Immersion, the path of a budding yogi

If you have been reading this blog aka the thought dump for any length of time or follow me on any of the social media channels, you probably figured out by now that I really like yoga. It wasn’t always that way and the truth is I don’t like yoga; I like how yoga makes me feel both in the moments I am practicing and more importantly after I leave the mat. In almost four years, I have gone from needing to carry a bottle of Bach’s Rescue Remedy with me at all times and knowing that at any minute I could fall prey to a panic attack so bad that the only recourse was a trip to the ER. Where after a slew of tests, the not so amused ER physician would come back to tell me that I wasn’t dying and send me on my way with some Ativan.

Yoga has brought me a sense of peace and mental well-being that even physician prescribed medications couldn’t bring. Therapy made me aware of my issues and taught me about my triggers but it seemed that the older I got, the list of triggers grew to the point that neither therapy nor medications were able to give me the tools to live the life that I wanted and desperately needed. Instead they created for me a world of dependency and left me with side effects I really didn’t want.

I am a reluctant yogi, I am a Black woman with Southern Baptist roots and a most decidedly Christian lean (liberal Christian, but still very Christian). I think it’s safe to say that you don’t see a lot of Christians in a yoga class and if you do, they often aren’t willing to divulge that tasty tidbit. Trust me, I get it. To admit you are a Christian especially in certain settings is often an invitation to have others remind you of how unenlightened you are…

So it is might be surprising that someone with such a lean not only ends up falling in love with yoga but starts off on a new path. This weekend was the first step in what I hope will eventually be the path to teaching yoga. To be blunt, I think we need nonstandard issue yoga teachers or rather teachers that don’t fit the current idea of what one thinks of when they think of a yoga teacher and as Black woman and a Christian with a 40 year old body that is decidedly fluffy, that would be me.

This weekend though was my first real step in the journey, one that I have been discussing with a few select friends and my own teacher since last year.  A moment I didn’t even think was possible since with my schedule and lack of funds, who was I to dream such a seemingly silly dream.  Hell, I couldn’t even bring myself to attempt a headstand until a few weeks ago!  Yet today, I finished the first 25 hours of my 100 hours of Immersion workshop. (After this first 100 hours, I will do another 100 hours focused on the process of teaching)

Catching the sun before set up in the studio
Catching the sun before set up in the studio

Let me just say it’s been a weekend. For starters Saturday and Sunday started at 7am, now for most folks being up and alert at that time of day isn’t a big deal but I am not most people. I am not a morning person, throw in the fact that there was to be no caffeine on the premises and you can understand why I was more than a little nervous. Me sans coffee is not a pretty sight but I threw caution to the wind and came in with a travel mug of coffee. Talk about feeling awkward, at 6:55am everyone else is sipping their herbal tea looking quite ethereal and here I am monitoring that travel mug like a dying person looking at the morphine drip praying it doesn’t run out too soon.

Twenty folks willingly giving up an entire weekend (and a bunch more in the future) including Friday night and bonding over a desire to go deeper in their personal practice is a beautiful thing though and let me tell you, regular classes don’t prepare you for such an experience.  It was an emotional, spiritual and very physical experience.  I got a little cocky, allowed my ego to get in the way today and I have the aching shoulder to go with it. The mat is life; get too high up on the horse and it knocks you down and makes you take stock. It was a good weekend though even with the vegan vittles, I am pretty sure I have enough gas in me to fuel a few cars.

A few of tasty vittles...they were good, just that some bacon would have been better.
A few of tasty vittles…they were good, just that some bacon would have been better.

 

There were a few awkward moments especially during the discussion on food choices and my confession to the group that I like bacon. Hey, I have walked the vegetarian path and I might even end up going back to it but at the moment, I strive for moderation. But I was also reminded that this path for me is not about fitting into a premade box but creating my own box if I so choose to go into any box at all.

Despite the uncomfortable moments and it has become clear that uncomfortable will be a part of this journey, I love it…I love it all. So I give thanks to my teachers and their teachers and all that made sure that these practices could be handed down. Now let me get that salve so I can get a little relief.

