I often say that “yoga saved my life” – whether that is a metaphorical or literal notion is up for interpretation and probably a lot of conversations with my doctor, but it definitely has, at the very least, enriched my quality of life.
My first experience with a yoga class was in college. My crew coach made us take a class for reasons that weren’t clear to the team at the time (of course, now I think she was really onto something), but I couldn’t “quiet my mind” or touch my toes or hold a downward dog for longer than 10 seconds, so I was definitely NOT into it.
It wouldn’t be until ten years later that I would venture back onto a yoga mat. I fully admit that at the time it was because I longed for a yoga butt and sculpted arms. But just as we evolve as people so has my yoga practice.
I started with Power Yoga (shout out to Sarah Dineen) where I learned the language and foundations of my fledgling practice. An injury sent me to a gentler practice of Hatha Yoga with Shauna Childs who is responsible for me developing a consistent practice based on effort and ease that was my solace in what proved to be a very stressful time of my life. And when I was diagnosed with a wee little heart condition a couple of years ago, it was on my yoga mat that I found the security in my body and my mind to make peace with what was happening.
Being on my yoga mat is beautiful and challenging and joyous and frustrating and calming and emotional and invigorating. It is life.
It is there that I have learned to know when to take a child’s pose in class and in my daily life.
It is there that I have learned compassion for myself (and my current inability to perform arm balances – I blame my crooked arms) that has also made me more compassionate towards others.
It is there that I have developed confidence in and appreciation for my body and its strength and abilities, which vary from day to day and minute to minute.
It is there that I have learned patience and acceptance: patience to allow my practice to evolve and acceptance for what I may never be able to do.
A few years ago I began practicing Vinyasa Flow primarily with Mary Catherine Starr. With her guidance and my ujjayi breath I have deepened my connection to my yoga practice and my connection with myself and my body. And I truly believe this enables me to connect with others on a deeper level. It is in her class, on my yoga mat, that I feel most myself.
Yes, I also feel like I am physically in the best shape of my life, and I can now touch my toes, quiet my mind for a short spell, and hold downward dog for at least 30 seconds. But that is secondary now, to fewer aches and pains, a somewhat rested mind, and a more contented spirit.
I have been so fortunate to have developed my practice here on Cape Cod, where the yoga community is second to none. I encourage anyone and everyone to develop a regular practice (whatever that may mean to you) and to step out of your comfort zone and take workshops at local studios like The Yoga Collaborative in North Falmouth, Inner Glow Yoga in Mashpee, Centerville Yoga and Wellness in Centerville, and Orleans Yoga in Orleans.
Grow your practice…I promise you will grow yourself.
Amanda Converse is co-founder and co-editor of Ebb & Flow, and now, after 10 years of regular practice considers herself a 'yogi'