The journey of yoga is different for everyone. We all start from a different place and travel a different journey. I am going to share with you a little bit about my yoga journey. I started a physical yoga practice about 9 years ago. My yoga practice consisted of about 2 classes a week at my gym with a yoga teacher who I thought “was so into yoga” (my first introduction to a dedicated yogi). The yoga for me, was to compliment to my early morning weight lifting routine. My wife Dianne indicated that the yoga class would help my golf swing. That’s what got me started.
The yoga teacher at the gym, Paul Colton, promoted meditation during our classes. This small meditative time was to me, a complete waste of time. However, as I was exposed to more of these short meditation sessions I became interested in pursuing it a little further. I am not sure to this day why I wanted to explore it more, but I did. Dianne and I, with some other students enrolled in our yoga teachers’ meditation book club. The book was “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Gunaratana. I read the book, I made notes, and I began a short daily meditation routine. I wasn’t sure why I continued with it as it took time out of my hectic day and it didn’t seem to do anything for me. Many times I thought “I could be working on things around the house”, my job was stressful; just like everybody’s. Time was precious, but still I more or less kept at it.
Meanwhile, my physical practice was moving along nicely in the poses. At least that is what I thought. I would attend classes with the intention of demonstrating to anyone who would see me how “accomplished” I thought my practice was. If there were others in the class “better” than me, I just worked harder at it, to become as good as them.
Eventually my work career was coming to a close. I was eligible to retire and at that time I stumbled upon Ahimsa Yoga with JP and Michelle Tamblyn-Sabo. The classes were different than classes at other yoga studios I had attended. I couldn’t go to enough classes! My weight lifting career took a back seat. I attended JP’s Sadhana (self practice) every Tuesday and Friday morning. The culture that Ahimsa Yoga cultivated was a draw for me like a bee to honey. The classes integrated a physical practice with something more philosophical and nurturing. Of course, at the time, I still had the goal of trying to become the best yoga practitioner ever, and I was hell bent on making that happen. I decided to retire from work and enrol in the Ahimsa YogaYama Teacher Training Program(YYTT). And yes, I was totally determined to “ace” the program. I felt I knocked it “out of the park”. I came out of the program thinking I was a pretty kick ass yoga teacher even though I had only just graduated from the program.
After the YYTT program I secured a spot on the Ahimsa Yoga teaching roster. With my retired life I could afford to spend 2 to 3 hours a day on my physical practice. My focus was all about becoming the best yoga practitioner and yoga teacher and nailing inversion poses such as headstand, forearm stand and handstand. Although I worked on other poses, those specific poses were the ones I focused on for people to notice me and my practice.
I was totally striving and pushing myself. It was obvious to anyone who observed me, I am sure. Obvious that is to everyone else but me. My breath was a reflection of my practice. It was rushed, quick, shallow and rigid. That was about 2 years ago. Then something shifted….
Things began to change. I attended the Ahimsa advanced teacher training program, a couple silent retreats in the U.S. and Yin teacher training in Ontario and in California. From all these experiences I found a tool that allowed me to deepen my meditation practice. I began to discover spaciousness in my mind, body and soul. A connection to quality, not quantity. An amazing thing happened. I began to soften. I began to let go. I redirected my energies to listen and try to help others instead of myself. I started to realize it doesn’t matter what you do but how you do it. You do it with humility, patience and grace. This became my mantra for my life. I began to let life come to me instead of striving for it. And you know what … this attitude became reflected in my life and my yoga practice. Soft breath, fluid breath, energized breath; a quality of breath. When I practice and teach yoga now I don’t try to be the best. I am myself and I encourage my students to be then selves to be themselves too, to release over-efforting, judging and comparisons and to enjoy the experience.
What happened to me? I don’t really know. I definitely like it … I am by no means complacent, but I feel so much more relaxed about things I experience, I am not sure where it will lead, I just keep “moving towards”. After having read this, you may wish to reflect on your journey? Where did it start, where is it now, and what do you want to cultivate? Together, let’s let the journey continue …..