What brought me to the mat? I started taking yoga classes in college both because a friend of mine was the teacher and it seemed like a natural extension of my enjoyment of both dance and fitness. Very soon, I found that yoga could be so much more than physical exercise for me. When stressed, I have always leaned toward perfectionism, anxiety, and depression. I found that the yoga classes did not feed my perfectionism. They allowed space for me to be imperfect and there was no need to “perform.” The classes allowed me to clear my mind of anxious thoughts and rumination, the benefits of which I felt long after my practice was over.
What brought me to Pranakriya Yoga for my teacher training? It was a right place and right time sort of decision that, in retrospect, could not have been more perfect. I was moving from Chicago to Central Illinois to live with my fiancé (now husband), which meant leaving my friends, job, and home of eight years. I was worried that in leaving behind so many things that shaped my identity, my world might become small and that I’d lose myself in the relationship (a mistake I had made in the past). I sought out a yoga teacher training with the idea that it would be something to nourish my sense of self outside of my relationship. I hoped that in pouring my energy into something I’d always wanted to do, it might help with the transition to my new home. I knew very little about Pranakriya yoga, but the YTT was near my home and started just a few weeks after my move. At the time, that was good enough for me. After that first weekend of YTT, I knew I had come across something that would be life changing. The teacher’s words, the philosophy, and the movement all spoke to my soul and I knew the universe had placed me exactly where I needed to be.
What was my biggest take-away from teacher training? I’ve always cried easily and was labelled “sensitive” from an early age. For much of my life I was ashamed of my tears, and felt that there was something wrong with me. As I got older, I sought out ways to feel less. Doing things to numb my feelings was, not surprisingly, destructive for me in many ways. By the time I’d made it to YTT, I’d actually addressed much of this and was on my way to feeling my feelings, but Pranakriya allowed me for the first time to see my sensitivity as a gift. The focus on feelings and energy as prana that one simply chooses to label in a certain ways was incredibly healing for me. In my training, I learned to watch the movement and bubbling up of prana, to accept it and channel it into my practice. In this framework, all of my feelings which used to be so overwhelming, finally felt ok and manageable. The training taught me that I have all of the resources within me to be ok with how I feel and to cope with life’s challenges and difficulties. Learning to feel on the mat has allowed me to do the same thing off of the mat, and has freed up so much space within me that used to be devoted to controlling my feelings instead of allowing them.
What inspires me to keep teaching? The moment of calm right when class is over and I can see some students choosing to sit for one second longer in peace, rather than rushing off to the next thing is what inspires me to keep teaching. I believe there is such an unmet need in our society for being ok with just being, and that yoga is a way to give that to people. And, each time I teach and marvel at that moment, I in turn feel like I am being given a gift and a reminder of how valuable this tradition and practice is.