10 years ago I began practicing yoga because I was suffering from excruciating pain caused by arthritis. At that time I felt like I had arrived late to the yoga party so to speak. I was 33 yrs old and felt very self-conscious about my steep learning curve but I knew that I needed it. I immediately felt a decrease in the physical pain that I was experiencing on a daily basis. What started me on the path 10 years ago has evolved over the years and I find that I need yoga now more than ever at this point in my life.
I now realize that:
- Yoga is not just a cool wellness trend. I have to admit in the beginning I enjoyed buying cute yoga outfits and other yoga accessories and don’t get me wrong I still do. The difference is that I no longer have an attachment or review it all as a necessity for the practice. According to the 2016 Yoga Study in America, 16 million is spent on yoga clothing, equipment, and classes versus $10 billion in 2012. Yep, that was me at one point. Now instead of focusing on how I showed up, I am now grateful to show up physically, spiritually, and mentally for myself. I still have my favorite Jade mat and brand of yoga attire that I absolutely adore but I now know that yoga starts with the breath, mind, and heart, not a mat or an outfit.
- Yoga is ageless. Yoga is an approach to living that grows with you. As I grow older I am faced with more responsibilities that sometimes pales in comparison to what I was dealing with in my 30s. According to the 2016 Yoga Study in America, 58% of yoga practitioners are now over 40+ and almost 14 million are over 50. I’m so glad that yoga is represented in so many diverse communities now because all ages an abilities need it.
- There are so many types of yoga. Although I began practicing yoga for the therapeutic benefits I was drawn to power and hot yoga initially because of my inner competitive nature. After a while, I noticed how I was using yoga to fuel my fitness and competitive hunger. One day I was pushing with the wrong attitude and intention. Before I knew it I felt a pop and I would later find out that I pulled my hamstring. That injury changed the course of my yoga journey because I realized that ego was leading my practice. Soon after I found restorative yoga and yin yoga and both proved to be exactly what I needed.
- Teaching yoga in my 40s keeps me humble and grounded. When I started teaching yoga I taught what I practiced and that was power yoga. There can be a certain amount of cockiness with teaching and practicing challenging poses on the regular and that was my attitude and a part of my world for a while. Well, now that I’m older and a tad bit wiser I was able to surrender to a call on my life that I never saw coming. Through injuries and my own personal reflections, I found myself teaching more beginners. The Yoga Study suggests that 34% of Americans or 80 million people will likely to try yoga over the next 12 months. The divine spoke and I surrendered for a time such as this now teaching gentle yoga, yin yoga, and yoga for trauma-sensitive communities.
- Yoga is lived off the mat. I don’t discount my early yoga experiences at all. I was 90% focused on asana and that was great for a time. But when the body changes and life happens I soon began to realize that yoga was more than just a physical practice. Before my mother-in-law passed away I witnessed how precious and sacred the breath truly is. In my last moments with her she was tired and didn’t speak a lot but her breath told the story. I can not put it into words even months later what those moments meant but I remember with every fiber of my being how her presence and her breathing made me feel and that is the essence of yoga, the breath. The most powerful movement gifted to us by the divine.
- Yoga as a healing practice. A few years ago I completed trainings focused on trauma sensitive communities and those trainings continue to shape my teaching with every community that I serve. Cultivating a safe space where slow somatic movements and breath are highlighted can be a healing balm for many of us dealing with trauma as we explore our embodied experiences on and off the mat because the body definitely keeps score.
- Yoga is still new for many people. I have to admit that I’ve been in what I would call yoga bubbles at various times during my yoga journey. Meaning I was primarily surrounded primarily by other experienced yoga practitioners. In those bubbles I would sometimes forget what it felt like to be a beginner until I set an intention to step outside of the bubble and share yoga with those who had little to no experience. It was a challenge at first stripping fancy flows down to the basics but in the end I got the best reward. Unexpected grace and a renewed sense of joy to begin again over and over with my community one breath at a time!
- Yoga and Social Justice really do go hand in hand. Some have only experienced the beauty and calm of yoga at their local studio but that is not my story. In spaces where I am usually the only person of color mainstream yoga offers a different experience where there is no friendly hello and in some cases an iciness of sorts. In my experience yoga is not exempt from racial microaggressions . Yoga studios and teachers have a responsibility to offer safety and support regardless of color, culture, ability or socio-economical status. In the midst of our racial pandemic I believe that change is possible as those in the yoga space do the required inner work to welcome all bodies to this healing practice.
- Virtual Yoga. Could we have imaged this 10 years ago? Well here we are and yoga is still evolving with us. The question of whether a virtual experience could even compare to a live in person experience has now been answered or has it? I began teaching virtual yoga and meditation in the fall of 2019, as a way to offer those private and customized sessions to those who were homebound or simply not ready to join a group yoga class Then the pandemic happened and virtual classes quickly became the norm. Studios and teachers went online with their offerings and adapted. Yes, just like that yoga evolved and I think we all learned a valuable lesson. Yoga is wherever the heart is.
- I am so grateful for 10 minutes of yoga. Sure an hour of yoga is great but sometimes five or 10 minutes has the power to shift my day and mindset when I need it the most like yoga at the desk, yoga after a warm bath right before bed. Yoga isn’t a 60-min class, it’s an experience not confined by time.