“The purpose of yoga is to stop sorrow before it starts.” Patanjali, Yoga Sutra
When someone first learns that I am a yoga guide they often reply, “I need to meditate.” In this article I am going to share how I found calm in yoga practice.
In 2005 I was unknowingly hurled in to my spiritual journey as I searched for a way to navigate and manage my grief after the deaths of my youngest brother and my father. My brother died suddenly at 32 years young after a broken foot sent a blood clot to his lung. He was also taking Xarelto which is one of the most prescribed blood thinner drug. My father died 40 days later due to complications from heart surgery. Life was painful. I was numb at times. In fact I cannot remember many of the events that happened that year. I was in an automatic pilot haze. I am guessing it was the fail-safe system in my brain that kicked in to keep me moving. This survival state of being was no way to continue living.
My neighbor and good friend knocked on my door one day and TOLD me “You are going to the gym with me.” A dancer, my initial reaction was ‘I don’t do gyms!’ Neck roll and all. My second and more reflective and open reaction was, what do you have to lose? She has a guest pass so you don’t have to pay and you are not doing anything at this minute. I went. I chose to attend a yoga class after buying some new yoga outfits, it gave me that extra push to go.
I had taken yoga classes on and off before but it didn’t stick. Through the strenuous physical work and soothing mental reflection of yoga I was able to manage my grief and forge a solid marriage between me and yoga. I found balance in yoga and it became my therapy. It stuck. It aided in my healing process. I chose the Patanjali’s quote, “The purpose of yoga is to stop sorrow before it starts.” at the beginning of this article because it resonates deeply with me and I know firsthand the wonder of using yoga practice for healing purposes.
My relationship with yoga deepened in 2007. As I mentioned I am a dancer so I have strength, flexibility and good body placement. Instructors never corrected my poses. Intuitively I knew that I could not possibly be doing all the poses correctly. My search for a deeper understanding of yoga practice lead me to my first teacher training.
Under protest I taught my first yoga class later that year. The instructor in a class I attended regularly was pregnant. One day after class she stopped me and told me that she would not be returning after she left on maternity leave and that she told her boss that I should take over the class. I protested saying ‘But I’m not a yoga instructor.” She replied, “Yes you are. You took teacher training right?” “Yes but…” I started, “So you’ll take over the class.” She declared it with such finality I did not protest any more. And so it was. Tanynya became a yoga instructor.
You may be wondering, how does yoga have such a powerful effect on the mood center of the brain? Yoga is the exercise Monks created to relax and open their bodies prior to meditation. So I think of yoga as physical meditation. Focusing on the breath and body is a form of mindfulness which brings the mind in to a focused state of being.
Even those of us that practice the healing arts find ourselves burnt out, tired, stressed and/or sore at times. During times like these I attend a restorative yoga class to bring the center back in to focus.
I am grateful to my neighbor, the instructor that insisted I teach and the Monks who created yoga all those years ago. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Photograph courtesy of Shay McAtee
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