How Yoga Improved My Life: My Emotional, Physical, and Spiritual Experience

After moving to Santa Cruz, I took my first yoga class at Cabrillo Community College I was excited to try new things and loved that there was a Hatha Yoga class offered as part of fulfilling my general education requirements.

I had no idea what to expect as the teacher instructed us to roll out our mats and sit cross legged with a bolster under our bottoms to raise our hips. I closed my eyes and straightened my spine as she led us through breathing techniques and a brief meditation.

I was so excited by the way it made me feel afterwards! 

That first class became the foundation for decades of yoga classes thereafter. Tree pose, downfacing dog, sun salutation, warrior pose, triangle pose, eagle pose, mountain pose, and corpse pose to name just a few. This foundation was repeated in many types of yoga I took later: Iyengar, Hot yoga, Bikram, Yin Yoga, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Acroyoga, and Power yoga.

Yoga became a sort of life raft for me at times. When things were stressful, I would cry while moving through the poses. Grounding myself with meditations and “Om”ing, I could feel myself elevated into higher states where I could sense myself in different ways. I would feel cleansed and connected to something bigger than my small body, holding me in light and colors, flying through the vision behind my eyes. Through yoga, I developed a new relationship to my spirituality, altered states, and the energy moving through my body.

Years later while I was living in San Jose, I met a fun couple of guys who had opened a studio, Yoga Belly, just a few blocks away from my house. I signed up and went twice a week as part of my self care. My body was strong and my emotions had a place to go when things got challenging. My cousin lived nearby so it became a way for us to get together, practice self-care, and check-in as she raised her two young boys. 

During the pandemic my husband and I homeschooled our 11 year old twins and I taught them yoga. We started the day with a half hour of stretching, a short meditation, and silent breathing on their mats while laying on their backs with eyes closed. They learned how to be still and feel their bodies, something not many young boys their age had the opportunity to experience and practice regularly. An invaluable tool I hope will come in handy as they grow into young adults.

These days I do yoga on my own. Gentle and feeling into my body for what I’m ready to do, pushing myself just a bit on days I feel the need to clear and breathe deeply. Ideally I roll out my mat, put on some relaxing music, light a candle, meditate, and allow my thoughts to roll out until they feel complete. When I start my day with intention and thoughtful movement, I feel much more present and confident in my decisions and healthier in my body.

I do miss going to classes, feeling the room moving and breathing together. It’s quite profound to feel the transformation in the room as people push through barriers (real and imagined), losing balance and tipping over, realigning and trying again, arriving in corpse pose all together in the end, and elevating and transcending our physical realms lying on our backs, palms up surrendered to being human.

I have a fantasy of taking a yoga teacher training in some tropical location for weeks, eating healthy prepared foods and meditating daily. It has always been on my self care list because I know that doing yoga everyday has the potential to transform me in positive ways. 

For now, I practice yoga leisurely in my living room. I find peace of mind in those moments in between all the doing, rushing, and accomplishing so that I can take stock and feel into what’s happening inside of me and out in the wider realms I happen to tap into when I’m quiet long enough.

Wishing you an inspired beginning to your new year! May you integrate all the things you know will restore and nurture your soul…

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