Everyone has a story about how they came to find and love the practice of yoga. Can you remember the first time you rolled out your mat? Can you remember how you felt, emotionally, physically and mentally before, during and after your first practice? Looking back on that journey, how has it changed? How have you changed? How has your mind, body and soul changed?
I began practicing yoga in 2007 but did not come to form a regular consistent practice, until 2012. For me, yoga was my self-care activity, nourishing my mind, body and soul, fostering mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. In 2016, I found myself in what I refer to as a dark season of my life. During that time, I craved yoga more than I ever had in the past, desperate to find some balance in my life again and restore my overall wellbeing. I wanted to immerse myself in the practice and reap the benefits; I wanted to focus on me. So I enrolled in the yoga teacher training program at In Fine Feather. The course has transformed my yoga practice in so many ways, and has resulted in a journey of self-discovery and self-compassion.
At the time of enrolling, I was familiar with the Sanskrit term, asana, meaning the movement of the body or the poses of the practice. Since taking this course, I have gone back to the very beginning, to the foundation poses, finding the correct alignment in my body first, before exploring more advanced variations of the pose. At first, poses I have done for years, felt foreign to me. I now know that to receive the maximum benefit of any pose it is not how deep I can go into that pose or what advanced variation I take, but correct positioning and alignment while in that pose. For many poses this means the use of props; the use of props alone have helped lengthen, open and support my body exactly where it is needed. Now starting with a solid foundation and correct alignment, I am receiving the full benefits of the poses, and my yoga practice has advanced faster in one year than it has since I started practicing. I know understand which poses are challenging for my body and why (i.e. tight hamstrings), and what poses will benefit my body and help overcome these challenges. My own awareness of the physical movement of my body, has created a more mindful, intuitive, safe practice.
The asana is only one part (or limb) of the practice of yoga according to Pantanjali’s yoga sutras. The sutras, contain the eight-limbed path, a “guidebook” for daily practices to nourish and cleanse our own mind, body and soul, bringing happiness and peace into our lives and perhaps one day, enlightenment. Most of us are familiar with asana, but the practice of yoga extends way beyond our mat, into our daily lives. The philosophies behind this practice are worth exploring, not only to gain an understanding of this ancient tradition and how it has changed over time to what most of us are familiar with, but to make sense of the dialogue that comes with the practice and how that might translate to your own life, bringing about self-discovery.
In addition to the asana, most yogis are familiar with the Sanskrit term, prana, meaning energy or life force. One way to restore prana is through breathing exercises, in a practice known as pranyama, another of the eight limbs. The breath, is a constant, often used as an anchor or focus to bring us into the present moment. The awareness of the breath is often practiced through meditation. As global awareness of mental illness increases, mindfulness and meditation practices are gaining popularity. And rightfully so; meditation has been shown to decrease blood pressure, assist in times of anxiety, calms the body, relieves stress and can help prevent relapses of depression. Not to mention, having a fellow yogi lead you through a loving kindness meditation, or a room full of yogis chanting in Sanskrit, reverberates deep. There are many forms of meditation, that you may not have been introduced to before, worth experiencing, as I am sure one will speak to you and you will carry it with you, and return to it.
What happens when you combine the knowledge around the philosophies, the movement and the meditation that make up yoga, with your own passions, experience and voice? That is what is discovered when you complete the course, with the final module. Since taking the yoga teacher training certification course, I am living yoga the best way I know how. Although, I am not teaching yoga within the community, I have developed a passion for mindfulness and hope to share that passion with those around me. I am living mindfully, with my breathe as my anchor to the present moment, and with intention and self-compasion, trying to be the best version of myself. I am doing this for myself, and my own wellbeing, and for those around me, in my inner circle and those in the community. I am filled with passion and joy, excited for my yoga journey ahead.
Whether you take one module or all four, I am confident that your awareness, your way of thinking, the way you see the world and the way you practice yoga will change in a positive way, and take you on your own journey of self-discovery.