I’m always interested to hear how people ended up starting their yoga practice. I started about six years ago when I decided I was ready to quit taking my prescription anti-inflammatory for a bad back. I played (and still play) some pretty intense tennis, but the repetitive nature of the sport took its toll on my alignment. After finishing up my college career and getting married, my mom, who taught herself yoga from a few videos, convinced me that I should join her one day for some yoga when we were visiting.
It was really weird and amazing all at the same time!
None of the poses I did looked anything like what Rodney Yee was doing, not to mention the fact that any time I went into downward-facing dog I thought my head was going to explode, but eventually I kept up the practice on my own and things started to fall into place. I can remember practicing without a mat for quite a while and then deciding that I should probably buy one. I bought the regular Gaiam mat from Target (that supposedly is going to give me cancer) and was amazed once again at what a difference a little sticky mat could make. Eventually I started to build a small library of yoga books, dvds, and magazines to draw on as resources. At first I was mostly interested in the physical asana practice, but soon I came to realize that asana practice is merely the foundation for further levels of yoga practice.
Over these last six or so years, most of what I know about yoga has been learned from books and my own home-based practice. I’m sort of an “I can do it myself” kind of guy and I’ve only been to a handful of formal yoga classes. That’s been both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, practicing solely on my own has allowed me to explore the different poses and sequences that felt right for my body. Nobody is ever there telling me what the next pose is supposed to be. I just do what my body tells me to do next. I’m sure that I do some yoga moves that would make even the nicest teacher fall down on the mat in hysterical laughter. On the other hand, the failure to really connect with other yogis and be part of a yoga community, not to mention the benefits that would come from some actual instruction have eluded me. That’s my own fault, and it seems that without the support of a community my dedication levels rise and fall.
Nonetheless, even when I find that I don’t have much time for physical practice (or blogging about yoga), like these last few months of finishing up law school and studying for the bar exam, I seem to take what I’ve learned during my more intense periods of dedication and draw on those yoga “skills” (I guess that’s what they are) to deal with the challenges of everyday life. I’ve found it interesting that sometimes when I’m less inclined to a physical practice, I spend more time reading up on yoga philosophy and developing that area of my practice. I guess there are different types of yoga that people are inclined to follow (bhakti, karma, jnana, raja), and I seem to rotate through all of them to varying degrees.
I know that yoga has definitely made me more aware of the power of being present in each moment. But, not only that, there’s the really practical things like relearning how to breathe and reconnecting with the parts of the body that otherwise get neglected. And the physical benefits have been significant as well. My allergies have disappeared, I can stand on my head for days, and my back feels better…even when I don’t practice as much.
I don’t know. I guess I’m just grateful that yoga found me and I’ve been able to discover the blessings of yoga.
Here’s a short Yoga Journal interview with Dharma Mittra on how he discovered yoga.
If you’ve got a minute, I’d love to hear your story and see how yoga has changed your life.