My teacher, her teachers include   Gurudev Yogi Amrit Desai and Sri Dharma Mittra
My teacher, her teachers include Gurudev Yogi Amrit Desai and Sri Dharma Mittra

Quieting my mind…reflections on a week of yoga

We live in a world where busy is king and many of us worship at the altar of multitasking. I know personally there are times when I feel almost as if I am a slacker when I admit that I need regular down time and that to be honest too much “busy” makes me feel out of control. For so long I tried to use my online time as my “me” time but the truth is while being online is fun and a great way to avoid life and work at times, it is hardly the quiet rejuvenating time that I need to feel balanced. Too much time spent online actually makes me anxious as I end up consuming way too much news and energy from others. Even the daily latte is not truly relaxation in a cup though it is mighty damn tasty.

Last weekend I found myself journaling and asking myself what could I do daily to keep myself rooted and grounded and relaxed. Go to a yoga class everyday was what wrote I in my journal and I immediately dismissed the idea, after all how could I possibly fit in a yoga class every day? Now I enjoy doing yoga at home on my mat but I find going to class keeps me from hurting myself since at home it’s easy to hold a position the wrong way. There is also the fact that if I am at home, it’s easy to be distracted but at the same time going every day seemed difficult after all I have work, my family, this blog…yada, yada. My hand responded by writing “excuses, try again”. So I looked up the schedule at the studio and realized that with some changes in my schedule, going to class almost every day was possible but it would require making a commitment and a willingness to give up some of that other “me” time I thought I needed.

Well as I write this piece, I have gone to classes at the studio 5 times in the past 7 days with 4 of those days being in a row. As someone who usually goes to class 2-3 times a week this was a huge shift and a little nerve wracking especially since classes sometimes run late (pretty certain at my studio, time is an abstract concept at times). However as I shared on my personal Facebook page, the effects have been astounding. Yesterday while sitting in my office after class, I realized that for once I was at work and my mind wasn’t racing from one thought to another, instead there was a stillness and a mellowness that was very reminiscent of how I feel when I am on my 3rd glass of wine. Yet unlike wine, I was fully present and aware and when extra thoughts started to come to mind, I made the conscious choice to ignore them.

Physically, I feel pretty okay though I admit half way through yesterday’s class, while in plank position my elbow was loudly saying “Hey girl, why ya working us so hard”.  Now I know that yoga is not everyone’s thing (looking at you man of mine) but I do think we all need a quiet refuge and ideally on a daily basis. Our bodies and minds are constantly on the go and today’s technology makes us go even further and frankly all go and no rest is just a bad thing even when we think we are thriving on all that busy. (I am a recovering busy addict; I used to think busy was really good)

So this week I proved to myself that it is possible to take time for myself, every day and now we will see if I can keep it up especially through the busy holiday season. I will keep y’all posted, until then….

Namaste

 

The practice of being…just be

It’s vacation week up in my corner of the world, which means the 6 year old is on vacation and for once so am I since my schedule follows the school calendar. For the first time in forever I am actually taking time off minus a meeting the other night. One of my goals this week and really going forward is to simply enjoy each and every moment; having a much older child I am all too aware of how fast time goes when you are raising kids. Lately I have felt like I am on the hamster wheel and frankly I am tired of running.

That said in 2012, to do anything but run on that damn wheel feels like blasphemy, I mean we are all running on it. I am not a particularly woo-woo crunchy granola kind of gal, so it’s pretty much expected that I will run too. Yet let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it sounds to just be. Multitasking and thinking ahead is such a part of our culture, hell even kids do it! I have taken lately to telling the 6 year old to enjoy the moment at hand.

I realized today while we were out in the big city of Boston for a trip to her favorite place how hard it is for both of us to live in the moment. The kiddo asked me numerous times was I going to take pictures. Aside from two shots, the answer was no. See, I am tired of documenting and narrating my/our life, the problem with the constant picture snapping, and sharing is that frankly I am missing the moment we are in. It’s wonderful to document special moments, but somewhere along the way we started documenting every damn moment and if we are constantly documenting it, how can we live it?  Then again, maybe it’s just me.

The past several months in my yoga practice I have really struggled with this concept of being, of letting go and just being in that moment, in that pose on the mat with no other thought other than that present moment. Yet now that I have experienced it a few times, it seems only natural to try and take it off the mat. My yoga teacher who is just amazing, often says the struggles we have on the mat are reflective of something we are struggling with off the mat. For me it is true. My inner voice is always focused on what I should do, what I shouldn’t do and so-on, frankly she is not a good friend and I have decided to part ways with her. Especially after I listened to her a few weeks ago and made an ass of myself.

So, I end this mid-week post with one thought, just be…practice being in the moment for a few minutes each day. The only moment of life that is truly guaranteed is the one we are actually in, yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come, so live fully and completely in this moment.