In honor of National Yoga Month, we’ve decided to share our “why”…why we came to our mats in the first place, why we continue to practice, why we’re passionate about sharing yoga with others. Today, Firehouse Yoga teacher, Nicole R. explains why she continues to make yoga an integral part of her life.
I’m not sure who said it first but it is one of my favorite sayings about yoga. It goes, “All you need to practice yoga is the ability to breathe.” I say it to myself as a reminder that breath work, or pranayama, is a central focus of our yoga practice, some might say the central focus. I repeat it to students often when for whatever reason they disclose to me that they are “not good at yoga” or “are not at all flexible.” “Are you breathing?” I ask, “Then you can practice yoga.” “Do your practice and all is coming,” another favorite quote of mine uttered by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois. What is coming? Flexibility? Probably. Strength? Maybe. A real, true connection to something so vast, ancient, and life-enhancing that the mere thought of it can bring you to tears? For myself, yes, and this is why yoga means so much to me.
I started gymnastics around age 5. I loved cartwheeling and somersaulting and slowly moved on to hand-standing and hand-springing, and if you are unfamiliar with those terms, all it means is that I loved moving my body in controlled movement that led to the creation of what I saw as these very beautiful expressions of what the human body can do. I maintained this practice for 15 more years. Then an abrupt ending, and just like that it was over. No longer was I able to link my identity to this thing that I loved and devoted myself to for so many years. No longer was I moving my body, breathing deeply, or stretching. I didn’t even really realize the affect this had on me until years later when I started to practice yoga regularly.
The word yoga comes from the word “yoke,” as in to attach, join, or harness. For me and my practice, this first means joining my own mind, heart (or spirit), and breath. But just after that is the connection to community and like-minded people. Personally, I really like large classes with wall-to- wall yogis, because I like sharing the practice and movement, and I love hearing and feeling a whole room of people breathing together and feeling like one organism. I feel like it is the closest I will ever come to knowing what a mycelium colony feels like or a beehive. Even if I am practicing by myself, I am comforted by the fact that worldwide, yogis are practicing this same practice, and we are breathing together from somewhere. When I made my yoga practice a priority in my life, it felt like a coming home. I found a practice, like gymnastics, utilizing controlled movement led by breath that created these beautiful expressions of the human form. I found the stretching of the muscles I once knew, the quieting of the mind, the discipline, and the bliss.
Why do I practice yoga? Simply put, it’s beautiful. It is beautiful to me in so many ways and in ways that unfold to me every time I join breath and movement, because I can learn something new in every class, whether as a student or teacher. It is beautiful to me to watch my 2 year old son naturally move into downward-facing dog, plank pose, happy baby, and all of his other amazing poses or to watch him learn to take deep breaths when he is starting to get upset. Yoga is beautiful because it teaches you how to be still and find calm when everything falls apart. It is a beautiful, constantly evolving practice that is also an anchor so deep that it can be tapped into with only a few grounding breaths. I practice to enrich my life, to be a calmer, healthier, and stronger mother, wife, daughter, co-worker, and friend. I teach because I want my fellow yogis to be those things too.
Feel free to share your “why” in the comments.