"'A further meaning of the word yoga is 'to attain what was previously unattainable.' The starting point for this thought is that there is something we are today unable to do; when we find the means for bringing that desire into action, that step is yoga... Every change is yoga... when we find a way to bend the body forward and touch our toes... or gain more understanding of ourselves and others through a discussion, we have reached a point where we have never been before. Each of these movements and changes is yoga."
-- T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga
The truth is, there are a lot of meanings to the word yoga. Lots. The above text just happens to be one of my absolute favorites.
We experience yoga everyday, when we simply do something that we couldn't do or haven't done before. I say simply, because it doesn't have to be a huge life-altering thing.
Like Desikachar says, every change is yoga. Yoga is happening all the time if we're open to seeing it. In fact, the most meaningful yoga typically happens far beyond the mat. The physical practice is actually only one aspect of yoga (there are eight parts... but more on that in a future post). The real yoga happens when we learn how to control our minds to live more presently in each moment, soaking up every sensation we feel, smell, see, hear, taste.
Small changes that move us closer to mindful living, is yoga.
So please, I beg you, don't stay away from yoga because you think you're not "flexible enough," or "strong enough," or "hippie enough" or "hipSTER enough" or "skinny enough," or "insert-adjective-here enough," because it is NOT about any of that. It's not even about the fun pictures, that yeah, I'll end up posting here.
Yoga is so much more than a pose. Actually, I know some pretty amazing yoga teachers who are like, "meh, yeah I just really don't care about doing 'said-super-"impressive"-pose'... and it's not like doing this pose is going to make me a better person sooooo... whatever!" YES! I love that. It's so true: why do you go after a certain pose? If you want to, that's why. It's that simple. But nobody said you have to be able to do a headstand to be a yogi; and, being able to do a funky arm balance certainly doesn't make you a "good person."
And yoga is actually about being a good person. Whaaa!? Yeah! Yoga is about discovering our own truth and living it out fully. Yoga is joining the mind and body and spirit; yoga is linking breath to movement. This allows us live more fully focused in the here and now. Which in turn, makes us more attentive and loving to ourselves and those around us. Which in TURN makes us better people.
BAM POW! If a=b and b=c then a=c : transitive property (shout out to the WJHS math department), people.
Now about that physical practice.
If it's the physical practice that scares you off... I think it's important to remember that every yogi started somewhere. Hah, the thought of someone magically showing up to a mat and being like "HEY LOOK I CAN PUT MY FOOT BEHIND MY HEAD AND STAND ON ONE TOE! DAY ONE, AWESOME! I ROCK!" -- while, is a pretty cool thought (actually, I hate that thought, because let's be real I'd be SO JEALOUS of said magical person), this idea is actually totally insane, right? That happens to like... NOBODY. Maybe circus performers. Yeah, maybe them, maybe.
Yogis practice. One day, they decide to roll out a mat and try. And then they keep trying. And then they experience tons of little tiny changes like Desikachar talks about. Then, all of those little changes add up, and soon the girl who quit gymnastics when she was 11 because she was too scared to even attempt a back handspring WITH a spotter can hold a scorpion pose. Because little-by-little, she grew stronger: mentally and physically. She learned not only to build the strength and flexibility to get there... but she learned the discipline of practice, and she learned how to overcome her fears of all the plethora of possible things that could potentially go wrong as a result from falling (oh wait, that's me)!
The physical practice is what first drove me to yoga, and I'll end up writing a lot about it, as it has taught me so much about myself that has translated into incredible internal growth off the mat.
And I guess that's also why I want to share my yoga journey. Because thinking back to the Little J who quit gymnastics because she was terrified of basically EVERYTHING; and, the Little J who coached a handful of Silver Lake nuggets to do back flips off the diving board from her throne, er, I mean life guard chair, but who never actually even attempted a back flip herself, because, obviously, she was DESTINED to hit her head on the board, drown, and DIE... this same J is now doing that pose pictured above. WHAT?!
I was that person that looked at yogis doing crazy things, and thought I could never do that.
I was too scared. I just thought: no way, no how.
And yet, I decided I wanted to at least try. And I've dedicated lots of time, tons of time, to trying. And falling. And laughing. And trying again. And I keep trying. New things, different ways. I practice. And in the past few years it's like woa, I can do this? Me the one who fears? Say whaaaa? I honestly feel like if I can, you can... if you want to.
So that's why I'm writing.
But please always remember: yoga is so much more than any one, single pose. Yoga is more than going to a class and "doing it."
Yoga is to attain what was previously unattainable... in whatever form that takes for you, and it can have NOTHING to do with a mat and/or touching your toes.
Yoga happens when we breathe and focus in on what is happening inside of us, right now.
Yoga has taught me so much. And it keeps teaching me. And it'll never stop teaching me.
So on this blog, this section will provide not only stretches that feel good after we cycle and glimpses into my physical practice -- but really, it's a space where I'll share with you those amazing moments of small change and discovery, when yoga steps into my life and says, "Hey J, get a load of THIS."
And maybe you'll decide to give the whole yoga thing a try. And if you do, you better freaking share your journey with me, too! Instagram that shiz, people, I wanna see you rock. #PedalAndFlowHereGoes
Ok. I'm done now.