This week, I’m grateful for my yoga practice.
A year ago, in my film class, we had to make a five minute documentary surrounding the idea of ‘a change of heart’ So I decided to turn it into a personal documentary about my having discovered yoga. Here is the YouTube link.
I’m a little embarrassed to show this to people, not necessarily because of the personal information I disclose (that still freaks me out a bit, but I’m becoming more comfortable with it) but more so because of my film making skills. The not-great sound quality, out-of-focusness and poor editing upset me a bit every time I watch this. I was up until 5am the night before it was due trying to put something together and this is what I was able to come up with. And sadly, I no longer have access to the software I need in order to fix it up. But, whatever. I’m still proud of it. So take a looksy if you feel so inclined.
My aim with that documentary was to introduce my classmates to the power of yoga and hopefully, get at least one person interested in trying it. (I later found out that I had achieved that, when a friend told me they tried a class after watching my doc :))
Yoga has changed me, for the better, in so many ways. My identity has literally been transformed because of this practice. It infiltrated my entire life in so many positive ways and continues to do so; I am more in touch with my body. I have an increased capacity to love others as well as myself. I have a better relationship with food. I’m able to perceive even negative events in my life as valuable life lessons. I’m more understanding of others. I’m less judgmental. I am less uptight and easily stressed out. I am closer to my family. I care more about animals and the environment. I sleep better. I have more control over my thoughts. I could go on and on…
My exponential growth with yoga has slowed down and breakthroughs are fewer and further between, now. Some mornings I wake up and I really don’t feel like doing it. But I never regret it once I do.. Meditation is undoubtedly the most important part of my practice, though. I sit for 10-20 minutes every morning. Doing this has become integral to my well-being.
The word yoga can have totally different interpretations, depending on who you ask. I think I’m particularly opinionated about this. One interpretation, which is becoming more and more trendy, sees yoga as a type of workout, a saleable product that can help you get a nice butt and toned arms. It’s something you can get good at and competitive about…learn how to headstand, and share a photo of it on Instagram. Despite my slight sass when referencing this type of yoga, I’m genuinely happy that more and more people are discovering the practice. Because whether or not it’s spiritual, any kind of yoga practice is beneficial.
My personal yoga practice, however, references another interpretation of yoga, a more spiritual one. It includes asana (poses), meditation and kapala backti (breathing exercises). To me, my yoga mat is a place that I can come to to connect, recenter, and prepare for my day of attempting to live wisely out in the real world. When practicing asana, it’s not so much about the poses and how they look, in my eyes. It’s more about the breathing, the presence, and tuning into your body.
I am so grateful for my yoga practice. It’s the base that I come back to every morning, or throughout the day if I need it. I can turn to my yoga when I’m feeling stressed or life smacks me in the face. There is peace and divinity behind the layers of craziness in everyone’s mind and it’s incredibly satisfying to tap into that. Yoga helps me do that. What a blessing this practice has been for me. I am so grateful.
Actually, I just got back from my second ever yoga class in Japan and my heart is so full. Here’s how it went…
About a month ago, I went to the bookstore with my ALT friend and he ran into a girl he knew and introduced us. She is a darling Japanese girl, a little older than me, who has lived in Amakusa all her life. She speaks English, too. We only spoke briefly but we exchanged names and she added me on Facebook.
I haven’t heard from or seen her since then until a few days ago when she randomly messaged me inviting me to come to a yoga class with her instead. I happily accepted.
I had searched ‘yoga in Amakusa’ on Google and asked a few friends, neither of which offered me any insight into yoga on this island. So, I simply concluded that finding a class wasn’t going to happen. I have therefore been doing my own personal practice every morning in my apartment. This has been working fine, however, I do find I am not as motivated when doing my own practice. Being the person leading the class, I tend to not hold my poses for as long, or challenge myself as much. And it’s easy to get distracted by my phone or other things I need to do. I much prefer to go to a class where I can follow directions and there is nothing else to do besides be present for the duration of the class.
Class was just a short ten-minute walk from my house. My friend and I met up a half hour before class so she could go over some simple Japanese words used frequently in yoga, (inhale, exhale, sun salutation, etc.) My friend had no idea that I loved yoga so much. She does too and also does it every day. So she was very happy to have me there and vice versa.
We met our teacher and I immediately loved her. She is adorable and gentle and lovely. We, as well as the other two students in the class chatted and got to know each other. They made me feel very welcome.
The class was perfect for me. It was right up my alley. Very slow paced, with focus on breathing and spirit, with frequent shavasanas between poses. The language barrier wasn’t a problem since I could just watch what the teacher was doing, and from time to time she would translate to English. The class was 1.5 hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. It finished with the teacher reading a lovely quote from some yogic philosophy book. She paused after each sentence so my friend could translate it for me. They are so sweet.
After class the teacher confirmed my suspicions and told me that it was Shivananda yoga that she teaches. This particular kind of yoga is not a popular one, per se, but it is one I am familiar with because I spent two weeks at the Shivananda Yoga Ashram in Quebec last year, volunteering and taking classes every day. I loved it there so much, it felt like home to me. There, I took a real liking to this kind of yoga, which was different from what I was used to. Ever since I left Shivananda, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. And for some reason those thoughts intensified in the past few weeks while here in Japan. I hope to go back there to live for a longer period of time when I go back to Canada (whenever that may be) and eventually get my Yoga Teacher Training.
So when she told me she taught Shivananda yoga I knew it was the right fit and that I was meant to be there. I was meant to run into my friend’s friend at the bookstore, so that she could invite me to yoga. Everything lines up, as it often does for me now days. I love when this happens.
My second class was just as great as the first. My friend and our teacher and I met up before hand for tea. We all had a lot in common and plenty to talk about. I really love them. Thanks universe, I am so grateful.