This is the tale of my first practice and what would turn out to be my everlasting love story with yoga…
Before yoga I went about my days operating from my unconscious mind which would trigger unconscious emotions. Life used to seem so polarized, I remember getting swept up into the duality so easily. Reacting rather than responding to situations. All I could see, think and feel was black and white, sweet and sour, good and bad. I think most humans have this challenge, as we live in a dual world. I needed help coping with this, the separation was tearing me apart.
I was 27, right smack in the middle of Saturn’s return, working a job that I loathed, drinking nearly everyday, barley sleeping and feeling alone in a new city. Basically I was totally lost. A dear friend insisted that I join her for a warm Bhakti yoga class in hopes that it would help me find peace. I was reluctant yet she insisted. I recall my first class with clarity, I remember it as if it were yesterday. There was very profound shift that took place on that foggy day in SF. I had taken dance classes before and I was comfortable with the idea of being in a studio and mastering poses with my physical body, which at the time was stressed and chubby due to poor self care and a lack of self love. That is what I knew of yoga, the poses, the asanas. The self mastery of alignment and correct posture instantly felt right, it was a discipline I was ready for.
We were invited to meet someone new. As I looked my neighbor in the eyes and shook their hand, I had realized this was perhaps my first introduction outside of a bar or an office in quite a while. My world, which was very limited, had just opened with one handshake. The yoga had began.
Class opened with a chant as it does in Bhakti yoga tradition. I used to be in choir as a youngster in my dogmatic days, so I joined right in. I couldn’t remember the last time I sang with a group of people, childhood maybe, it had been too long. I remember a drum and a tambourine keeping a rhythmical beat and the resounding voice of Rusty Wells calling us to respond. The yogis were confident and joyous with their voices as they chanted sacred Sanskrit with meaning, their eyes closed and hearts open. I was bashful at first as I was tone def in those days and I didn’t know the words, but I sang. I felt my throat come alive as I continued to chant, louder and louder. Eventually the words came to me, in a way as if I was remembering them from some other time. It just felt right. I was buzzing from the chanting as we were cued to rise to our feet and begin the asana practice.
There were no mirrors in this urban loft which was different than all the ballet studios I had experienced. This forced me to worry less about what it looked like and care more about what it felt like. Rusty cued the poses as he walked around the room. I looked at the forms of my fellow yogis and gave it my best imitation. As I held asana my body activated in ways I was unfamiliar with. Power and strength returned to me, and it wasn’t until that moment that I even knew it was missing. It was intimate connecting to my body for what felt like the very first time. As my body moved and sweat dripped from my pores, tears began to well up in my eyes. My whole body began to cry. I am a Pisces and I enjoy a good cry so I let it flow. Tears were streaming down my face during a strong warrior series. I didn’t wipe them, they blended with the sweat, just one big salty wet wave of emotional detox I was. I could feel the wall that I had built around my heart beginning to dissolve and the true vulnerability of this human experience surfacing.
I was in a healthy relationship for the first time in my life. It was love at first OM. Parts of me that felt polarized and conflicted now somehow seemed tethered. A practice existed that could help me become less polarized and more united not only existed but I had access to it. From that day forward I rode my bike to that studio, Urban Flow, every day. I showed up on my mat, practiced, sweated, cried, inverted and chanted. The radiance of my true being emerged.