My Physical Journey
I share the following so that you understand where I am coming from and how my life experiences have touched my yoga practice.
I am a 40-year-old Puerto Rican from NJ. I have birthed three children. I had febrile seizures and allergy-induced asthma from a very young age. By the time I was seven, they also realized something was wrong with one of my knees. At age 9 I had my first knee surgery and had to learn how to walk again. This process was repeated three more times at the ages of 16, 20, and 21.
During these formative years, I wasn't able to take part in gym classes, sports teams, or any lateral movement. I was overweight by the time I was 12 and not knowing anything about nutrition, I incorrectly assumed this was because of the sedentary lifestyle forced upon me.
I lived my life angry and jealous of seemingly magical thin people who could do things like use stairs or wear high heels without thinking much about it.
When I was 23, I decided to try yoga. I chose a place called Studio Zen purely because I had a dog named Zen at the time. There I met P. Casey Maples, a yoga teacher who became my friend and mentor and changed my life.
I began testing my limits. I began believing in myself and fighting fear. I got hurt a few times, but I didn't give up. I continued practicing yoga on and off for 15 years until I discovered taekwondo.
My oldest daughter was enrolled in taekwondo and the instructor, Brian Peterson of Raritan Valley ATA, invited me to take a class. I detailed my history and how doing any kind of martial arts would just be impossible for me. He said he could teach me. I told him how delicate my knee is and there were some things I just could not do. He said he could teach me. I argued that I was overweight, completely ignorant of sports, and would be a waste of his time. He said he could teach me.
Now I'm a red belt in taekwondo and teaching yoga through his studio. I've come a long way, and it's just begun.
Yoga is a 5,000-year-old way of life. There are many different kinds of yoga and eight different "limbs" that compile the gestalt that is yoga. I primarily focus on only two of the eight limbs, pranayama and asana. In short, pranayama is breathing and asana is the physical poses. Asana is what most people think of when you talk about yoga.
I believe yoga is what you make of it. Yoga provides a buffet of ideas on how to treat yourself, other people, what to eat, and how to reach enlightenment. All of these ideas are not for everybody, and that's ok. Take whatever you want from yoga that improves your life.
I believe what yoga is, to each person, can and will change over time. You may come for weight loss and stay for meditation. You may come to increase your flexibility and end up loving to chant. Yoga is something you can practice for your entire life, but what your body and your mind need today may be very different from what it needs tomorrow or a decade later.
I believe yoga is for everybody. The media has painted yoga practitioners as predominantly young, white, thin, and flexible women. There are many people who fit that description, but there are others who do not, and they are starting to speak up. They are starting to say WE ARE HERE and I would like to honor them. Representation matters. I will always strive to make my yoga classrooms safe places for people of every ability, size, shape, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sex, age, and orientation.
I believe yoga can be funny. Practitioners and teachers of yoga take yoga seriously, but sometimes we forgot the power and restorative properties of laughter. When you try to equate yoga with perfection, you are no longer practicing yoga; you are instead practicing ego.
I believe in you. You may think yoga is too hard for you. I've been there. You may think you don't look like a yogi. I've been there.
If you want to learn yoga, I will listen, and I will help you. Namaste.