Saturday, September 25, 2010

Soul Food

Yoga is my mind and body's soul food. My love affair with yoga started more than ten years ago. I don’t remember what prompted me to explore it.  What I do remember is going to the Integral Yoga Institute in New York and browsing in their book section after I had gotten the courage to enter this Mecca of spirituality. Even though, the staff was extremely friendly, offering me different class options and saying Namaste every chance they got, I was not ready to venture past the book section just yet....When I try anything new that has the potential to be life altering, I like to research my subject, feel it out and get familiar with any terminology used. So I bought a “how to yoga book” with lots of pictures and grabbed a schedule of classes and events.
As I walked to the train station through the grungy yet quaint West Village neighborhood, I remember being excited and wanting to jump right in and learn all that I could. But I wasn’t ready to expose my interest in yoga by reading the book on the train. Back then, yoga wasn’t as popular as it is now, with yoga studios literally everywhere.
As soon as I got home, I opened the book and completely immersed myself…days later, when I “thought” I knew enough, I started trying to imitate the poses in the pictures. Do you know how hard it is, reading the text, looking at the picture and trying to get your body in that position? Hard!..Frustrating and a bit discouraging, not at all what Yoga is about…Yoga can be a challenge but it should be a steady ascent to the Divine within you. I highly recommend that a newbie take a beginner’s class or workshop. One that slowly walks you through the poses and the breath before you attempt to follow a book or DVD, so you can learn the proper alignment and prevent any possible injuries. If you are too intimidated to even attempt a beginner’s class then take a few privates. Private instruction is tailored to your level and specific needs. It's a worthwhile investment since all the attention is solely on you. If you are on a budget, hire a student teacher, many of them need the practice and they are extremely eager to give you the best yoga experience at a rate that benefits you both.
 After taking a few classes, I was eager to expand and grow my yoga practice. I kept trying out different studios and teachers, to see which resonated with me.  The more classes I took, the more I was getting the nudge to explore the possibility of an in depth yoga training...maybe a teacher training? I wanted to learn enough of it, so that I could do my own sequence of poses at home. But a teacher training? I wasn't sure. So, I kept pushing the thought away. Just looking at some of the poses and the level of commitment required gave me anxiety.
 A few months passed and I was standing in some airport’s book store browsing. I can’t remember where I was going to or coming from. I love airport magazine stores...something about the look, feel and smell of new books and magazines makes my heart skip a beat. I usually buy a magazine that is filled with fluff pieces and lots of pictures. Something to distract me but not enough to keep me from falling asleep on the plane. So there I was, staring at the wall of magazines, zeroing in on the Yoga Journal publication, pretending I was looking at something else. I stood a safe distance away….toying with the idea...I walked away to another section, picked up a glossy picture filled magazine, trying to distract myself….it wasn’t working. I replaced the magazine and I went back to where the Yoga Journal was. I stared at it, willing it to give me answers…..”Should I buy it?….but I’m not the crunchy granola type...I’m more glam than crunchy….or am I?” As I picked up the magazine, I said in a low voice, “Ok, I’m officially the weirdo buying the Yoga Journal...” I practically ran to the cashier, paid for it and shoved it in my bag, casually looking around to see if anyone had “seen” me. But I was secretly dying to board the plane so that I could read it from cover to cover.
 When I started reading it, I got the chills. This was definitely what I wanted to do! In what capacity, I didn’t know but I knew I wanted to learn all there was to learn about yoga. I think I even got teary eyed but who knows, I could be making it up in my mind for dramatic effect. I folded over the corners of practically every page that contained interesting articles. I was vibing with the articles, the quotes, the pictures of the models in different twisty positions. I wanted to immerse myself in everything yoga! I specifically wanted to learn the basic poses so that I could replicate them at home. I also wanted to learn how to adjust myself in class, so that I could rely less on the teacher...since sometimes, the classes are so packed that it is impossible for the teacher to assist everyone.
After researching the different programs and different styles of yoga available in Manhattan, I found a studio, yoga style and program I liked. It was ISHTA Yoga, I could do a one month long, 200 hour teacher training intensive. And if I wanted to learn even more, I could take the advanced training for an additional 300 hours. If I did both programs, it would be a total of 500 hours of teacher training. For the 200 hour training, I would be committing to five days a week from 8AM to 5PM and on some days until 9PM. The 300 hour training was a nine month program with classes held every weekend. I would basically be eating, sleeping and breathing yoga. And I would have to either quit my job or ask for a sabbatical….I had a lot to think about.
I decided to do some “recon” and take a few classes, to see if this place was for me. I started with one class, which I loved! And ended up going three times a week. In the beginning, I hurt in places I didn’t even know I could hurt. But I would walk out of class completely blissed out, loving the whole world. I stretched, lengthened and contorted my body in unimaginable ways. One of the side effects, was an improvement in my posture. I stood up straighter, and I looked and felt taller. And I fell in love with the studio and the teachers. But I was still undecided about doing the program…..Until I spoke with ML, a relatively new friend and one of my first champagne buddies. I told her about the yoga program and the concerns I had. She waited patiently until I finished and then said, “Margarita, you have to do this! You should see yourself when you talk about it, you light up! You can also hear it in your voice, there's a certain ring to it.”…..She was right, so I did it!....Greedy me, I did all 500 hours! Thank you ML!
I’m so grateful I did it! I met three of my best friends in the program and they have been my life line ever since. The program also blew my mind, strengthened my body and gave flight to my soul. 

One perk of the program, was an unlimited yoga pass. I could take as many classes as I wanted! I was going there practically every day. Yes, I was doing that much yoga...I remember one particular class; it was a level 2 class. We were already halfway through it. I had been so focused on my own breathing and correct alignment; I had failed to notice the pregnant woman diagonally in front of me. I probably didn’t notice because from behind you couldn’t tell she was pregnant. But she had to be at least in her 6th month…..I was impressed and inspired. I got back to focusing on my breathe for the rest of the class until the very end, when the teacher told us to get into a pose of our choosing before corpse pose, the last pose of the class where you get to do nothing  but close your eyes and relax....and if you are lucky the teacher comes and "massages" your forehead and neck with lavender essential oil. This is my favorite pose!....While I was still thinking which pose to do, I see the pregnant lady calmly doing a headstand in the middle of the floor, no assistance whatsoever…..Are you kidding me???...Wow! I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor while I was pretending not to look....I can’t do that and I’m not even carrying any extra weight.  I admit it, I was a tiny bit jealous....just a tiny bit...but then I thought, “Good for her!” She’s probably been doing yoga for a while and knows what her body is capable of...on the other hand, she probably can’t do other poses that I can easily do, whether it’s due to her condition or because her body is not flexible in certain ways that my body is. Eventually, I was the one doing a headstand, forearm stand...still working on my hand stand though...
We are all on different journeys; we should honor and respect that in ourselves and others. Just because we are “Grown Ups,” it doesn’t mean we should have it all figured out. We should go for what lights us up, like yoga did for me...You never know what will happen when you decide to go for “It" and step out of the box and out of your comfort zone

in love and pleasure,