While I am new to yoga as a practice, I have been familiar with the concepts for a while. My wife, who is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, did prenatal yoga with both of our young daughters and continued with them as infants. The effects it has had on her physical and mental wellness have been staggering, even from my outside perspective. Personally, I have experimented with unguided meditation, wholly unsuccessfully I may add, and have studied the philosophies behind yoga, though very casually and superficially.
More recently, my family and I attended a discussion hosted by friends of ours at Yoga Village featuring a prominent yogi that truly energized me to begin my own journey into yoga and to discover what it could do for my life. During the discussion I became acutely aware of my inability to focus my attention inward as the yogi led us through a basic meditation exercise. Simply, my brain would not shut up. As each second passed, my attention shot around the room, to the street outside, to my pant leg, to what I was to do when I got home, to what I was to cook tomorrow; each thought dominating that moment. I felt powerless. I like to think of myself as a relatively serene person and this experience showed me, quite jarringly, that I was mistaken, at least inwardly so. With this as a backdrop, I resolved to honestly face my reality and grow toward that unknown serenity through yoga.
I have the honor of being the stay-at-home dad with my aforementioned beautiful daughters. With this unspeakably wonderful “job” comes an equally unspeakable lack of time to focus on myself or my own growth, as anyone who has been fortunate enough to do this knows well. So, it took some time to finally find the space to begin my journey. Once the opportunity was made available, I enthusiastically walked into a basic Hatha class taught by Lisa Abernathy, who our friends had spoken very highly of as an instructor. Before the class began she greeted me and introduced herself, as she did with all the others in the class. I was struck by the palpable peace her presence exuded, and was immediately reminded of the realization I came to about myself during the discussion with the yogi, now some weeks past. She was what I had thought I was. As she moved on to greet others in the class, I recall a peace coming over me, and I felt myself smile. I knew already that the decision to move toward a more quiet inner me with yoga was a good one.
The class itself was wonderful – and very difficult for me. I have spent thirty five years injuring myself in various ways and the last two carrying at least one child somewhere on my body. Needless to say, my body was not entirely ready to move and stretch in the manner each different pose required. My arms and legs shook. My breath was forced and arrhythmic. My mind still leapt from Lisa’s voice to whether I needed to get gas on the way home to the three lines from a song that had been in my head all day.Of course, all of that is essentially the same thing. My body could not possibly be still if my mind was not. I could not allow thoughts to freely pass through me if even air could not (more than once I found myself unconsciously holding my breath). All that difficulty aside, I thoroughly enjoyed each strain and cramp and failure because I knew, now even more so, that this was part of the journey. Lisa did not become that peace she exhibited just by arriving at her first class, and neither would I.
As the class ended, Lisa turned the lights down and we laid on our backs, arms extended with our palms up. She spoke softly and I felt my body slide into a deep relaxation as my eyes shut. Then it struck me – I could actually feel the energy moving through me. I could feel my qi. Now, I still heard the horn honk outside and I still came to ponder my big toe for no reason at all, but I saw the glimmer of serenity. If just for a moment, I was present – truly present – in that moment. I was relaxed and pointedly aware all at once and my journey went from theoretical to practical in an instant. We rose to a seated position and, with Namaste, I was a true believer. The class ended and I walked out feeling euphoric without trying. On my way to my car, I suddenly realized I was just smiling, free of any intention, my gait slow and deliberate. Wow, I thought, that was amazing stuff.
I knew then that my life had changed. I was given the gift of an awareness of a moment in my growth, of a singular but significant step in the infinite journey toward our own divinity. Each of us is on this path and each travels it differently. We all make choices that move us along in that journey, whether we are aware of them or not, and I have certainly made some that have allowed me to go forward and some that have forced me back. Rarely do we see them for what they are, but, on this night, I actually felt as though I was permitted to watch myself move purposefully forward because I made the choice to go to my first yoga class. What a gift, indeed.