At the start of each class, we focus on our breath. We feel our whole upper body open like a balloon as we inhale and release as we exhale. Our breath guides us through our practice, keeping our minds in the present, so that they will not wander to the past or the future. Yoga teaches us to be aware of and connect with our inner selves so that we can reflect on how we are feeling internally and let go of the things that no longer serve us.
Yoga instructors encourage us to set a goal for our practice. As the instructor guides us from one pose to the next, we can push depending upon what our bodies need. We come into warrior three and begin to feel unstable and wobble. We are then forced to use our core if we want to hold it, and this simple act of holding the pose gives us courage to face the challenges of life and think clearly so that we can come up with healthy solutions and allow all unnecessary and stressful thoughts to leave our minds and our bodies.
Yoga is both an individual practice and community practice. While we focus on our breath and listen to our bodies throughout our practice, poses can become difficult, but instead of giving up, we can reach out to others in the class. For instance, sometimes when we are in Paripurna Navasana, or “boat post,” the instructor will have us hold this pose for a long time but instead of coming out of the pose we can reach out and embrace the yogi’s hands next to us which gives us extra strength to keep going. In the Sanskrit language, Paripruna Navasana means “living big.” As we are in boat pose we can be reminded to always dig deep into our souls and to give it our all by extending our legs higher than we have ever extended them before. This analogy can remind us to never give up on our dreams even though life can be a struggle and at times we want to give up. In those times of struggle, in order to hold on we need to reach out to our community for support to hang on, to give it our all and to keep living big by working everyday towards making our dreams come true.
At the end of each practice, we can unwind and check in with ourselves. As we let go of all of the negative emotions we are feeling we allow good energy to enter our minds and our bodies. As we pay attention to our internal feelings, sometimes tears may roll down our faces as we releasing emotions through our breath.
Through yoga, we can learn that our bodies are stronger than our minds tell us they are. Yoga can help us learn these truths about out bodies, minds and strength.
These truths can help us to breathe through difficult challenges in life—the most difficult, perhaps, was the loss of my brother. I became bombarded with questions: Why? Was there anything I could have done to help him with his addiction? Why him?
Before discovering yoga, we may have felt lifeless—like a robot, going through our day-to-day routine of life without feeling. We may even experience a deep-rooted feeling of guilt and the loss of my identity after tragic experiences. We can turn to yoga to dig deep with ourselves, to our core, to help us get through them.
Our first yoga practice can feel like it was taking our first real breath since the tragedy. This was the moment yoga helped me to change and love life once again by discovering my new passion and helped me to let go of the pain I was feeling. Yoga can do the same of each of us. Yoga can transform our numbness and hopelessness of destiny by helping us to recognize that we can heal and create a life for ourselves that we love. It allows us to reflect on our thoughts, and in particular, the crippling guilt that wouldn’t allow to me forgive myself for my brother’s death.
As we continue to practice yoga, we are able to rediscover who we are as a human beings and what we are capable of becoming. Through breath, motion and strength, we can come to understand that we can be healed and become whole. This knowledge may make us want to teach yoga so that we can give others the same insights and healing it gave us. Yoga teaches us how to search deep within our heart and our soul, to not be afraid of being aware of how we are feeling and pay attention to what was happening within us.
Through yoga, we can realize that there is nothing we can do about tragedies, but we can reach out and help others with their addictions and give them hope so that they can overcome them through the help of yoga. Yoga can be our therapy by helping us to let go of our negative emotions and allowing us to heal. We can become rejuvenated and ready to reach out and help others.
I first started volunteering at a treatment center for addiction, which led to a job there. I have been teaching there for over two years and I love teaching the clients and staff—they have become family to me.
I teach at treatment centers with clients who are alcoholics and drug addicts. They come to their practice to understand that they are so much more than their addictions. I’ve seen clients overcome their addictions through their individual and community practice.
I saw one of my clients working at a grocery store and when he saw me, he came over and stated “yoga helped me to change my life.” He continued by saying, “I am over my addiction and now I am taking classes to become a nurse. Thank you for teaching me yoga.” I was blown away by the following conversation. This experience is what life is all about—helping others. I feel so alive being a part of the process of helping someone change their life for the better.
We suffocate ourselves with pain, guilt, loss, and an overall feeling of inadequacy, not loving ourselves enough to believe that we have something to offer the world. This feeling inside cripples us, causes us to build up walls to the point where we are trapped feeling like we are prisoners inside a cell of our own creation. As we grow in the yoga practice. We can grow in our confidence and believe that we can create the kind of life that we desire. People may come into our lives and we may have experiences along the way to bring us closer or even achieving our dreams. This experience instills an inner confidence that there is nothing that we cannot do especially with the help and support of others. We are limitless. This inspiration gives us a desire to be an inspiration to everyone that we teach and to continue to use yoga as therapy for discovering who we are and then becoming that person. Yoga is a space for healing for all of us and for those we teach. We come to our mats often broken but by the end of the class, we step off our mats a little more whole.
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