Reflection of a Yoga Student: 10 Years of Practice

I first began my yoga practice with a Rodney Yee DVD in my parent’s basement. It was 2008, and I had just graduated college with a degree in psychology, but unsure of future career prospects. Peppered with uncertainty, as well as the bleak reality of the 2008 economic downturn, I knew it was time to start exploring what my options were, and what path I ultimately wanted to take in my career. I had never done yoga before, and always assumed I would find it slow and boring. I was always into sports and fitness and relied on distance running and fast paced (Old school- think Tae Bo) workouts. I was quite literally stuck on the idea that fast-paced workouts were the only way forward. But I thought I would give yoga a try- it was trendy, cool, and touted as having both mental and physical benefits II purchased the Power Yoga DVD and began to learn the basic sun salutations. My relationship to fitness DVDs was straightforward-watch it, do the work out, and repeat. At first, this was my pattern with the yoga DVD as well. But after a few weeks of the practice, I started to become curious. My body and mind were feeling strong. Although I wasn’t focused on calorie burning, my body was feeling healthier. This marked some of the first steps into my yoga journey.

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Tree pose in Serengeti NP, Tanzania. Yoga has been an incredible tool in my anthropology work.

We don’t normally pay a lot of attention to our breath, despite the fact that it literally gives us life. In any of the fast-paced workouts, I would rely on my breath, but I just didn’t think about it. Yoga’s breath to movement pairing was only of the first times I had ever thought about controlling my breath. The power of connecting your breath, your awareness, to movement in your body, was a huge step in my yoga journey.

I had to get over the idea that certain styles of yoga held power that others didn’t, when in fact, all were powerful.

Initially, I explored yoga styles that largely mirrored the fitness thinking I was indoctrinated with. Power yoga, hot yoga, and strong vinyasa flows were all styles I explored. I moved to Chicago where I started to clean a studio n in a trade for classes. This allowed me to experience other styles, and I was surprised by effectiveness and benefits of each. I had to get over the idea that certain styles of yoga held power that others didn’t, when in fact, all were powerful. I moved to the West Coast for graduate school and took my yoga practice with me. When I found a studio to practice in and used YouTube to explore online yoga teachers and classes. I took yoga wherever I travelled and relied on it to stay relaxed and healthy. I eventually found the opportunity to study yoga and become a qualified teacher. Even as a yoga teacher, I find that I am also a student. I learn from other teachers, from students, and from the ebb and flow of challenges in life. Yoga has become a tool that I will continue to carry with me.

Okay, so the take home point: Yoga became a part of my life, but it didn’t happen quickly. It is taken me years to realize many of the benefits. Although yoga gives you tools to use, you have to practice them. This is one of the biggest lessons I have learned: your yoga is up to you. You are your own guide, and at times, your own obstacle. Sometimes you have to trust the unknown, believe in yourself, and just take action.

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