My first yoga practice was guided by the pages of a book and took place on my living room floor. It was messy, out-of-alignment and just 10 minutes of movement was enough to feel fulfilled.
I learned that I had a chronic back condition in the lower region of my spine. It hurt to sit, stand or walk for too long, and I was too stubborn to take medication to feel better. I had to find relief, I had to strengthen my core. Yoga became the path I took to no longer feel pain in my body, but it also transformed into the avenue I take everyday to stay calm and at peace — my mind anchored by breath and centered in the present moment.
But what does that even mean to stay anchored by the breath and centered in the present moment?
The word yoga means to yoke, to make one, to connect. Although yoga is much more deep and broad than the physical exercise poses most of us picture in our minds, I want to talk solely here about the physical practice. After all, the physical practice is just the beginning. In many cases, it is the first time we dip our toes into the vast waters of the yoga practice.
There is a rhythm to each practice, certain times to inhale and certain times to exhale. It is a means to link one breath per movement so that the practice becomes a mediation in motion. Getting on the mat takes all of our attention away from what’s happening outside our bodies and control and brings it inside to truly feel what’s happening.
What we end up doing and feeling on the mat can represent how we are doing and feeling off the mat. I take strength, flexibility and balance with me each time I practice in my body and in my life.
I was barely able to touch my toes when I first started my practice, and more often than not I was stubborn, controlling and had to have things my way. Flexibility in my mind and body was not something that naturally came to me, but it is something I am grateful that I found.
When something is rigid, it bends until it breaks. Flexibility in the body aids functional movement and can help prevent injuries. Flexibility off the mat looks like having an open mind, which can lead us into many possibilities. No one starts the yoga practice with the ability to get down into the splits or touch their toes to their head. It is only after practicing that we find the flexibility. Seriously, no one is ever “not flexible enough” for yoga. If you can breathe and think, you are capable of doing yoga.
The practice teaches me to meet myself where I am, to accept myself, to understand that how I feel and what I can do on the mat today could be different tomorrow and that’s okay.
Nearly four years practicing yoga, I have realized the many benefits of the practice and apply them to my own life while sharing my practice as a teacher to help my students apply it to theirs as well.
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.