By: Alison Marras
November 20, 2018
(updated March 23, 2019)
“To be soft is to be powerful” – Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey
Years ago when I picked up going to yoga classes, I did it for physical reasons. I didn’t think I needed to calm down, meditate, or manage my stress. Three times a week of spin or dance cardio, along with frequent gym visits to run and do cardio (because that’s what you do to look good, right?), and then yoga here and there for “active rest” days. Shavasana? What’s that? I couldn’t be bothered… I’d leave the class right before that started so I could be first in the shower line to rush off to work and stress for 10 hours straight, get home, and maybe get a couple hours to relax with my husband, and then start all over again the next day. What I classified as “work hard, play hard” (the infamous NYC mentality), was actually hitting my body and mind at every angle with stress… I was overworked, climbing the corporate ladder… I was trying new diets constantly and over-working out with excess cardio, further stressing my body out… drinking alcohol in an attempt to de-stress multiple times a week which was causing me to sleep terribly, and all in the name of pursuing what I thought was healthy and normal.
After majorly hitting a wall with my health, energy levels, and a long list of symptoms I couldn’t manage, I felt like I was playing a losing game of whack-a-mole. It started hitting me, that I was a mess. I was highly stressed, unhappy in my career that I had college loan debt up the wazoo to pay for… and even worse, I was now sick and my health was suffering. I was anything but what I was trying so hard for.
It took me even longer to really understand how to manage the chronic stress, to SLOW DOWN and take myself down quite a few notches. As a Type A, ambitious, normally energetic person… that was very hard. I now see what my illness and health issues were there to teach me, to slow down… because “to be soft is to be powerful”. In today’s modern day culture, we view that “work hard, play hard” as the way to be successful and if you’re not doing that… well, you’re lazy. While I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, of course, that time in my life was filled with great things too… making friends, having fun, and exploring new things. But the overall attitude I had developed was an issue. That attitude put “shoulds” all over me, gave me deadlines on what I needed to do in my life by when. It gave me unrealistic expectations, unreasonable goals that I would be so hard on myself for, and worse… more and more material-type desires. While I’m still an ambitious person who believes you can be successful doing what you love, my definition of success has changed from counting money in the bank to feeling like I’m making an impact and doing what I love.
What helped me in my darkest hour of trying to slow my ass down, you ask? YOGA. I started to develop a home practice in tandem of going to classes and started to think, “maybe stay for the Shavasana, it’s okay to be a few minutes late to work if you get to relax and meditate… apparently, that’s important now!”. And that I did. I looked forward to laying there on the floor and doing nothing. Sometimes, I’d cry… I’d use that time to pray and talk to my recently deceased family members. I’d repeat mantras to myself like, “YOU ARE ENOUGH” over and over, hoping that idea would eventually stick. And ya know what… it did.
When my joints ached, and I couldn’t go to spin, dance classes or run anymore. I was majorly frustrated. But I could still do yoga. So I went deeper and deeper into it. I explored different classes, styles, studios. After years of this practice helping me to rein myself in and find a new type of power within me, I was able to use it as a tool to cope with stress and enjoy meditating. I was able to appreciate my body for all it could do and not dwell on what it couldn’t. I was able to find joy in silence and stillness, vs. “needing to sweat”. Before I knew it, major life changes were taking place, including changing my career little by little, and I had always been curious about deepening my practice by finally doing my Yoga Teacher Training hours.
Over the past 6 weeks, I seem to have accelerated all the growth and progress in my practice I’ve made over the years. I’ve learned proper alignment, structural anatomy, the history of yoga, even a bit of Sanskrit, philosophy of yoga, and so much more. I’ve mentioned in my earlier posts that I felt like the Karate kid at times… because while the physicality or the asanas of yoga draw you in… there’s much more to stay for. The meditation practice you build can be so powerful if you just keep at it. Practicing fine tuning your alignment so you avoid injury and strengthen your body is transformative. And the overall union of bringing your mind and body together is unlike anything we do all day long. When else do we get this chance?
In the words of one of our instructors,
“Yoga is a practice which empowers one to overcome the obstacle of the mind, for the purpose of the self, experiencing its own true nature“. – Kaustubha Das
This is one of the most profound definitions of yoga I’ve heard and had to share it. I’ll help break it down more as I’ve learned it. The “self” is your soul or spirit. Your body and mind play tricks on you, while they are masterfully designed and it’s a gift to take care of them during our day to day with nourishing foods and positive activities, they are imperfect, they are temporary. However, our spirits are permanent, and we so infrequently get to tap into our spirit or our true self. Alongside our self, is our higher self, your conscious, the universe, or God if you will – coexisting in each of us. When we practice yoga, we are bringing our mind and body together through discipline. We are asking our body to do something it’s not used to, we are asking our mind to quiet down in order to meditate, to tap into the self and higher self. And it’s a practice because none of this just comes easy on your first try, it takes day after day of trying over and over for a glimpse at this.
It’s important to understand this intention and this history of yoga, while yoga in the west has morphed into sometimes more of a trendy, expensive workout… it is anything but. If you can see through all of that and to the core of it, for what it is, your entire practice changes and finds meaning. If you want to be cute in some designer cut out pants while you’re at it… do you. But be humble, be inclusive, bring a friend who thinks they’re not flexible enough or that not everyone in the class looks like perhaps, bring a family member who’s sick or suffering. Everybody is a yoga body. Yoga is for me, you, and anyone who is open to it.
I am still finishing up some projects to complete the full 200 hours, and once I do will look forward to teaching my loved ones. I want to get more experience under my belt in sharing all the amazing things I’ve learned and help others feel what I feel. From there, who knows!! The possibilities are endless and I am just so grateful for the amazing instructors, curriculum, and my warm, loving classmates that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing for the past 6 weeks. I’m actually tearing up as I end this post, and certainly did saying bye to everyone too! The Three Sisters Yoga Teacher Program has set the bar and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is interested.
As a part of my scholarship with Three Sisters Yoga, I am sharing my personal experiences of the 200 YTT program with you here throughout the program. All of the content, words, ideas, and opinions are my own.
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