I read a lot of stories about yoga. I read a lot of teacher bios. I try to never take a class without reading about the teacher. These yoga stories and teacher bios all seem to contain similar elements. They almost all begin with the “how I came to yoga” description. They also sound surprisingly familiar at times, and the story was reiterated by Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love.
The story is this: I went to my first yoga class for __________ reason. Sometimes, it is for exercise, sometimes it is for anxiety or depression, sometimes it is because someone forced you to go. I struggled through my first yoga class. I fell a lot. Downward facing dog felt like it was going to kill me. But I made it through the class! Then came savasana – corpse pose. And that is when I felt the shift. That is when I felt the yoga bliss!
I am not, in any way, deriding this. In many ways, my story is very similar. Except the last part – the bliss part. I feel as though I may have missed out. I think I remember my first yoga class, but that was not when I started doing yoga. I picked it up again in my sister-in-law’s living room, often with my 6-month-old nephew crawling under us while we were doing Downward facing dog (that will force you to stay in the pose). I practiced on my own, with books and sometimes friends, when I was in college and the following year. I started attending classes in a chiropractor’s office in Tucson before I finally worked up the courage to go to a real class in a real studio.
I do not remember my first moment of yoga bliss. I do not remember the first time everything became peace.
I eventually started attending those classes regularly. And that’s when I finally started to notice a difference. Over the years, there have been many moments of savasana relaxation, many moments of meditative contentment, and many moments that remind me why I return to the mat year after year. This blog was born in one of those moments, though arguably, it was not so peaceful if I was thinking during it, but alas, I seem to live in my head. That is a post for another day.
I guess what I am trying to say is not everyone has that one first moment. Not everyone goes to class once, struggles, and then ends in a state of nirvana. In fact, I doubt very many people actually do. And that is absolutely fine! Those moments still creep up on us, and they often happen when we least expect them. In many ways, that is what makes them so peaceful, so perfect. They surprise us and remind us the peace is the truth, and our racing minds are just in the way.
We all come to yoga for different reasons. We all continue practicing for different reasons. My nephew is now 10, and quickly moving toward 11. These ten years have changed me in ways I could not have even begun to imagine during those early days of learning. My life has taken paths I had no idea were even possible back then. And there have been many moments of peace throughout, but no, I cannot remember the first one.
But yoga has stuck with me. Sometimes it is more front-and-center in my life, and other times my practice takes a back seat. Sometimes I think about it more than I practice. Sometimes I can carry yoga with me in each moment, and other times I erupt in fury and stress-induced stomach pains. But yoga is always there. I always know it is the truth and the undercurrent of who we are and who I am.
And it is those moments of peace and contentment that keep us coming back. We have to know they exist. We have to know there is some benefit deeper than we ever thought possible. Those moments may not happen during our first savasana. They may not happen during our first year of practice. But they happen. And over time, they happen more often – when we take the time to practice. And then they begin to happen off the mat as well.
And eventually they happen for more than a moment at a time. And that is the real practice of yoga.
Do you remember your first moment of peace and contentment? Do they happen often? Can you take them off the mat?
© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.