In the first few weeks of my yoga teacher training at Yoga to The People in New York, I found myself experiencing a sensation similar to repeating a word continuously until it loses its meaning. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. I was doing yoga, talking yoga, reading yoga, thinking yoga, to the point where I no longer understood it at all. I began to experience it as if from outside myself. Why do I do this strange practice? Why do I bend my body into odd shapes daily? What are these eccentric breathing techniques I’ve so casually adopted? Why does it make me feel connected to something great, and is that a real experience or something I’ve been deluded into believing? When did I become this yoga person? Why do I want to teach it? What’s the point of it all?
It is a question that we all find ourselves asking from time to time: “What’s the point of it all?” Perhaps you have phrased it as “What am I doing with my life?” After reflecting further, I’ve realized the answer is simple. We are doing with our lives exactly what we are doing with our lives. Everything in this moment is just as it should be. If you are craving change, you are already manifesting it. By asking the question “What’s the point?” we already begin answering it. The idea is to rest in the peace of how things are in this moment, and invite change with an open heart.
There have been many moments in my training to remind me that I’m in the right place at the right time. I cannot imagine another yoga studio than Yoga to the People that could prepare me more to teach yoga in a way that reflects what is in my heart. Yoga to the People’s philosophy is that yoga is for everyone. They make yoga affordable to all by running a full schedule of donation based classes, four to eight classes a day, seven days a week. Their donation-based system works and has kept them open for a decade. They make yoga safe, comfortable and challenging to yogis of all levels by teaching open classes that encourage acceptance of each body’s pace, energy, and ability. They create a secular space where people from atheists to devout Hare Krishna’s, rabbis and fully-covered Muslim women can all share and practice in comfortably.
I have known for years that Yoga to the People’s message resonated with me, but now four weeks into my teacher training I feel more inspired and connected to it than ever. Building community that is deeply inclusive and accepting is at the very core of what I believe in and want to manifest in the world.
Weekend four of our training asked us to open up and literally throw tantrums in order to experience catharsis. It was a weekend full of deep breathing, screaming, crying and holding postures into extreme pain. All of these experiences were tools for accessing something vulnerable within ourselves, in order to fully understand the experience our future students may have in yoga and how to hold space for them. The weekend climaxed with my own realization that I am still suffering post-traumatic stress from my experience on 9-11-01.
I grew up in TriBeCa when it was known for its public schools and little league rather than celebrity homes and designer boutiques. I was eleven years old when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, just blocks away from my home and middle school. My transition from early childhood into adolescence was an inopportune time to become traumatized by running for my life through my neighborhood-turned-war-zone.
I have spent the past ten years denying this event’s impact on me. When I became depressed two years later and was prescribed medication throughout my teenage years, I continuously asserted that it had nothing to do with 9-11 and I hated talking about it in therapy. Meanwhile, every time I have since heard or seen a low-flying plane (and I live thirty minutes from JFK International Airport) I became fearful and had flashbacks to 9-11. I have had panic attacks during loud thunderstorms. Now at 22, my yoga journey has led me to access the repressed pain and fear associated with the event. Last weekend in training while participating in a screaming meditation, I suddenly became bombarded with horrifying, vivid memories of that day. By sharing this in writing, I intend to continue the process of releasing it from my psyche.
I cannot think of a travel experience as profound as the inner-journey I’ve had (and continue on with) through yoga. Wherever you are in the world and whoever you are, all you need is your body and breath to practice yoga. It is is a powerful tool for learning about the self. My yoga journey has opened me to deeper understandings of my body, my mind and my soul and has led me to this beautiful moment in my life in which I am becoming a teacher of it. Though my recent self-discovery asks me to confront a very painful, scary place, I trust the yoga journey to hold me through it and heal me. I am doing just what we say at Yoga to the People– “going through my flow.”