Happy International Yoga Day! Today is such a special day. It is also the summer solstice and the longest day of the calendar year. A chance to soak in as much love and sunshine that your heart can handle. I thought today would be the perfect day to talk about my thoughts on the accessibility of yoga for everyBODY and talk about my own yoga journey as student and teacher of the practice.
Yoga means so many things to me. With each passing moment, I am learning more about this practice and the impact that it has on our lives. Most of this impact happens while our yoga mat sits rolled up in the corner or car. Let’s face it, our practice does us no good if we don’t apply it to other areas of our life where we spend most of our time and exert most of our energy. I’m talking work, relationships and the time we spend engaging in self-care. We are also more likely keep the habit of practicing up if we tie it to something real and meaningful. So, having a yoga butt is not enough. We practice yoga to FEEL all of the things. The warm and fuzzy feel good stuff and the rough and messy get me the hell out of here stuff. It’s all good in yoga and our mat never judges us. We truly have an opportunity to get to know ourselves in such a raw and real way through practicing yoga…if we are doing it right.
I took my first yoga class at a karate studio up the block from my Manhattan College dorm in 2004. I had no idea what I was doing and the dedicated runner that I was wanted to flee the scene about 90 seconds into class. I knew I felt really good after class and turned to my friend and roommate, Kelly, (yes we have the same name…we are adorable) and we both felt something different – a type of euphoria that we hadn’t felt before. Almost like we could run for hours or literally do anything we wanted to do (within reason!). I put yoga on the back burner after this class and dabbled a bit here and there. Years later, I began practicing at home with some of Sara Ivanhoe’s Crunch fitness DVD’s (side note: I actually had the privilege of meeting Sara and taking her Philosophy of Yoga workshop at Twist Yoga in Oregon a little over a year ago. It was quite the thrill to meet her in person. Nerd alert!). Then, I found Yoga to the People in 2010, while I was completing my internship in mental health counseling. I fell instantly in love with the vinyasa practice and never before felt so free in my body. Free from the calorie counter on the treadmill and using exercise as a way to alter myself. Now, movement was a way to get closer to myself, not run away. I completed the Yoga to the People teacher training in 2013 and met the most amazing people that are bringing all kinds of beautiful gifts into the world as we speak. It was my honor and privilege to learn from and practice beside them. I practiced there until I moved to the west coast in 2015. When I returned to YTTP recently about a month ago (this time at the San Francisco studio), I felt as if I had come home again. I left so much and took so much from those studios on St. Marks Place and 38th Street.
Today, my classes are definitely slower and more mindful…both as teacher and student. As I approach my 35th birthday in a few weeks, I’ve realized that I’m quite a bit slower in general. I still love a strong practice, but it feels so good to go easier on myself. It’s not a linear journey, but I rest when I’m tired and I take advantage of the moments when I feel strong. Just like the seasons, I fluctuate. I am not one thing or another. I am evolving and yoga is the beam of light that guides me on my path. My ultimate goal is to bring the gift of accepting yourself for who you are, no matter how long you can hold plank pose or how perfectly formed your handstand is, to you guys. It was never about the poses or the aesthetics. You can spend an entire yoga class in child’s pose or seated on a blanket and I hope you do someday. Giving yourself the gift of what you need when you need it is one of the highest practices in yoga. Another is releasing any guilt or judgement associated with listening to your intuition.
If you have been thinking about starting up a yoga practice, I am here to tell you that the time is now. You are already a yogi because you are contemplating growth and stepping outside of your comfort zone. If you need some help figuring out where to start, drop me a comment or an email. Yoga is for everyone. Today we celebrate the union between us all through this beautiful practice of permission. Permission to be who we are, love who and what we love and to live this perfectly imperfect life to the fullest.
See you on the mat!