Somewhere along the way my yoga practice became a bit more serious. It was likely somewhere around the point where I started calling it a yoga practice instead of simply saying I'm going to yoga.
The very first yoga class I took was over ten years ago. I needed an elective or two to satisfy credits for my extremely strenuous major and chose a course called Gently Yoga, knowing I was not particularly limber. As memory serves, the class was about as close to sleeping as you can get without feeling too bad about paying tuition to do so.
Then there was a long lapse of yoga in my life. Along the way I discovered I love saunas and sweltering heat — Greece in July seemed to suit me just fine — so when Bikram Yoga was introduced to me I took to it. It came at a perfect time when I needed a physical outlet that wasn't tearing my body to bits the way basketball and long-distance running had started to.
But yoga is luxuriously priced in most places and there was something about the unwavering Bikram classes that didn't quite sit right. I enjoy a little more variety in movememt, a touch of woo-woo interspersed with more clinical explanations of the benefits of all these contortions we were putting ourselves through.
Eventually I landed on a wonderful little yoga place that I'm now living near and I don't think it's hyperbolic to say it's changed my life. The first couple times I went it was the dead of winter and I merely wanted to be somewhere warm. So I attended the various hot yoga sessions taught by different people at different times. I started to notice that different teachers had different styles, that when the session occurred in the day had a noticeably impact on me.
I was quickly sold on the physical benefits but there was an unexpected shift in my mood; a semi-spiritual awakening. Pushing my body to the brink of exhaustion, forcing myself to do poses that were physically challenging while standing in literal pools of my own sweat: Half-moon. Warriors one, two, three and of the humble variety. Chairs, tables, planks and happy babies. All those had a way of clearing the clutter out of my head, but it was the words the instructors would sometimes share with us while we were doing these things that resonated.
This body has an expiration date and we only get one. Give yourself permission to fall in love with this body.
What would you do if you knew you would not fail?
How will you turn obstacles into opportunities?
Your breath begins with the exhale. Treat it as an opportunity to let go of something.
I see so many beautiful practices here today.
And so on, and so on... The words take on more meaning the farther into the session we get. The temperature rises, your monkey mind calms itself down and a warm, fuzzy, spiritual mind stirs. The whole thing became like my own weekly sweat lodge ritual. It has a way of righting the ship when things seem otherwise amiss or overwhelming.