"I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible"
Pictured: Me! Shaun Williams, founder of Equali Tees hanging out on my mat in a staging pic for my other company, Flow of Creativity
There was a time when I might have thought that this was an acceptable thing to say, but that was before I understood what I was dealing with. While many are under the assumption that yoga is about doing splits and bending yourself into pretzels, that genuinely couldn't be any farther from the truth. Long story short and in laymans terms, yoga is about the union between your inner and outer worlds. It's about finding focus and concentration by connecting your breath with your physical body and about your beings relationship to everything outside of you. By working in these areas steadily and with intent you can reach a state of contentment that will make this thing that we call life an easier beast to deal with. Yoga is also deeply personal, so please know that exact definitions can be elusive.
Yoga is my personal equivalent of a religion, but it's much more accurate to call it a lifestyle. I call it my religion because I do my best to live by its teachings and purpose in order to be my best self and live the fullest life. I pray because of yoga. I found faith and worship because of yoga. I am motivated through yoga and yoga gives me direction in life. Doing yoga is an activity. Some people go to a yoga class here and there to supplement their work out routine or for fun with a friend on a chill night. Practicing yoga is a discipline and that's part of why I call it my religion. When I am off my path my practice suffers and vice versa. Yoga is a way of life and I'm grateful to have found it.
The thing that I like to share most about yoga is that getting on a mat isn't the only way to practice. As I just mentioned, yoga is a way of life, so it encompasses mind, body and soul. The quickest way to explain the general concept of a yogic lifestyle is with a graphic like this one:
Pictured: Many people think that yoga is all about getting on a mat and stretching. This graphic shows that there's little truth to that idea.
The third limb, asana or postures, is what most people are familiar with when they think of what yoga is. As you can see though, yoga is far reaching and extends to how you deal with pretty much every aspect of life. When I moved from doing yoga as an activity to having an actual practice, I was in a tough space in life. By hearing my truth and looking at this graphic, you'll be able to understand how turning to yoga helped me through a rough patch that I'm still recovering from. I always have to tell this story with a disclaimer: my dog is fine now. However, a little less than 4 years ago he wasn't ok at all. On a chill morning in April of 2017 someone strolled up to my fence at 8am and shot my 2 year old pit bull in the head. He survived, but due to the circumstances surrounding the event I was left more traumatized than I had originally understood and am still trying to understand. The people around me didn't help us and the trust issues that I'd already been dealing with were exponentially expounded. I was a shell of myself and turned quite negative. I started having panic attacks which I've never experienced in my life. As a person that has been through quite a bit of life it has been difficult for me to share this info because I've always felt extremely strong and able to withstand the wildest of experiences. I have learned that everyone has a tipping point and that may have very well been mine.
Pictured: King's incident was almost 4 years ago. We were initially worried about the lasting affects and whether or not it would alter his personality, but besides a little nerve damage and a serious hatred for loud sounds like fireworks, he's the same awesome baby and often joins me for craft days <3
We ended up moving from the neighborhood and I was fortunate enough to move to a place that had a yoga studio a few blocks away. I wandered in because a Google search showed how close the space was to me, I kept going back because the bright pink building with historical figures stenciled on the sides was what I needed on a superficial level. I needed to belong to a space that wasn't shattered and that was instead glittery and bright and fun. In the end I found something that continues to feed my soul to this day. I've been able to reframe a very dark incident with the knowledge that it led me to a better today.
Pictured: The Church of Yoga was the beginning of what has been a beautiful journey
I started at The Church as a karmi which is a person that volunteers at the studio in exchange for free classes. My general duties were to check in classes, make sure the space was tidy and clean and assist the teacher with anything that they may need before, during or after class. I was in that position for about 5 months when I was approached by the studio owner and offered a full scholarship to the next teacher training. I couldn't believe my ears. I didn't even immediately accept because I don't think I fully understood what was going on. To give a little clarity, I'd been telling people that I was going into this training with no way of actually getting into the training seeing as though it was $3,000. Fast forward to that moment and it was being handed to me. I ended up accepting the offer and 5 months after that I was offered a management position! My yoga journey was moving so quickly, and I felt as though I was going TOO fast. I'd barely had a consistent practice for a year and here I was teaching and helping to run one of the most popular studios in the city. That whole process still confuzzles me, but that's another talk for another day.
To put it quite plainly, I suffered from imposter syndrome pretty much the entire time that I was there. I'm still in a place where I'm sorting out my experience on the fast track to enlightenment. I didn't have direction at the time and am finally in a place where I'm learning that being a forever student is very real and that I am always exactly where I need to be. It is a freeing place to be. This realization came about in part because a colleague that knows I've been on a job search had been sending me over jobs that I personally didn't think I was qualified for. After sitting in discomfort at the thought that he was toying with me a bit I realized that he saw skills and potential in me that I didn't. It was a life changing moment. I've only been able to reach this level of reception and perception because of yoga. The me of the past would have allowed the nagative thought to take over and I might have felt a way every time I saw this man for no reason LOL! Please know that 99% of your problems are only bad because of the story that you're telling yourself. Yoga has given me the tools to clear my head to see things as they truly are, not just through my personal lense that is cloudy from years of experiences and traumas.
I hope that this post gave you some clarity about what yoga is and how it can be beneficial to your overall health. People often exclude mental and spritual health from the conversation and I hope that I have pried the lid a little bit if you thought that way before landing here. What is your lifestyle? Do you do yoga? Did you learn something from this article? Let me know in the comments below!