How do I explain practicing yoga and its overall impact it has had on my life? Hmm. I can say that it is “alive.”

It moves…through and around me while drawing out the things that are hiding inside as I go in & get quiet with breath & steady Dristi.

I know that something happens that’s quite unique to yoga. I can feel the difference between being at the gym working out and and being at Mission Astanga doing my Mysore practice. Don’t get me wrong, I get my cardio-high in both and I feel good afterward. I admit that I love the bass & rhythms from my playlist & the range of the music selections that help drive me to finish 5 more minutes at the gym when I don’t think I could do any more. Sweating, heart beating fast, adrenaline pumping. I feel good when I’ve finished. I’ve accomplished my goal. I kicked ass, again. On my best days at the gym, I am a machine. Ouch.

Do I have your attention, yet?

I don’t know if I should continue writing because now you’re looking into my soul. Oh well, you’ve witnessed a tiny bit so come on in if you dare to follow me into my personal journey into yoga.

I have been practicing at Mission Ashtanga since its beginning and every morning once I get into the studio, everything “about me” changes. My mind becomes still. Yoga is so quiet. All I can hear is the breath, mine and my neighbors. I liken it to the sound of an ocean lullaby. It’s so beautiful. Before starting Suryanamaskar A, I wait and …I listen. I wait another moment and… try to feel my heart beating. Is it there? Am I here? Once I contact “Yes”, I softly drift inward.

Now, Asana? Go. But it’s not go.
It’s more like AM I READY to be present in my body? Mysore practice is a moving m e d i t a t i o n connected by breath. Each inhale fills my lungs at full capacity, not forced, but just plain delicious! I can’t go too fast because I might miss all the nuances in the practice: how good it feels to raise my hands up to Heaven as I inhale and take it all in, how the pause in the breath miraculously surfaces, how the exhale makes me feel grounded as I move & touch the earth in a forward bend. All of that goodness in a few seconds, in one breath. Follow that up with two more hours.

Yoga and inner peace? You’d think that we’d be able to levitate. Yoga does more than that for me. I am lucky enough to have a wise and non verbose teacher, Devorah. When I first started practicing with her, she asked me why I came to practice everyday. I didn’t have an answer right away, except for “I’m not sure,” and that there was something about it that made me feel good right from the first salutation. Devorah just said, “Oh”. That was it. Nothing else. But there was something about how she said it. That brief interchange has stuck with me for a decade. (I’ve never told her that, but she’s going to read about it now.)

It’s not that no one has ever asked me why I do anything like…why do I always repeat myself, why don’t I flush the toilet after doing no.1 especially when its fluorescing from the vitamins and supplements, why do I order my dressing on the side, why do I eat dairy when I’m lactose intolerant, etc. But as a yogi, when y’all get up in the morning and come to the mat everyday, maybe tired, or maybe you have no night life and did go to bed early, still the question of “Why?”you have committed yourself to something so wholeheartedly IS important because you may not know the answer!

You just “do”. I don’t know why you do. Only you know the answer. So, ten years ago I was asked, and it stuck with me. Which brings me to my point. If you’re ever lucky enough to find a teacher who can challenge you with so few words that effectively make you look inside yourself everyday for ten years, sign up.

Practicing yoga gives me the gift of seeing myself. Asana has always been so exciting for me especially when there is another pose coming. You know exactly what I mean. I’m quite driven, perhaps a generic type A personality. Devorah of little words would let me practice, often leaving me alone for a while. I would then get a pose like upavista konasana and keep trying to do it over and over and over ’til I tire out.

One day she finally let it go long enough and she came over to me and told me, “After three attempts, stop. Move on to the next pose” because she knows how I am. After hearing that, it gave me incentive to try harder. I don’t think that was what she meant in hind site. But I took it that way. She of few words never explained it or lectured me in it as a lesson of letting go. What I love about my teacher is that she delivers it, and then she lets it blossom and grow organically…revealing itself to you. Trust me, she doesn’t lecture. That is what our mothers are for.

My relationship with Devorah has never been her telling me what to do or what to believe. She delivers one or two sentence(s). She’s quite wise. If she suggests something to you in practice (i.e. imagine there’s a string pulling at your heart, where’s your dristi, turn on your legs, etc.) maybe try it and see where it leads you.

There was a day I kept doing a pose over and over again about 5-6 times. It was kapotasana and my upper back and shoulders were not cooperating at all. Devorah came over to me and asked, “What are you doing? Why do you need to do this?” And, I said, “Because I’m type A. I want to do things right. Because I want to be good at it.” I meant every word.

2nd question from Devorah, “What if you didn’t do it, what would happen?”
Before I replied, my voice started cracking. Out of no where came the tears. I replied, “Then I don’t think I’m doing it right. And all the things that my father told me about myself are true. I can’t do anything right, & I am a defect.

I listened to myself and quietly thought, “What? Where did that come from?”

I was standing there in disbelief that all of that came out of my mouth. My father? I felt so stripped down & torn in two. I cried because my current reality and the years of lies and deception converged in that moment. From that one pose. I was always the type to finish what I start. I was good at whatever I did. I always worked hard and did not half-ass anything. But being type A wasn’t the truth of what drove me to do something well.

The truth: I feared vulnerability (that’s another discussion).
And, I didn’t want to entertain the possibility of failure which would’ve supported my my father’s accusations & labels of me.
Type A was just one layer in the onion peel. At best, a facade.

On the mat, and with the help of my teacher, Devorah, the truth was given to me. The gift of seeing myself was priceless. I learned that I didn’t want to live my life superficially, without meaning or simply exist & spend $$ on things I wanted. There’s a lot to discover. And being open to the things that I have feared most has freed me & lightened my personal burden.

BTW, I didn’t get any of that at the gym.

With love,
Jen Abejar
Gym rat
Yogi wannabe