A lot of people I know in my personal life have asked me why I love yoga so much. I have only been doing yoga for three years or so and on the outside, I am not what many people picture when they think of stereotypical yogis. I am quite a bit older and heavier than most of the yogis in pictures and poses you see in the media. I am not the person who gets up at 4am every day to practice yoga. There are days when I don’t practice at all. I am most definitely not the cold shower taking yogi. Not by a long shot. I also like bacon. I really like bacon. And all of that is ok. Yoga is for everybody and can be different for every body.
When I first started practicing yoga on a regular basis, it was really all about me learning what to do and when to do it. I was pretty clueless so I watched the teachers and other students and modeled what I was doing after what I saw in class. Not that I was necessarily competing with others in classes, but I thought if they can do it, I can do it the same as everyone else. The more I watched and learned, the more clear it became that every person in class was there for their own reason and for their own benefits, and doing their own yoga practice. It was not the same for everyone. I started making friends in classes and talking to people about why they were taking yoga classes. It was eye-opening to hear all of the variety in what yoga practice brought to each individual person.
As I became more involved in my new yoga community, I decided to take a yoga teacher training program. I loved how yoga felt for me, and I wanted to learn more about how I could benefit from my yoga practice. How could I make the practice more for me? As I dug into the 10 month long training program, I quickly realized that my life-style was not exactly that of the ‘perfect’ yogi. I was not a vegetarian or vegan, I am not an early riser for any reason, much less to practice yoga, I love my hot showers, and the list goes on. So I just figured that I would do the best I could in the program. But I was not going to make any radical changes in my lifestyle. I was too comfy just the way I was.
The months and years have passed by though, and I have noticed something quite interesting. While I am still not a vegan, I have over time made small, gradual changes in how I eat. I don’t eat as much meat as I had before. Some days I don’t eat any at all. I eat a lot less at each meal now, and a lot less junk food, too. This was not a conscious act by any means. It just organically happened over time and I just simply started noticing it. Now I can honestly say that I do feel better when I eat better, a lot better. But I still love to have bacon occasionally, too. And there is nothing wrong with that.
I am also getting better about consistency with my yoga and meditation practice each day. While I still don’t practice every day, I do practice more often than not. I am also finding that my body, mind, and spirit crave the practice time and I feel so much better after even a short 15 minute practice than I do without. Even this week while I am sick at home with the flu, I have practiced each day. And once I am done I am so happy I did, even with the flu. Again though, this was not a conscious change. Just something that started happening slowly over time. And then I noticed the change. I became aware of the changes within myself.
While all of that is great and I am very pleased with how I am making these positive and exciting changes, some things are simply beyond my comfort zone or what works for my constitution. I had to understand that and realize that I am who I am as a person, I cannot force the change. Some things will will never become a true part of me, unlike the changes that are happening organically. Anyone that knows me can tell you I do not like to get up early and I do not like being cold. These are not simply dislikes. These are things that are part of my spirit, soul, part of what makes me ME. I have tried cold showers in the yogic tradition. Instead of the energy rush and euphoria you are supposed to get, I was just chilled to the bone and angry for hours after. NOT how I want to start my day every day. I also will never be a morning person. I have not been, even as a small infant. In fact my mother thought there was something wrong with me as a baby because I would be up all night and sleep late in the mornings. A happy baby, but not a morning baby.
So I have come to realize that my yoga path is going to be different from the next person’s, and that is ok. My benefits and what I take from yoga will be my own, and no one else’s. I am not a perfect yogi, because there is no perfect yogi. I love where my yoga journey is taking me. Every day is a new adventure and I learn more about who I am and what I want every time I get on my mat. I am focusing on observing the changes that come up, and not judging myself when I don’t fit the mold of what the textbook yogi should be. Now get on your mat and make your practice just for YOU!
By: Erika Swyryn, RYT-500