August 26th, 2016 | Brianne Addison
I developed an interest in yoga a little over a year ago when a friend asked me to accompany her to a class. I was nervous, having never done yoga before. I do not count the yoga class I took in high school as actual yoga since it mainly consisted of people “meditating” on the gym floor (aka snoring on the gym floor).
I was brought to a private home, surrounded by an overgrowth of herbs, fruit trees, and other plants and greeted at the door by two enthusiastic dogs. The class was taught by an individual with a passionate heart, whose tranquility matched that of the calm sea and I was immediately entranced by the deliciously sweet aroma of burning incense and quivering candles.
The class was hard. It was ninety degrees outside, yet the fireplace was roaring; heat helps the body move more fluidly. Despite the sweat dripping down my face, I was inflexible as a boulder and naïve to the terminology. I hadn’t the slightest idea what Uttanasana or Utkatasana mean, so while everyone moved into each pose with ease, I struggled to keep up.
The hour and a half session came to a close and I, of a sweaty body and achy mind, settled onto my back—palms facing upward— for Shavasana (corpse pose). Shavasana is said to regenerate the mind, body, and spirit and it was in this pose that I experienced the power of yoga for the first time. As I lay there— my body pulsating with energy, my fingers, and toes buzzing as though alive with bees— I cleared my mind and thought of absolutely nothing. I resurfaced in a trance-like state, more aware of my surroundings and my own body than I’d ever been before. Thus was my initiation into the practice of yoga and meditation.
I went back to the little, yoga house to practice once or twice a week and left each time feeling like I had been reacquainted with myself. As summer drew to a close, and fall preceded, I began practicing yoga at a quaint studio close to my house.
Why did I start doing yoga regularly? Because there are undeniable benefits to maintaining a consistent yoga practice. One of them being that yoga is a form of therapy. If you are uncomfortable in seeking traditional therapy, yoga is an excellent alternative. Why? Because it pushes you to get in touch with your inner being and sort through the internal chaos you’ve pushed to the side.
At first, you will sweat and strain through the poses and ask yourself why in the world you’re subjecting your body to such torture, but after some time you’ll learn to calm the mind and in calming the mind you will begin to move through the poses like you would through still water.
Breathing is an essential part of yoga, as it silences our ever-active brains and hushes any negative thoughts traversing through it. If a negative thought does surface, you should acknowledge it then gently push it onward, just as the wind pushes clouds through the sky.
As someone with an overly active mind and a tendency towards anxiousness, yoga was a great way for me to learn to control my mind, or at least, slow it down enough to think rationally in stressful situations. You’d be surprised how differently you take in and perceive information when you’ve learned to center yourself.
I started practicing yoga regularly because it bestowed upon me a sense of unification among my fellow human beings, those who practiced yoga with me in the studio and the strangers whom I passed on the street. Yoga plants in your core feelings of intense compassion for every living thing and gratification for the life with which you were blessed. Through yoga, I began to see the miracle in everything—from the hard working ant to the indestructible mountains in the sky. Through yoga, I began to believe that all humans share a collective unconscious. I felt empowered, and you will too if you open yourself up to empowerment.
I recommend yoga for those seeking self-realization. It can be unbelievably difficult to find the time to come face to face with your true self and harder still to look that true self in the eyes. Yoga helps because it leaves you nowhere else to look. You are forced to face the parts of yourself that you boxed up and hid away in your closet. If you are experiencing restlessness of mind, body and spirit, practicing yoga regularly can aid in figuring out where the restlessness is stemming from and assist you in dealing with it.
Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India, but unfortunately, in today’s society, it is often portrayed as simply a means of exercise; a way to tone the body. That’s not what yoga ever was for me, nor was it for the people whom I’ve been lucky enough to practice with. Yoga is indeed a test of endurance, but it is more so about the endurance of the mind. It is not about how flexible you are or how many headstand/forearm poses you can hold. None of those poses matter if you cannot first learn to soothe the mind. Once you are on the path of stillness, the rest will follow