I started teaching yoga almost 16 years ago. When I started teaching, I was working full-time, I was teaching 3-4 Spin classes each week and, in my spare time, I was training for marathons and triathlons. I now realize that I was doing everything I could to avoid dealing with a job I hated, and the long-term relationship that was crumbling around me. Of course, I didn’t recognize these issues at that time. I thought I was just living an average life. I wish I could tell you that yoga was what helped set me on the right path, but that would be a false assertion.
What did happen was that I eventually left the job I hated and tried to open my own yoga studio. When that failed I went back to working for someone else full-time, but shortly after I started that job I relieved myself of the relationship that was broken beyond repair. I kept working and teaching and, frankly, celebrated being single with all the enthusiasm of a 20-year old. Yoga still wasn’t teaching me anything, even though it was a practice I enjoyed sharing with my students.
I wasn’t single for very long when a friend, who was concerned that I wasn’t looking at my life very clearly, gave me Iyanla Vanzant’s book, “In the Meantime.” I tried reading the book, but on the surface I was having a really good time and I was resistant to the message. I only got a few pages into the book when I decided I didn’t need the help the author was offering. I was fine. Then, one night in 2009, while reflecting on events in my past, I had an emotional breakdown and cried so hard I broke almost all the blood vessels in one eye. (For those of you who have wondered where my bloody eyeball picture on Facebook came from, now you know.)
Shortly thereafter, I finally read the book I’d been given. H’mm. My friend had been right; it did have something to do with my life. Ms. Vanzant had lived through troubles, and dealt with things, that while not identical to what I had lived through, still resonated with me. The book was life changing and gave me a desire to learn more about this new (to me) school of thought. I started reading whatever self-help book friends recommended and I started spending time looking at my life. Really looking at my life, not just glazing over it.
Eventually, a friend insisted I read Louise Hay’s, “You Can Heal Your Life.” Louise Hay had come to fame as author of the pamphlet “You Can Heal Your Body.” In the book, “You Can Heal Your Life,” Ms. Hay expanded on her original concept and not only points out all the links between the physical body and the spiritual body but also gave affirmations to help you heal. Wow! My mind was blown again. It was around this same time that the same friend invited me to a spiritual healing with her. I was intrigued and went. What happened there involved too many people in too private a way to share, but it was fascinating. My mind just kept opening to more and more levels of thought.
All of these steps finally led me to Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City. In the years since I started attending I have studied both the Unity philosophy and Buddhism. In both of these practices I have learned the importance of mindfulness in both thoughts and actions. In my experience, meditation is the means of achieving that mindfulness, and yoga is the physical practice that allows your body to strengthen for the rigors of meditation.
A new friend recently sent me a link to the video “The Science Behind Yoga,” posted on the webpage Uplift. I watched the video and while I agree with everything they say on this video, it’s interesting to me that, at least in America, people use the “yoga” and “meditation” almost interchangeably. This is not how I was trained to think about yoga and meditation. In all honesty, despite my attempts at mindfulness, there have been times when I have been pretty adamant in arguing that my philosophy was correct.
So, after all these years of teaching and growing, I decided to do my research and write this post to prove that my line of thought is correct. After all, I’d been teaching so long surely my way of looking at things had to be right. Not surprisingly my research proved the opposite: I finally realized that no matter what you call it, or what path leads you there, if you study and apply the philosophy of mindful thoughts and actions, you are going to have a better life.
So, with the best of intentions, I was wrong. With this new outlook in mind I will keep practicing and studying. I will keep sharing my thoughts with others and I will work to stay open to other points of views and philosophies. And, finally, keeping this lesson in mind, I will keep learning. Especially when I think I already know it all.