How did yoga become part of your life? What led you to a devoted yoga practice?
When I was in High School, I opted to take French and other more academic classes in place of things like art, student success and gym. However, you had to have gym credits to graduate. My plan was to take summer gym because you got to camp and kayak and be in nature. Well senior year began and I was not keen on taking summer gym after graduating. So my Guidance Counselor suggested I take a physical fitness Post Secondary Education Option (PSEO) through Sinclair Community College. Thankfully, Yoga was an option.
Through that experience, at age 17, I discovered that my breath, my breathing, was inhibited. I felt relaxation benefits and experienced emotional release. Through this early experience with yoga, I began a relationship with my physical body, which led slowly and steadily to a changed relationship with my mind.
In my mid 20s I took a hiatus from the practice, and unfortunately the awareness of these new relationships. In retrospect, I am aware that I suffered from unresolved trauma. I began psychotherapy in 2017 and eventually found my way back to the practice of Yoga. I am so grateful for my early experience with Yoga as I believe it brought me closer to getting the help I needed.
What has surprised you about your yoga journey thus far.
When I began practicing again, in my 30s, my practice deepened quickly, as though I had not taken a hiatus. The relationship I developed with my body and then with my mind became intertwined and strengthened. Exploration of the mind body connection through Yoga and psychotherapy has increased my quality of life and connection to others.
I think I found this surprising, because even though I understood on a cognitive level that Yoga is more than asana, I did not fully embody that truth. So, yes, there were years I did not practice physical asana regualry. But the other wisdom and truths I learned could not be stripped away by lack of physical practice.
What is your favorite style of yoga to practice and why?
I like a slower paced Vinyasa flow. I enjoy linking breath and movement. I like the yang movement because it helps me to feel physically good in my body and the slower pace allows me time to work with my mind to release stories about the capabilities or limitations of my physical body.
I also love a restorative yoga class, because I have chronic physical pain due to chronic stress. I feel free to completely let go of the outside world and rest. I love the feeling of care from the teacher in these classes by providing props and adjustments and covering us with blankets. It feels so good to be cared for and be given explicit permission to let go and reset.
What activities outside of yoga do you also enjoy?
I enjoy walking on the bike path near my house. I am a Clinical Mental Health Counseling student and though school is a challenge, I enjoy learning about different theories and techniques in Trauma Informed Care. So, I listened to a lot of audiobooks with therapeutic content. This year, however, I began listening to fiction. I love fantasy and time travel themes. I enjoy spending a lazy sunny summer day at the river or pool listening to music and having drinks with friends and family. A real sucker for cookouts!
Do you have a favorite mantra or wisdom that you find especially useful?
One useful phrase we often turn into a joke in Yoga class is, “It’s all part of the practice.” But it really is. In both my yoga practice and psychotherapy I have practiced taking the opportunity to get compassionately curious with myself.. Maybe I get really mad at someone or become deeply sad when someone mistreats me. Instead of thinking only that they have wronged me, I ask what exploded within me or what wound has been touched? It is not our job to be constantly healing, or constantly improving ourselves, or to eliminate emotions like sadness or anger from the human experience (which is impossible by the way). However, compassionate curiousity has been a beneficial practice for me. I feel closer to authenticity and a deeper connection with life as a result of this practice.