To celebrate Yoga Month I am featuring a blog from one of my favorite yoga teachers, Amanda Califano. Amanda has been practicing yoga for nearly nine years. Amanda teaches yoga at several studios across the Boston area including Prana, Black Crow, Exhale and Latitude Sports Club. She is also a life-long dancer and found yoga to be a natural way to express her love for movement and as a necessary release during law school. She also writes for her own blog at www.amandacalifano.com
The other day, I sang in front of a room-full of people for the first time since I screwed up a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in an elementary school audition. I LOVE singing… in the shower, in my car, and anywhere that’s far far away from another set of ears. But, despite that “I-think-I-might-pass-out” feeling that arises with the worst of nerves, I did it. The notes weren’t pretty, they weren’t perfectly on key; in fact, I didn’t even get some of the words right. But, by the end of our singing session, I was using my own voice in new ways and singing with less self-consciousness than ever before. I was singing out of joy and blending with others who didn’t think they could carry a tune along with professional singers. No one stared, no one criticized, no one judged. We encouraged each other, supported each other, and felt our voices become one through song. With every note, we got stronger collectively and felt more empowered individually.
Such is yoga. As individuals, we often carry around so many tensions, anxieties, responsibilities, self-criticisms, and stresses, which can weigh us down and over time lead to dis-ease in body and mind. But through a regular yoga practice, we can begin to reconnect with what’s real for us and start to let go of some of the “stuff” that weighs us down. We can return to the beauty and ease of breathing deeply, relax physical and mental tension, and create more openness and flexibility. A yoga class is full of so many different energies… but the overall commonality is that most everyone in the room is there to focus on their breath, their body, their practice, and letting go of those tensions, stresses, and anxieties that build up over the course of our busy lives.
Moving through a yoga practice is like moving through the notes of a song. We often start off a little distracted, nervous, anxious, self-conscious, feeling separated from everyone else in the room; but through the journey of heating up, strengthening, and stretching, we soon find ourselves lost in our breath and our own rhythm, releasing tightness and tension and creating space in our bodies and minds. By the end of class, there is a beautiful energy that has fallen upon the room, encompassing the new practitioner, the advanced practitioner, and everyone in between.
As a beginner, it’s hard to imagine walking into that first class. Yoga can certainly feel intimidating. I remember when I first started and finally got up the courage to walk into a studio for the first time. Similar to that fear of singing in front of people, I feared that I wouldn’t know the moves, that everyone would be watching me, that I wouldn’t be able to do the poses, that I would look silly, amongst so many others. But what I experienced was so far from those misguided fears. Sure, I couldn’t do all the poses, just like I can’t sing all of the notes of even the simplest song, but it gave me something to work towards and I found peace in appreciating whatever it was my body could do at the time. I realized that no one was looking at me, no one was judging me and no one was pressuring me to do anything that I wasn’t ready to do. We were all practicing individually and could choose to do as much or as little as we wanted. And yet together our energies merged and we created a vibrancy that connected us all, leaving beginners and advanced students indistinguishable from one another.
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