“Do you want to come to yoga?” my mom asked me.
“Can I bring a friend?” was my response.
The year was 2003. I was nineteen at the time, living at home with my parents in California and full of angst. I’d never stepped foot in a yoga class, but my mom had already been to a few and said it might be a good way to help me relax. I’ll admit I was intrigued, but the only way she was going to convince me to go to a class was if she said I could drag someone my age along who also had no idea what to expect. So I did.
I’ve heard plenty of stories about dedicated yogis who say that their first yoga class changed their life. They immediately felt connected to the practice, eager to come back and learn more. Savasana for them was a glimpse into the life of the awakened and enlightened.
I did not have that experience.
My first class was much more unrefined than I would like to admit. For an hour, my friend and I giggled in the back of the room as we attempted to contort our teenage bodies into shapes that were unfamiliar and made us feel awkward and vulnerable. I couldn’t remember the names of any poses we did that day, but I do remember looking around at the other students, the teacher, and myself in the mirror and thinking how ridiculous I felt.
I went back for more classes anyway, sporadically, and always with an air of judgment and skepticism. I don’t know how much I got out of it, but it was how I started on my yoga journey.
It wasn’t until I was in graduate school three years later that I began to connect with yoga as a tool for stress-management, emotional healing, and a source for tapping into my well of inner strength. I had moved across the country for an opportunity to study in the Ivy League, was the youngest student in my program, and had just learned that my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I fell into a deep depression that lasted for months, fearing everything I cared about and had worked for was slipping away. After reaching my lowest point, I found myself turning more and more to my yoga mat to feel grounded and secure. Ultimately, I think yoga is what saved me, and that’s when I began to dive into the practice with my whole heart.
I completed my teacher training in 2009 at the Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica, and have since found that the lessons that come from a journey of travel and adventure coincide beautifully with the lessons we can learn through yoga. By purposefully showing up to have the experience, we give ourselves the opportunity to explore new ground, to shift our perspective, and to recognize what we have in common with those around us. The journey challenges us, takes us to new heights, and has the power to heal us physically and emotionally. It helped to heal my mother, and I have witnessed the transformative power of yoga in many friends’ and students’ lives.
The way yoga has transformed my own life is undeniable. Even though I can never predict what I will learn each time I practice, I do know that the lessons I have gained along the journey are helping me to live more positively and in a more fulfilling way off of the mat. My yoga practice gives me the courage to take risks, gives me space to feel grounded, and reminds me to practice kindness and compassion towards myself and towards those around me.