When I was eighteen years old, yoga was an attractive physical practice to me for many reasons. It appeared to be the perfect balance between my two favorite things in the world; throwing my body around the stage during rehearsals, and would also wake up early in the morning to get my heart rate up by jogging through the neighborhood right before the sun rose that by the end of my school day my body was so worked my limbs felt like Jello. I needed something strengthening, toning, integrative, and creative.
I loved dance but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it forever, and running was my current voyager, until I landed in my first Bikram class in 2004. The practice was invigorating and relentless, a true challenge for me and my genetic stamina. I showed up to yoga class, and cranked on my limbs so they would stretch and bend like putty, reshaped into the deepest postures where I could feel my heartbeat pulsing, and feel my sweat dripping in places that I never thought possible. When I laid down intosavasana at the end of the class, there was nothing but me and my breath because I was so damn tired, and hungry for more.
After my first year of training, I began to notice beautiful thing happens underneath the surface. My concentration, sweat, will power, and flexibility began to come together. My body began to communicate with me. At first, it was through pain and exhaustion. Then, other things began to happen. My sleeping and eating cycle began to revolve around my yoga schedule. It became easier to listen to what my body needed instead of wanted. When I knew I was going to be doing hot yoga later on that day, I began to make healthy decisions about how I wanted my body to feel during the practice.
After attending my yoga practice regularly, I recognized these little considerations began to infiltrate every day and every moment. I spent a few minutes before each class centering myself because I knew I was in for an hour of excruciating hell. I was engaging muscles I didn’t even know I had, and tuned into some of the muscles that needed attention. Afterwards, I nourished myself with necessary foods and took care of my muscle soreness with conscious thoughts and healing care.
It was an effortless process to begin considering myself. And, as I continued, I practiced more and more, and dove deeper to find more sources of practice that I could add to more areas of my life. I wanted it to continue to grow outside of me, bigger than me. It was the encouragement I needed to begin really looking at myself, without judgment.
In this journey, I am reminded of that everyday, just by the way my body moves, and my thoughts speak to me. Yoga practice is the time I take to fully listen. Classes give me the opportunity and the practice weaves itself more into the threads of each day. My mat has become the nurturer, my breath is the teacher, my body is the vessel, and yoga is soup for my soul.