Tuesday, January 29, 2008
When I was nine years old I went to visit my aunts Susan and Margie. They lived in Madison, Wisconsin. I don't know how Madison is anymore, but at the time it was full of hippies, progressive politics and amazing farmer's markets, street artists and musicians. That trip was a number of "firsts" for me. The first time I ever had my hair French braided, my first taste of real apple cider from a street vendor, the first time I ever smelled Indian incense and my first introduction to yoga. Both of my aunts were avid practitioners and I remember waking up early to find my aunt Susan doing sun salutations in a candle lit room. She looked like a goddess. That image has stayed with me and it most likely propelled me 8 years later to begin practicing yoga myself.
In between that time and when I took my first yoga class at the University of Illinois, I was, like so many children/late adolescents today, fairly disembodied. With little confidence, the patriarchy pushing "ideal body images" my way, a general sense of Catholic guilt and a less than satisfactory peer group, I didn't spend much time cultivating my connection with my body. I spent even less time trusting my own personal sense of magick and intuition. I tried to conform to the suburban masses, but something inside of me fought it hard. I am grateful for this part of myself.
At this first yoga class, in 1993, I remember feeling many strange sensations in my body. It was overwhelming, emotional and hard. I wasn't too flexible and I also didn't know how to breathe properly. Although there were many obstacles I kept coming back. First, just once a week. Then, two years later I practiced every morning. Upon completing my BA my aunt Susan and I went on a bike tour in southern Spain and Portugal. We woke every morning with the sunrise and practiced, rode our bikes all day long and practiced a little more before bed, before talking long into the night.
I traveled to India, more yoga. When I came back into the country I moved to Los Angeles where yoga was the one aspect of my life that was healthy and sane. It kept me grounded in a place and culture that I was fundamentally at odds with. I am pretty sure it was the wisdom and insight I gained through my practice that eventually inspired me to move to Alaska. I lived in Fairbanks with the most wonderful community of people and yogis. These were yogis in the true sense of the word, each of their life paths was an authentic practice of presence and awakening. They were activists, botanists, mothers, teachers, researchers, naturalists and each one of them lived with integrity and heart. While living and learning with this community I found that yoga was a practice that kept me aligned with my values, my sense of gratitude and devotion as well as humility. It also reminded me that service is the most important aspect of a yogic life.
I traveled to Massachusetts to complete my first formal yoga teacher training. I had been teaching already but wanted to immerse myself in a month of study with other practitioners. It was a dramatic experience for me and at the end I knew that I wanted to keep living a life of social service. I moved to Boulder, CO to complete a degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy, so that I might have a private practice where I could blend my life's work together to assist others. While in Boulder I continued to practice all aspects of the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga. I studied with amazing teachers, completed another teacher training and although it had been an incredibly long journey I felt completely embodied. This sense of embodiment drew good things my way. I trusted myself, my intuition, my erotic longings and decided to move to Athens with the man who is now my husband.
My husband and I had a baby. We had her with Ahimsa (the yogic principle of non-violence)leading the way. We had her at home and I used everything I ever learned from yoga to bring her into the world. And to date, motherhood has been the most REAL yoga practice I have ever engaged in. This is the real path: being a good mother, a present mother, a mother that "lets go" of ego and agenda...being a good wife, a loving and respectful wife, a wife that lets go of her ego and agenda. This is it. This is yoga.