I’m always interested to hear how people ended up starting their yoga practice. I started about six years ago when I decided I was ready to quit taking my prescription anti-inflammatory for a bad back. I played (and still play) some pretty intense tennis, but the repetitive nature of the sport took its toll on my alignment. After finishing up my college career and getting married, my mom, who taught herself yoga from a few videos, convinced me that I should join her one day for some yoga when we were visiting.
It was really weird and amazing all at the same time!
None of the poses I did looked anything like what Rodney Yee was doing, not to mention the fact that any time I went into downward-facing dog I thought my head was going to explode, but eventually I kept up the practice on my own and things started to fall into place. I can remember practicing without a mat for quite a while and then deciding that I should probably buy one. I bought the regular Gaiam mat from Target (that supposedly is going to give me cancer) and was amazed once again at what a difference a little sticky mat could make. Eventually I started to build a small library of yoga books, dvds, and magazines to draw on as resources. At first I was mostly interested in the physical asana practice, but soon I came to realize that asana practice is merely the foundation for further levels of yoga practice.
Over these last six or so years, most of what I know about yoga has been learned from books and my own home-based practice. I’m sort of an “I can do it myself” kind of guy and I’ve only been to a handful of formal yoga classes. That’s been both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, practicing solely on my own has allowed me to explore the different poses and sequences that felt right for my body. Nobody is ever there telling me what the next pose is supposed to be. I just do what my body tells me to do next. I’m sure that I do some yoga moves that would make even the nicest teacher fall down on the mat in hysterical laughter. On the other hand, the failure to really connect with other yogis and be part of a yoga community, not to mention the benefits that would come from some actual instruction have eluded me. That’s my own fault, and it seems that without the support of a community my dedication levels rise and fall.
Nonetheless, even when I find that I don’t have much time for physical practice (or blogging about yoga), like these last few months of finishing up law school and studying for the bar exam, I seem to take what I’ve learned during my more intense periods of dedication and draw on those yoga “skills” (I guess that’s what they are) to deal with the challenges of everyday life. I’ve found it interesting that sometimes when I’m less inclined to a physical practice, I spend more time reading up on yoga philosophy and developing that area of my practice. I guess there are different types of yoga that people are inclined to follow (bhakti, karma, jnana, raja), and I seem to rotate through all of them to varying degrees.
I know that yoga has definitely made me more aware of the power of being present in each moment. But, not only that, there’s the really practical things like relearning how to breathe and reconnecting with the parts of the body that otherwise get neglected. And the physical benefits have been significant as well. My allergies have disappeared, I can stand on my head for days, and my back feels better…even when I don’t practice as much.
I don’t know. I guess I’m just grateful that yoga found me and I’ve been able to discover the blessings of yoga.
Here’s a short Yoga Journal interview with Dharma Mittra on how he discovered yoga.
If you’ve got a minute, I’d love to hear your story and see how yoga has changed your life.
This is honestly the kind of blog post that’s like a cold drink on a hot day. How refreshing to hear how real and relevant your yoga practice is.
I started yoga because the martial arts instructor I wanted to work with suggested it as a good place to get some flexibility and balance first. That was ten years ago. I’ve since left my corporate job and teach yoga full-time.
Thank you for sharing your experience with your online yoga community.
I was in college and felt crappy. I wouldn’t admit that then. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school for 13 years, but I don’t do that any more. In high school I heard of yoga in a survey class called “Religions of the World” – yoga wasn’t taught as a religion, rather it was mentioned as a practice in India and other parts of the world where these other religions were practiced. Early in high school and through college, even into my early 20s, I was hungry for a lot, but I tried feeding the hunger with all sorts of the wrong food. I knew that part of my hunger was a deep spiritual and personal longing for something more. I had a very bad second year of college – I barely managed to acquire any credits – it was mesy. In the fall of my third year of college I took a workshop class called “Spirituality, Religion and Personal Transformation.” The teacher was waaay into yoga. He taught us how to meditate in our chairs. I didn’t latch onto that part so much – the sitting still part was way hard, but when I heard his guest speakers talk about finding relief from – well, everything – I wanted to find that too! We went to his beautiful house in the country on a Saturday. We ate, walked in the meadows and the woods, prayed, and listened to the professor and his wife talk about spiritual retreats with a guest lady who devouted her life to yoga – she lived in the ashram at Kripalu for several years – she totally ditched her family to go and be there and honestly, I thought she was kind of flaky – but she was also serene and I definitely wasn’t.
Like you, I bought some tapes. My mom had this old magazine cut-out of Sun Salutations taped in our bathroom when I was kid – I still remember it clearly. So she got back into yoga at my mere mention of it and now practices daily by going to classes and workshops. I also started taking a class in a wellness ceneter that is associated with my Catholic high school. I still go there now and have been blessed with a healer of a teacher and a wonderful sprirtual community there.
I practiced off and on – on and off – but when I became more dedicated to my practice – I started to see HUGE changes in my personal wellbeing and in just, simply – returning to myself.
The changes were gradual and happening in my on again/off again habits of yoga practice – but the changes were incredible and amazingly rapid during my steady practice. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the way yoga helped free me of some very unhealthy habits – like smoking. I just quit and have no desire to smoke. There are others.
Now I teach yoga to children and other school teachers. School is such a stressful place for everyone – we need yoga. The kids LOVE it!
I’m learning this week to be a better yogi – meaning, teaching the classes doesn’t count as my own yoga practice. I need to practice my own self care by honoring me with a realistic schedule and some personal yoga.
I love your website ~ Thank you for asking this question and thank you for the site ~ Namaste.
I tried to get into yoga a few times during high school and college but, honestly, found it very boring. I think I hadn’t tried the right kind of yoga for my personality, but the main problem wasn’t that yoga moved too slow for me; I moved too quickly to appreciate yoga.
I came back to it about 18 months ago during my first pregnancy. My growing belly was beginning to keep me from my bread-and-butter exercise and recreation activities like running, hiking, and pilates, and I thought yoga would be the right pace. It turned out to be so much more.
During my prenatal practice, yoga gave me more than increased flexibility, strength, and endurance. Yoga taught me to slow down and acknowledge every sensation and emotion. Yoga taught me to receive difficulty with thankfulness, to transform moments of shakiness into moments of growth. Yoga taught me to find my drishti- to find my focus. Most of all, yoga taught me to be present in every moment. I brought all these new lessons to the beautiful birth of my daughter, and had it not been for my yoga practice, I believe my birth experience would have been very different.
Since then yoga has become a kind of sanctuary for me. I love how it’s changed my body, but more than that I love how it’s changed the way I live. I find myself living more intentionally, with thankfulness. It’s even changed my spiritual life, as it’s given me a tangible way to experience many of the elements of my Christian faith from a new perspective.
Thanks for sharing your yoga story!