progress and openness come naturally. Stay focused on the daily process of opening and generating energy. When we create space in our lives, we naturally find more balance.”  – Unknown

Another insight – Sandy invited us to start with SOMETHING, on the mat, ANYTHING.  It didn’t have to be traditional “asanas,” we could just lay there for 7 minutes if we wanted to.  What was most important was beginning to create a container for ourselves on the mat and becoming aware of the nature of body/mind.  A little home base so to speak.  The perfectionist-striver I am, I carry this “go hard or go home” mentality, and if I don’t do something perfectly, then, well, what’s the point?  (Ugh…that’s a tough one to let go of for some reason.)  

It was SO liberating giving myself permission to do whatever came up, as imperfect as it was or looked, for whatever was needed in that moment – aka self-care…again, I teach this stuff!  Not having to create a beautiful shape or do it the right way, whatever that may be. It’s so funny because I share with my participants in MBSR that yoga can just be another ordinary thing in our day, not something special to have to attain, strive for, or to get to a certain special state of mind.  Yoga meets you where you are, if you let it.  I think an important piece is coming home to the body, back to myself, over and over and over….actually experiencing it to the core, KNOWING it directly, rather than conceptually in the mind.

Reminding myself that this is my true home, this is where I reside – “oh, there you are.”  For me, that’s a process of forgetting and remembering every single day…like a reset button.  That’s why they recommend it every day…huh.

“By training the mind, anyone can learn to step in and change old ways of thinking and that is the central principle of yoga.”  – Unknown

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