My yoga journey started under incredibly fortunate circumstances. My dad’s ex-wife, Jenifer, was a yoga teacher, and was so excited at hearing my vague interest, that she offered to teach me once a week (no charge, of course). I was eighteen and just about to graduate high school. This time was also during what I would define as the beginning of my spiritual quest, and yoga would be my first area of study.
Of course, I had taken yoga classes in gym during middle and high school, as many kids did. And to say I enjoyed that time would be a horrible lie. I hated yoga. Being young and therefore deeply self-conscious about my body, I felt awkward and uncomfortable.
I therefore had a misleading ideas about what yoga really was, but I knew I was in the right place to learn. And so I showed up to class that first day of her class and sunk into my matt, ready to turn up the heat.
For some reason, the way Jennifer taught spoke to me in a way I had not expected. Our first class was fluid, slow, and natural. I felt parts of my body stretching in ways that were challenging, but discharging, releasing years of tension both physically and mentally. Though I would lose my balance, and find myself taking otherwise embarrassingly large breaths while sweating profusely, there was no one around to judge me. There was only Jenifer, watching, lovingly accepting me as I was, and being present to assist me.
From that moment on, I loved yoga, and not necessarily for the physical aspect. It wasn’t because I was becoming stronger, though I was and pleased with my progress. What drew me in was Jenifer’s ability to accept me exactly as I was in the moment, and with sincere intentions to help me progress in my practice, based on my own abilities and desires. I began to focus on the little successes, as I became stronger and more flexible. I saw my progress, but did not focus on the physical aspect itself. What mattered was that I felt better, and I knew it by the invigorating body high I received afterward. I knew that from inside out I was developing, which became much more important than having the so called “yoga body” I thought I needed to be considered a valid participant.
From that point on, I adapted this concept into my everyday life. For every subject I studied in school, I focused on my small successes, never reprimanding myself for a bad grade or a bad performance in front of my classmates. I learned not to worry about the way others viewed me because I was intently focused on my own progress. Whereas I was impatient before, I instead learned to be present. Through challenges big and small, the simple act of focusing on accepting myself as I was, led to a life of overall love and appreciation.
What I learned was that by accepting ourselves where we are, rather than where or who we think we should be, we can meet ourselves at a place of peace and love. Not only that, but we find that our work becomes much more optimal, as we enjoy the journey of our own growth and progress.
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