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The yoga practice is a glorious dance of the physical possibilities in the human body. An advanced practice can take your breath away as easily as it can expand your ujjayi. It can twist and turn in directions that make an artist quiver with creative jealousy and inspire even the heaviest of sloths to entertain a change of mind.
That being said — it can also be intimidating as hell.
I learned, trained, teach and practice in Santa Monica, California. It is the mecca of yoga these days and the cream of the crop when it comes to beautiful practices. It’s hard to find a level 2-3 class that doesn’t have at least one yogi soaring through the air in-between asanas or adding what appears to be a level-X variation to every pose. It can often be inspiring and mind-blowing but it can also be, in a word, daunting.
I don’t mean to Bikram-bash, but my first yoga studio experience happened to be in a Bikram studio, and it wasn’t great. What turned me off the most about the experience was the energy in the room. Nobody was smiling. I can’t stand being places where no one’s smiling — my defense mechanisms kick in, among them a very snarky sense of humor. I found myself trying to fight laughter from the jokes I was telling myself internally to qualm the awkwardness, while staying as silent externally as everyone else. It’s difficult to ground yourself and balance on one foot when you’re shaking at your core from fighting hysterical laughter!
This isn’t the way a yoga class should be. Yoga is fun. I enjoy the practice. So why do most yogis seem so serious all the time?
Yoga saved my life.
Pretty grand statement, I know. And perhaps other people say that, too. I guess depending on where you are in life or what you happen to be going through, there are a lot of things that can save your life. A good book could do it, a sign from the universe or maybe even a strong martini. But when I say that yoga saved my life, I mean it truly came into my life during one of the darkest moments I had ever experienced and gave me back my desire to really live — fully and entirely.
A few years back, I found myself completely paralyzed with anxiety. I couldn’t go to work, drive my car or even leave my house without a potential panic attack. This anxiety made me angry. It made me resentful. But most of all, it made me an entirely different person. I became a shell of what I used to be. A lot of people thought I’d stay that way. Full disclosure: I thought I’d stay that way too.