Why Yoga? – Nicole Tuzzio-Rheinberger

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.

Why Yoga?

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.
#whyyoga #nationalyogamonth


Imperfect Yogi

Confession: I am an imperfect yogi.

I do not have the body that Hollywood or the fashion & fitness magazines would deem ideal for one who practices and teaches yoga.

I haven’t mastered every single asana. In fact, there are some that I haven’t even attempted yet. Sometimes, I still wobble in balance poses (even as a teacher!), my upper body strength is not where I would like it to be, and I do not have “human pretzel” flexibility. Also, my knees and Pigeon pose are not exactly on speaking terms.

Occasionally, my mind wanders during my practice. Or I lose my attention to breath. Or I may fidget during meditation.

Sometimes, I allow stubbornness or pride to encourage me to push myself too hard on the mat. Other times, I give in to fear and defeat and give up too soon. 

At times, I fail to take my practice off the mat and into the world. I don’t always get it right with the yamas & niyamas. In fact, there are moments in my life when I fall woefully short.

It’s all too easy to fall prey to the cult of busy, to focus all my energy on being a teacher and neglect to still be a student, to let my personal practice fall down on the priority list (often at times when I need my own practice the most).

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

I’ve been wanting to start a studio blog for some time now but kept finding excuses to put it off. (This could actually be included in the above list of my imperfections, but I said I wasn’t going to go on an on.)

As it’s International Yoga Day, I thought what better opportunity to finally start putting my thoughts down on paper (or computer screen, as the case may be), as well as get super, authentically honest in a public way. Sometimes, I really mess this whole yoga thing up!

The good news? That’s OKAY! I’m so grateful that it’s a PRACTICE, that every day…moment to moment, even…I get the chance to start again. So does everyone else who commits to the yoga journey. We’ve all been in the rough spots. If it were easy, it would be called “yoga perfect.”

So, I commit to showing up, to keep trying. To be on my mat. To be in meditation. To keep learning and growing as both student and teacher. To being my authentic self and accepting that she’s sometimes messy. To just. Keep. Breathing.

Nicole McL

P.S. Welcome to the Firehouse Yoga Blog! More posts to come. I promise to share insights of my own as well as my fellow FH teachers about the practice, about finding yoga in unexpected places, learning from yoga in unexpected ways, and about taking the practice off the mat and living it in everyday life. Please join us in the conversation!