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October 13, 2016

This Yoga Teacher says: we don’t need to go to Class.

Flickr/ The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

While it’s not as hot as it once was, the topic of yoga is still on the lips and minds of many individuals.

I know this because being a certified yoga teacher, one of the first things new people I meet say is, “So you’re a yoga teacher, eh?”

Followed by the question, “Where do you teach?”

I find it interesting that people still regard practicing or teaching yoga as some holy act, because in actuality, it is not. It is a lifestyle choice—and being that, it can be whatever we make it. There is no magic spell that comes over us when we practice yoga, and there is no gold star that we receive for attending three or more yoga classes a week.

It is a discipline, and I believe it is a good one. Yoga has served me well in my life. It has been a conduit through which I have sought transformation—but let’s be clear, there are many conduits we can choose to help us transform.

The first yoga class I took did seem like it was doing something to me—molding me into a better, more balanced human being? Perhaps.

When I initially discovered yoga in my late teens, it was through a home video of the legendary modern yogi Rodney Yee. The video became a sweet way to begin my day and feel like I was doing something “healthy” for my spiritual self, while strengthening my body at the same time. But what I secretly hoped was that practicing yoga would solve my many problems.

Off and on for years, I would visit different yoga studios and religiously follow certain teachers. But I became a little disillusioned; it seemed the people who went to yoga classes (including me) were often doing it to feel better about themselves and to get away from something. (I know I was.)

I dealt with a fair amount of depression and anxiety in my younger years which manifested into an eating disorder, so the yoga studio became a safe place for me to be. However, the practice didn’t follow me off the mat, and I was still just as fragmented in my “real” life as ever.

I was always in need of the teacher, the room and the soft lighting to get me to a relaxed state where my neurosis would release me. Yoga class became another addiction, and I was getting weary, as I had several already. I started to realize that there might be more to life than depending on something else to make me feel a certain way.

So in my mid-20s, I became quite serious about developing my own personal yoga practice outside of a studio or class. I had enough knowledge and skill to practice at home for an hour each day, and so I committed to this. This is when my life began to rapidly change. I quit smoking and drinking. I started eating raw food. I eliminated toxic relationships from my life, and my vacations became primarily based on enlightenment activities.

I began to truly live my yoga when I decided to not compartmentalize the act of it in my life. Yoga, in Sanskrit, means “to join” or “to unite,” and the next step on my path was to realize yoga can actually be found in an everyday desire to live in wholeness.

Because you see, yoga was never meant to be simply an arrangement of aerobic postures, combined to make us sweet or flexible. No, it was (and is) a holistic practice which includes, meditation, prayer, breath awareness, mind-training, spiritual expansion and intense self-growth. It even comes with its own style of traditional medicine, called Ayurveda.

In beginning to understand my wholeness, I suddenly understood that yoga is not a class, but an experience of self. Well, I am not as strict now with my regime—I eat what feels right, rather than following one specific diet. I still don’t smoke or do drugs, but I do drink socially. And most importantly, every day I try to find balance within—and this, to me, is my yoga class.

I look at my relationships—with myself, my friends my family, my work and my environment—and I try to bring more gentleness, authenticity and bravery to them. I attempt to grow, in some way, each and every day—often simply by coming back to the rhythm of my own breath.

But please, if classes and studios serve you, do go. I benefited from them for years—but at some point, it might be helpful to know that we can practice yoga anywhere and everywhere.

In this way, yoga is nothing special—nor do we become any more sacred when we do it—but it becomes simply the act of realizing that union is happening every single moment, and that inside of us, there just might be the sacred teacher we’ve been looking for all this time. Union is the realization that there is nothing to escape from.

 

~

Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: Flickr/The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

 

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