I started really doing yoga when I was studying for my second bar exam in the summer of 2012. I had studied for a different state’s exam the previous year, and by the time the test rolled around, I was an unrecognizable ball of nerves and legal jargon. This time around, I was looking for a way to get a good workout and relieve some stress while I was going through studying hell. I had previously seen poses I thought were cool and looked good in pictures while browsing the internet for home workout plans. I would try and copy those yoga poses with extreme discipline, in my spare time. The goal was always to reach what I thought was the full expression of the pose and to do it as quickly as possible. I had no knowledge of asana form or the benefits of a full yoga practice. I was just looking for a way to get a good workout and relieve some stress while I was going through studying hell.
After a few months of copying poses, and playing around with advanced variations of things I could kind of do, I found out about online yoga classes. I joined a subscription service called Yogaglo and started practicing every day under some of the best teachers I could imagine. There weren’t many advanced classes where I was living at the time and I was still in the mindset that being the most advanced was the best, so I really got into trying out all the classes various online subscription services had to offer.
"Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.” — Rolf Gates
I got hooked on yoga and was practicing daily. I loved the discipline of the practice and also the playfulness of the flows. Because I had a dance background and also cheered, I was familiar with backbends, splits, drop backs, and things of that nature. What I was not familiar with is form and I developed some dangerous habits. Pushing myself too hard without worrying about building strength to support my flexibility, for example. That led to several injuries and setbacks, but because I had joined an online yoga community, I was learning the basics. I just hadn’t learned an appreciation for them.
I didn't have the money at the time to visit a studio regularly, so I would often pop in for donation based community yoga classes. However, I wasn’t physically challenged and often found myself hiding in the back for fear of feeling like a show off. Regardless I knew that I could either keep doing the poses at home and maybe figure out how to do them correctly on my own, or I could suck it up, and get the proper alignment cues and form correction that I needed. That's the only way I would get stronger and more advanced in my practice. Just like any physical activity, if you start off doing it wrong, you will continue to do it wrong, and are at greater risk of injury. I figured that out pretty quickly.
In time, I saved up money and started working with a teacher one on one on a regular basis in addition to taking online classes and the occasional donation class at the local studio. He suggested some reading material (the Hatha Yoga Pradipika), and it peaked my interest so I read more. I read about yoga anatomy, I read the works of Patanjali, and I couldn’t get enough. I was starting to understand that there was more to this practice than just a series of poses and that the advanced poses that look impressive, just aren’t the point. I was starting to grasp the benefits of the practice overall. I was learning through practicing with my teacher (who rarely let me do advanced poses with him) that a solid foundation was key. In school you can’t do algebra without learning how to add and subtract. In yoga, you can’t advance your asana until you learn the foundations of the poses.
The more I practiced what are considered the basic yoga poses, or the more beginner poses, the more the accessible the advance postures became. The more I practiced them, the more focused I became; my mind would clear and I learned how to breathe through temporary discomfort. The more I practiced the foundational poses, the more I started to learn about the importance of building internal and external strength to support both my physical and mental goals. And the more I practiced, the more benefits I started noticing in my physical and mental health. My overall outlook on life even improved.
One pose in particular, pincha mayurasana, that’s why I started doing yoga. I stayed, because I realized the lessons I learned about my body while practicing poses mirrored the lessons I was learning in my life. It took time and hard work. I’ve even had a few injuries from trying to do stupid stuff I wasn’t ready for. In the end, though, that’s the beauty of this practice, every trip to my mat is a new chance to learn through my practice.
All the best, Cheryl
I'm Cheryl. I moved to California from Vermont in 2015, gave up the path I'd spent years planning for, and started down a road to a happier, more fulfilling life. Goodbye suits and courtrooms, hello bare feet and yoga mats. After a few years, a couple of cross country moves, and a broken heart, I know I don't have all the answers, but I'm slowly starting to get the hang of things. :) I'm just taking things one day at a time, trying to figure out how to live my best life and help others do the same.