Yoga is a journey of your body and your mind. When you tune in to your self’s innate wisdom, you discover more about yourself and its richness. Through this discovery, you can learn to be alive and see others as full of richness truly. Who can benefit from practicing yoga? Everybody.
I started yoga at age 21. I wish I had started even earlier, but I had never even heard of yoga until 20. A friend from work brought me to a Bikram class, and I was hooked. Bikram was hard, and I loved that about it. I got fit fast and had fun learning the poses, and would practice them even when not in classes. Over time and related to acne medication, I developed digestive issues that got worse before better. I started getting sick in the Bikram classes. Twice I even fainted for a moment only to get back up dizzy and try again. Eventually, constant nausea and dizziness were too much, and I switched to a Hatha practice instead. Little did I know what would happen next.
I started to attend a local class in Orlando, Florida, and each time, after class, like clockwork, I would hold the steering wheel in the car and sob. It was uncontrollable, and I could not stop it. It happened every time I left this class. Something was moving and changing inside of me. I knew I was crying and making lots of animal sounds, but afterward, I felt better and continued feeling better and better. I had also witnessed a similar emotional release with another student from the same class. I was far too shy to cry in front of others. I felt for the girl who couldn’t hold back her tears until she could be in privacy. Eventually, I started going to vinyasa, and the crying stopped.
I went back to just wanting the strength from yoga and continued on my path. It’s funny how I distinctly remember a friend saying to me, “I’m afraid to practice yoga because I don’t want stuff to come up and cry.” All I could say was, “honey, yes, that may just happen, but if it does, it will be ok,” and it will be. Yoga was sort of the first recovery that I ever received after experiencing physical and sexual trauma for many years of my life during childhood. Never had anyone even cared to hear about my pain or offer love and healing to me. Even boyfriends and friends couldn’t handle my tears, and so I held them inside.
As a child and young adult, I often remember lying to others about where I came from. I was embarrassed. Not only was I the first person in my family to go to college, but I also grew up in a trailer, and just like the cliche’, I had a stepfather who abused me. I had many bad experiences with child protective services, and the police would eventually tell me that, “If I left or ran away from my parents for any reason,” I would go to jail. Meanwhile, I was in the bathroom, trying to convince myself to stay alive and constantly think of ending my life at the tender age of 13. I finally moved out of my parents at age 17 and became the first person in my family to graduate from college and much more. There was so much to recover from, and yoga allowed me to confront my pain and feel it, so I could let it go and move forward with my life even after pedaling.
I practiced yoga for ten more years before attending teacher training. I used yoga religiously to keep myself mentally and physically healthy, and it worked. I was still alive. I wasn’t perfect and knew I still had a lot more work to do, but wow, I had no clue how deep this rabbit hole would go. My practice of using yoga as a way to support myself eventually became a way to heal myself mentally and physically on a much deeper level than I ever imagined and to work professionally to share that gift with others.
Yoga is so much more than poses. Yoga is an enormous body of work, both written and spoken, potent and powerful, and often carries hidden meanings in plain sight, which can be hard to spot until ready to be seen. Later in life, upon suffering both an arm tendon injury and both knees getting injured simultaneously, after taking a fall, I learned to use poses I researched online and in class, practiced, and healed my entire body through yoga. With time and patience and the help of others, my knees and arm healed. At this point, yoga had helped me let go of deeply rooted traumas of abuse and helped heal me physically.
One of the reasons we do yoga physically, at first, is to have the ability to tune into ourselves. When you can begin to feel your emotions as they arise, and then add a layer filled with curiosity, knowledge, and intention. What you have is a recipe for self-enlightenment or at least self-improvement because your intentions and knowledge are more powerful than your physical body. Like any recipe, there are many variations, and what might work for one person, may not work or be preferred for the next. My yoga recipe now includes qi gong, tai chi, yoga nidra, meditation, pranayama, diet, mantra, writing, and more. Yoga is the exploration of yourself, a tool to help discover your place in this world. You are powerful beyond imagination, and yoga can help you tap into that power, that magic, deep within each of us.
By Jessica Waters
September 11, 2020