Where did my yoga practice begin? Somewhere along the way, my path led me to Darling Yoga. But before that, a friend and co-worker of mine at the time were accountability partners and one of our yearly goals was to read a book every month. So what did I start reading? Books on happiness.
So back to Yoga, I remember using a Groupon at Darling Yoga around 2010, but at the time, I was immersed in the Johnson County lifestyle and yoga at that point was just another form of exercise. But then in 2014, I found my way there again. I had been practicing yoga about once a week for 2 years at my local gym, but again, at that time I thought it was just another form of exercise. I realized later it can be a tool for transformation.
December 2013, I started thinking about what I would focus on outside of work for the next year. What would I do in 2014? Little did I know I’d start loving myself. The Controller at my work was currently in Darling Yoga’s teacher training and had started teaching yoga classes at our office. And then one day, for no other reason than something to focus on (so I thought), I decided I was going to do yoga teacher training. I didn’t know my intentions, but somehow I knew it was right.
Throughout 2014, along with weekly practices at Darling Yoga, I spent ten yoga teacher training weekends with Emily Darling, Christy Burnette, and my fellow group of teacher trainees. Emily Darling is one of those individuals who awakens your heart. By living with an open heart, she illuminates the hearts of her students. So just imagine the love a room with Emily Darling and teacher trainees radiates…
My life changed in 2014. The first noticeable reality was how much I did not love myself and was seeking happiness outside of myself. For example, I have natural curly hair, yet for pretty much my whole life, I straightened it. I loved to tan. I felt “prettier” with tan skin. I pretended to extremely extroverted, even though I loved staying home by myself. Vegetables were not a part of anything I ate. I worked out so I could eat more and be “skinny.” My self-hate had reached its peak in 2010 when I used Botox a few times and got plastic surgery. How did I not see all of this?
Because I was living in an illusion.
Yoga awakened me. The illusion I was living in started to clear. And although I may see more clearly now, I’m still a human being who was raised in our materialistic society. It’s not a wham bam thank you ma’am type of practice. There is no 21-day fix your life program, even though advertising tries to sell us this. To self-actualize, one must consistently practice. My yoga practice has evolved (and will continue to evolve) from purely a physical practice, to more of a stress-relief inward gazing practice.
I was introduced to the more meditative aspects of yoga by Victor, who also teaches at Darling Yoga. How I started studying with Victor is a funny story. He found out my boyfriend (now husband), Rich, had tickets to the Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well show in California. Being a Deadhead, Victor’s eyes filled with wonder when I asked him and Emily to join us. Rich has studied mainly Taoism and Buddism and has spent many hours in meditation, so needless to say our mutual interests in Eastern philosophy certainly made the trip interesting. Oh, and the Dead. Yea, they were pretty interesting, too!
In addition to asana classes (think downward facing dog), Victor began teaching a meditation class at Darling. Oh, man. I knew I was in the right place. My mind had been tormenting me for too long. This is where I began my journey into the science of Raja Yoga. There are many different styles of yoga these days (growing rapidly), each with their own uniqueness and focus. But there are four traditional paths of yoga: Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga.
Each morning I rise and practice in my zen room. My zen room is a place where I can practice focusing my mind while dipping my toes into stillness. I use my Insight Timer to either play a guided meditation or just set a timer to practice on my own. Some mornings I move my body, others I sit like a statue.
I also love listening to Psychonauts, especially Duncan Trussell. His podcast is a reoccurring sound in my home. I also read yoga and spirituality books on the regular- typically 2 or 3 at a time. Conversations with God is one book that has really transformed my interpretation of spirituality because it so aligned with what I feel internally.
My practice doesn’t stop off the mat or outside of the yoga studio. My practice is to take the stillness I find on the mat and out into the real world. You know, so I don’t get angry when I receive a passive aggressive e-mail. Or so when I look into the mirror, I don’t instantly think about what I want to change about my physical appearance. Or so I don’t spend hours at night ruminating over the day’s events.
I take this practice into my life because it brings me happiness and makes me a better person to not just myself, but to everyone.
P.S. This fall I will be attending a 5-day Yoga, Purpose, and Action Leadership Intensive
with Seane Corn, Hala Khouri, and Suzanne Sterling!!! The intensive is a week full of provocative self-inquiry, social justice education, and creative exploration to uncover our deep passions and motivations for service that leads to embodied, effective, and conscious action. Combining the tools of yoga, meditation, self-investigation, voice, and ritual with the practical tools of communication, organization, and collaboration, we’ll learn to become more effective leaders and agents-of-change in the world. ❤