Shannon shares her growing passion for yoga and how it has helped her embrace her physical body for what is … the thing that carries her through life.
One of my best friends is a yogi.
She has been practicing yoga for the past seven years or so and upon moving to Lansing embarked upon the strenuous, yet rewarding, yoga teacher training offered through Hilltop yoga.
Now, I will admit, that just like trying to embrace a healthier diet, I had attempted to practice yoga multiple times throughout the past eight years or so, always with the same outcome- failure. It was “too hard” for me and I always ended up frustrated, rather than leaving with a sense of peace and accomplishment that I had expected to have. I would walk into class immediately feeling self conscious because I felt that I didn’t look like I belonged. I was heavier than most people in the class, out of shape (especially considering that after my high school tennis years, my most taxing form of cardio was shopping!), and never really felt comfortable enough to not concentrate on the people around me and how my postures compared to them, in order to fully honor where my practice was at and appreciate what I am capable of.
Well, all of that changed for me this past summer after observing the effect yoga had on my friend. She offered to guide me in practice in her living room while she was going through the training and after one session with her, I had an epiphany. The practice of yoga for me is one that is not just about the physical experience, but the emotional and spiritual. (While that may be a given to many of you, I had been attempting to jump into the physical aspect of the practice all those years of picking up a class here or there, rather than really embracing the spiritual side of things.) Yoga was about “leaving it all on the mat” as Anika would tell me- taking everything that I had experienced that day and sweating it out, pushing through the discomfort of certain postures, and honoring where my body is at. There was one point this summer where I actually broke down and cried for fifteen minutes. On my mat. In a pool of my own sweat. Yes, it was that intense. But, I would finish a session of yoga, roll up my mat, and then feel affect it had on my physical body and emotional part of myself for days to come.
So, I signed up for the “new student special” and began taking two yoga classes a week. As surprising as it would seem, yoga has helped me embrace my physical body more than ever. I may still be heavier than many people in the room, and not in the best shape of my life, but I am able to recognize and truly value what it is my body is capable of. I understand that after many years of not fueling my body the way it has needed, and not respecting it the way that I should have, it is still here, as my vessel to get through each day, and working to the best of its ability to hold me in downward dog for a series of breaths, and that is amazing.
Yoga has been for me the tool I needed to truly appreciate where I am at in this journey, and propel me to commit to making the changes necessary to live life to the fullest in a healthy and balanced way. While it may not work for everyone, it is what I need at this point in my life and I am thankful to have the support of an amazing community of yogis as I delve into this world of mindfulness and physical strength. Who knows where I will end up, perhaps as someone with years of yoga under my belt, or rather a woman who practiced for a year; but either way it is an experience that has changed me for the better and as I work towards that achieving a healthier lifestyle, this experience will be recognized as the catalyst that will get me there.