My love affair with yoga began in the sixties. I was about ten years old. My father was doing his own yoga practice on the living room floor of our small city home. I would copy his poses. At first, it was a way to feel close to him, but as time went on, I also started feeling close to myself. Yoga calls this the “true self.” It was like magic! You come to the mat. You can be with others, and yet you are encouraged to go within. Get quiet. Observe the breath. There is enough space, mentally and physically, to be “alone”. Quiet, relaxed, strong, and safe. With others; yet alone. To me, this is the integrated practice of opposites. The “middle way.” I felt it then and I feel it now.
I was attracted to yoga because of my nature and because of the non-competiveness. I remember doing some practices from a teen magazine that helped with stress relief. It helped with my nervous nature. I took out books from the library. I practiced regularly as a young mother, especially with Eric Schiffmann and Ali McGraw’s iconic “Yoga Mind and Body” VHS tape. I took classes at community centers. Yoga helped me feel healthy, connected and productive.
In the early 2000s I joined Midtown Athletic Club. It is where I met Carla Giambrone. I fell in love with her classes and her Forty Day Workshop. Carla has the chops to get folks to “get real” and get connected with themselves and others. She encouraged us to share the thoughts and emotions that yoga brings forth in a safe environment. My friend Donna and I looked at each other and said, “No way!” Can’t we just do yoga and not deal with the “stuff” that comes up?
You can. You can do yoga for strength, balance and flexibility. But the real benefits are when you truly start to live the mind/body connection. I exploded with the hidden, difficult emotions during yoga teacher training in 2014. I was actually using my yoga practice as a way to avoid and deny many things that needed dealing with in an honest, open way. I was fifty and I was practicing heated power vinyasa six or seven days a week. In retrospect, it was like “cutting.” There is a fine line between hurting and feeling good. I did so much challenging practice, it numbed the emotional pain. I was crossing the line. Finally, it was too much. I ended up in the hospital and out of work for over two months.
It took three years from the “break through point” to find peace, excellent health and my “true self”…again. It was yoga that helped me find my way…again. I had a different relationship with my yoga at this point in my life. I learned to really listen to my body. I developed more patience with myself. I learned to set boundaries with myself and others. I learned to FLOURISH.
When you flourish, you are more connected. I was not sure how I would use my yoga teacher training when I finished the course, but the answers come when you are patient enough….still enough…. to wait and listen. I share my yoga with staff and students in Webster Central School District. I do this formally through classes for staff, an RTI structured study hall with students and the Varsity Football team. Yoga and Mindfulness also slip seamlessly into my Literacy classes. It really helps students relax and get ready to learn. But the place where yoga really “lights me up” is when it helps me to stay grounded and connected with students that really struggle because of personal issues. I feel a kinship with them. And for a moment, they can be their “true selves”. I have seen it resonate with these sweet souls. I see them relax, and I believe with all my heart that their continued practice of yoga and non-attachment will help them find their own way to FLOURISH.
Carla has always been there for me. She has this way of being simultaneously strong yet gentle; tough yet caring. Her classes flow fast and slow; contracting and expanding, standing and seated. It is that integrated balance of opposites that appeals to me and that I love. Thank you Carla, for sharing, teaching and opening your heart and this beautiful new studio!