Throughout my years of experience after my first yoga teacher training intensive, I have participated in various trends, practiced in hundreds of classes, and interacted with thousands of practitioners. If there is one consistent refrain that I have heard over this time from students of all walks of life, it is this: “I practice yoga because it has changed my life.”
Mark was a fellow student with me when I was just beginning my practice as a student. He was tall, lanky and a college basketball player. I met him when he came home for the summer after his second year studying at university.
I was a little mystified by this huge athlete practicing yoga until he explained one day after our session, “College sports is a high-pressure environment, and I wasn’t successful because I was too wound up.” He went on to detail how practicing yogic techniques regularly helped him stay in the low-anxiety mindset that he needed to deal with pressure. “When my coach suggested yoga, I was a little skeptical, but it really has changed my life.”
Eleanor was a good friend of my mom’s. She had just been diagnosed with cancer when my mom talked her into taking one of the beginner classes I taught. Despite the physical and emotional implications of her illness, Eleanor managed to practice asana, pranayama and meditation three times a week as she underwent treatment.
Over the six months of treatments, Eleanor’s physical appearance changed drastically. Although her body weakened, however, Eleanor gradually began to demonstrate an emotional and mental strength I hadn’t seen before. She began to talk of her cancer favorably, sharing her insights and thirst for life with me and my students. I will never forget the last thing she told me, the week before she died, “Even though I started practicing yoga during the worst time of my life, it has changed me for the better. I have only ever accessed this deep peace I feel with my life and illness through yoga. I never would have made it this far without it.”
Christy had been in a car wreck fifteen years before she began attending my class as an intermediate yoga student. Christy dealt with severe pain daily, a result of her accident, and had struggled with depression ever since. With her marriage and career in shambles, Christy began practicing yogic techniques five years before we met.
After Christy’s first week of classes with me, her husband came in to pick her up. She introduced us, and her husband turned to me when Christy went to pick up her things, “I’m glad she found another class that challenges her. Ever since Christy started practicing yogic exercises, she’s been a different person. It’s changed my life! I hope she never stops!”
These stories remind me why I love being a yoga teacher. Sometimes teachers and students forget to be intentional with our practice. It can be easy to just go through the motions, but when I feel lackluster or undisciplined about yoga training, I remind myself why I do it. After all, yoga has changed my life, too.
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