In the Spring of 1993 I attended my first yoga class. I was living in New Orleans and hitting an emotional bottom. Nothing in life made sense anymore. Someone suggested yoga.
I arrived at a candlelit basement and felt a little scared. It was dark and I didn’t know anyone. But I surrendered to the experience, which I can barely recall. What do I remember? Crying. Whatever that lady told us to do, it struck an emotional chord and I melted into a puddle on her basement floor. I knew something inside of me was shifting. After class, I left with my head down, spoke to no one, and never returned.
Later that same month, some musician friends from DC came through town to play a concert. That evening, I spent most of my time chatting with the bass player about – of all things – yoga. I told him about my first experience and he related to the emotional release. Knowing I would be moving back to DC soon, he suggested I attend the Kundalini Yoga studio near Dupont Circle. He sensed that I was craving change (he was right), and knew that this practice would bring it.
Boy did it!
The psychological transformation from working with the Chakras was immense. Chakras are, simply, energy centers along the spine. One of my fave resources for basic Chakra info is Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra). For in-depth details about each energy center’s qualities, imbalances, potential and healing, Anodea Judith’s “Eastern Body, Western Mind” is beyond compare (http://www.amazon.com/Eastern-Body-Western-Mind-Psychology/dp/1587612259). In short, there are seven primary centers, which start near the tailbone, rise through the heart, and extend to the crown of the head. Kundalini is energy that rests in the root chakra (tailbone). The intention of the related yoga practice is to encourage the Kundalini upward along the spine, thus distributing and balancing the energy among all of the Chakras.
Hence the rapid transformation. Suffice it to say – with the lifestyle I was living in New Orleans, my lower Chakras and their related elements (i.e. digestion, sexuality, creativity, security, relationships, identity) were out of wack. When I returned to DC and started the Kundalini practice, my emotions continued to churn – lots more crying – awakening a more realistic attitude and outlook toward life. I cultivated a regular yoga practice at the Ashram and started hanging out with fellow students. Our teacher would go eat huge bowls of spaghetti with us after class. He was a humble man who used to say, “I’m just a recovering junkie passing on what was taught to me.” By 1995 I was experiencing fewer depressive phases; I was exploring a healthier lifestyle all around; and, I started teaching beginners – passing on what was so generously shared with me.
This was the beginning of my yoga journey.
For our July and August class focus, we are pondering the question, “Why Yoga?” What brings us to the mat on any given day, after a hiatus, or at all? My reason #1 for “Why Yoga?” – I needed to feel better, I needed to change, and I needed support. Practicing yoga in community was the answer.
Today it is exactly the same. With the life troubles described in my previous “Life on Life’s Terms” post, I still need yoga as a refuge at times. Last week I attended Caroline Millet’s class at Past Tense – it was challenging and nurturing…and exactly what I needed. A little push with a lot of care. While we were in Downward Facing Dog, Caroline invited us to “find something new in the pose.” Hilariously, the words “I love you, yoga!” popped into my mind!
I am so grateful for yoga. It saved my life in 1993 and continues to enliven my existence today. Even through the toughest of times – even when I forget that solutions exist – I can teach or take a class and feel completely different afterward. What a gift.
Reason #2 for “Why Yoga?” Physical healing from major injuries. More next time…
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. Peace.