“I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars.  I started listening to the teaching of my soul.”  – Rumi

Many of us come to yoga in a similar way.  It often begins with an interest in the physical nature of the practice, the desire to lose weight or gain flexibility.  I am always struck by the amount of yogis who confess to finding healing and deeper meaning through a regular yoga practice — that it is those things that keep them coming back to their mats.  For my very first post, I would like to share my own journey and why I have devoted much of my life to yoga.

I spent the majority of my teenage and young adult years lacking confidence.  To compensate for my agonizing shyness and self-consciousness, I became an overachiever and perfectionist.  This took the form of academics, music, gymnastics, cheerleading and eventually a career in teaching literature.

Despite winning accolades in all of these fields, I always doubted my abilities.  As soon as I reached a goal, I needed to go after something bigger.  I compared myself to others and constantly found myself lacking.  Life may have looked good on paper, but I was deeply dissatisfied with the person that I was, both on the outside and on the inside.

I still remember my first yoga class.  It was a Bikram’s class circa 2005, and the only thing that really resonated with me was that it kicked my butt.  Never one to shy away from a new challenge, I knew Bikram yoga was something I needed to conquer.  I spent the next seven years in and out of the studio, slowly transforming my body and disciplining my mind.

While I loved the heat and the rigorous nature of Bikram yoga, I eventually found a different kind of peace and creativity in vinyasa yoga.  When I began to practice at YYoga, a completely new light went off in my mind.  I was startled to realize that there were copious styles of yoga!  I tried them all, eventually discovering a great love for vinyasa.  I started to find my breath.  I began to feel joy at being quiet and not working toward a goal or seeing the practice as a means to an end.  When I got home from class, I noticed a lightness in my demeanour.  I didn’t obsess over what I would eat for dinner or what I had consumed that day.  Little by little (read: over three years), I found acceptance within myself and I began to enjoy being in my own body.

This was a kind of freedom that I had never known.  I felt free from guilt and default feelings of inadequacy.  I learned to apply the lessons from class into my everyday life, finding myself breathing steadily and calmly through adversity.  I also began a home practice so that I could spend time on my mat each day.  Even though there were (and still are) several postures that I aspired to, I stopped viewing yoga itself as a goal.  Rather, I began to liken it to a well or life-source, as essential to me as my breath.

Over time, I have learned to stop measuring my success by comparing myself to others, by the number of promotions I can achieve, or even the amount of asanas I can master.  The most empowering and healing result of my yoga practice has been learning to listen to my own soul.  There, with great humility and awe, I have found yoga, and I have been transformed.

Photo by Catherine Byrdy