Some of the positive shifts I made in my life coincided with the decision to get seriously devoted to my yoga practice. The true beginning of my yoga practice took place last summer, after I got a piercing in Philadelphia at my favorite spot, Infinite, and was chatting with the guy who worked there. He mentioned his favorite place to practice yoga was Dhyana Yoga. When I went home, the name of the studio slipped my mind, but I did some Google searching until I found it, and discovered there was a studio near my house.
I started attending classes and I immediately felt at home at the studio, its energy, its palpable atmosphere of love. This was the first studio I went to which started and ended each class with the chanting of mantras in Sanskrit. The practice of chanting with others, of opening the throat chakra and allowing love in, was transformative in itself. One day, Dhyana came into the studio with a harmonium and surprised the class by playing it during the chanting. She played so beautifully, in such a way that as I closed my eyes, I felt my voice melting seamlessly into the voices around me. It was a special experience because I connected to spirit in that moment. By the end of the summer, I was becoming more true to myself.
Later, in August, the studio held a month-long yoga challenge dubbed the “Yoga Plunge,” a personal challenge for each person to expand their practice by attending classes 6 times per week, and observing the effects. I decided I wanted to devote myself to my practice and successfully went to 5 or 6 classes per week. That studio became my second home in that month, and the other yogis my family. Yoga is first and foremost a spiritual path which allows one to settle into their body and to be truly present in their experience. It is all about acceptance, love, and devotion. When I first went to the studio, I was expecting a good workout, but I received so much more. I felt stronger, lighter, and more balanced physically, mentally, and emotionally. No area of my life went untouched once I delved into my practice because I began to shift, evolve, and change radically. The shift was an internal one, a shift to being in alignment with my inner truth. For example, during this time I transitioned to a vegetarian diet after years of wanting to do so for health, environmental, and spiritual reasons. I always wanted to be a vegetarian, and the emotional blocks that were holding me back were dissolved. Yoga is one of many catalysts for an inner journey of self-inquiry, awareness, and acceptance. I believe yoga also lends itself to establishing inner peace, and as a result, peace in one’s outer world.
I choose to share the experience of my practice in order to let others know about the transformative power of yoga. On a physical level, it certainly helped me get stronger and more flexible, but it also taught me the most important skill ever, to breathe. To breathe truly, deeply, with every cell of the body. In yoga, it does not matter how strong or flexible you are, or what your poses look like. Yoga has everything to do with the breath. If you can breathe, you can practice yoga. As one of my teachers said, when you breathe in harmony with the movements of the body, you are definitely raising your energetic vibration. Connecting with the flow of the breath is relaxing and induces inner peace, without a doubt.
Try it for yourself. Get still, and settle into your body for a moment. Watch the breath as it flows in and out, long, deep, slow, and steady, like waves in the ocean. Take the biggest breath you have taken all day, filling your beautiful body with prana, the life force of the air. Stay with the awareness of your breath for several moments until you feel your mind becoming still. Connecting with the breath is a way to bring yourself into the present moment. Breathe deep, love more, and practice yoga!