People often ask me, “Why did you become a yoga instructor?” Everyone has a story. Listening to each other shows us what we have in common as well as what makes each of us unique. Life changes us. We live, we learn, we grow; it is an ongoing process. Putting our experiences into words helps us to digest them and understand why we do the things we do. Passing along the lessons we’ve learned can make it easier for those who follow. Growth experiences are interesting and are meant to be shared.
Looking back, I now recognize that I ‘played’ at yoga as a kid. Kids do yoga naturally, even if they don’t know what it is called. But, like many others, I grew up and forgot. I stayed active with sports in school and continued to run after graduation because it kept me slim and helped me to be calm. It seemed like a good thing, but as with everything, it depends on how we do it. An out of balance ‘good’ thing can become a ‘bad’ thing. Joking that it ‘killed’ me to run was my way of saying that each step was pounding away fat. Actually, running too much and neglecting to eat nutritious food to replace the nutrients I was burning was ‘killing’ the cartilage in my joints. It never occurred to me that I was naturally thin and it would not be necessary to run myself into the ground if I did not eat junk food. Since I could not picture a life without the running that had become so incredibly important, I kept going even though it hurt – wearing away the cartilage and developing arthritis and a bone spur that immobilized the joint. Now the toe that doesn’t bend reminds me to listen to my body.
Many people, like myself, come to yoga because of injuries. In addition to the progressing toe damage, a knee injury required a temporary running ‘lay-off.’ And this became my motivation to actually try yoga after talking about it for several years. A friend encouraged me to try it with her, and initially I didn’t like it at all – the only reason I went back was because I had already paid for the whole series of classes. The second class still felt uncomfortable because I had no experience with focusing inward. The instructor wisely said to give it at least three tries before making any decisions, and after the third class, I did finally start to notice that there was something going on that felt pretty darn good. This shift gave me my first inkling that running might not be the best option for me – that yoga just might be the thing that could lead me toward a more balanced lifestyle…
During that first year of yoga I began to consider yoga instructor training due to a coincidence of changing circumstances. My favorite instructor told me she was moving away at about the same time my youngest child was preparing to leave for college. The replacement teacher was nothing like my original teacher, and for that I thank her, otherwise I may have been a perpetual student. If you have not found an instructor who suits you, keep looking or “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Yoga was already helping my body, mind and spirit.
Yes, yoga addresses more than the physical body, but to quote Donna Fahri, I was one of those who ‘entered the yoga room through the door marked physical.’ In the beginning, I was very proud of my strength and still very focused on ‘the body.’ But, yoga is actually the science of the mind, and luckily as my body aged my studies and practice deepened. Over time, my emphasis evolved to become more peaceful and inward. It took me awhile to embrace the entire ‘eight-limbed yoga path.’ And that is okay – gradual change is sustainable change. Yoga provides the right conditions and growth happens in its own time, like the rising sun – little by little it comes.
Over the years, my friends, family and fellow yogis have been dealing with their own issues. I’ve seen how yoga helps with so many things – arthritis, stress, back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, breast cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, fibromyalgia, digestive problems, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease …
I wanted to expand my knowledge to find ways to assist before things manifested into full-blown issues – to focus on prevention and wellness. I was searching for a system that would blend with yoga and would help me help myself and others to live a life of balance – and through that search I found Ayurveda.
Yoga is the science of the mind, and Ayurveda, as the science of daily life, is all about simple, natural, inexpensive daily self-care routines that lead to longevity. They are sister sciences, and they are also both recognized by the medical community as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In yoga, we bring awareness to our movements and our breath to balance the pairs of opposites within us. In Ayurveda, when we expand that awareness to see that those pairs of opposites also exist in the world around us, and that we can find balance in all of the things we do each day. These daily choices become our practice. The times that I fall away from my practice, for whatever reason, remind me of how well this practice does work. So I begin again.
I have learned so much and met so many incredibly talented people since I began my training; inspiring teachers and teachings, sister searchers, enthusiastic students, young people who are so much more aware of themselves than I was at their age… I love to bask in the light of an inspired teacher, I love to share the light of what I’ve learned, and I love to see the light come into the face of someone who understands. Learning is an ongoing process; that is why I like it so much. There is always more to learn, always more to share!