I started practicing yoga in my early twenties. I had just graduated from college and I had moved to a small Great Lakes town to start working for corporate America. I was nursing a broken heart (one that I would continue to nurse for the better half of a decade) and living in a sparsely furnished apartment miles from anyone I knew, but I was motivated and determined to make the best of my new-found adulthood. I had developed a strict regime that included taking up new hobbies each week in order broaden my horizons and to prevent myself from slipping into a daily routine of marathon tv-watching Haagen-Dazs binges.
It was a time in small town midwestern America when yoga was not really a thing and looking back my first date with yoga was nothing short of a miracle. My teacher Nan Palmer was the most loving, gentle, compassionate person and the style of yoga was Viniyoga. We would begin each class by listing our aches and pains and expressing what we would like to get out of the class, which Nan would then tailor according to our needs. It was yoga that was restorative and healing and did not focus on asana alone. There was no mirrors, no heat, no spandex, no Instagram.
I had been an athlete my whole life and up to this point my only experience with any alternative or holistic therapies or belief systems was taking a world religions class at Notre Dame… not exactly the hotbed of esoteric belief-systems. But despite my lack of experience and knowlegde, I quickly appreciated the benefits yoga brought to my life. The clean euphoria I felt after each class motivated me to focus on breathing and savasana and not concern myself (too much) with trying to look like a yogic rock star.
And so began my foray into the alternative world – a journey of self-discovery and wonder that I am beginning to own, acknowledge and share.
I learnt my first lesson in yoga: not everything is a competition. This was coming from someone for which not only was everything indeed a competition, but one which I was quite intent on winning. I have been practicing yoga for over a decade now and only after seeing many other first dates with yoga, can I appreciate the fact that I had a teacher and environment that could help me to learn such a difficult and integral lesson so early on.