I started taking yoga classes at Moksha Yoga in April of this year.

It has changed my life.

If I don’t go to at least one class a week, I feel off. Adam even says that I’m in a much more cheerful mood after class. I usually do feel what I called “yoga drunk.” I move slowly and I often, after class, just have to sit and be loopy for a while before heading home. It’s a yummy feeling. :)

Moksha is a great studio because it makes me feel safe. I remember the first day I went. The class before me was a level 2-3 class (I only take Intro/Basics or level 1-2 classes for now), and everyone came out looking dazed and really sweaty. I got nervous, thinking “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?” Then I went to that first class, a Tantric Vinyasa 1-2, and even though I had some fumbles (Mmm yeah, Half Moon Pose? Was not happening for me that day!), I kept at it. The teacher and a teacher trainee remarked that I did NOT look like a beginner, which made me feel good. My silly little ego blew up at that, though, which is one of the first and hardest things to get rid of in yoga. But I am working on it.

Yoga is teaching me these things:

1. It’s OK if I am not an expert at every single pose. I am just a beginner, after all, and someday, even after I’ve been doing yoga for ten or twenty years, I’ll still be a beginner in many respects. It’s perfectly OK to not be perfect. In the United States, people tend to be competitive, and perfectionists. I live in Chicago, and let me tell you, it is darned competitive here. When I first started yoga classes, I used to push myself to be as good as and/or better than everyone in my class. I’d forget that I was a beginner, and I’d get frustrated if I couldn’t stop wobbling during Tree Pose, or if I couldn’t lean all the way back for Reclining Hero Pose. I’d beat up on myself, forgetting that was NOT the point of yoga at all. Now I am learning that if I can’t get to the final pose, or to that next level, it was OK to be where I am at that time. After constantly pushing myself for anything and getting upset with myself for falling short, this was/is a hard yet welcome lesson for me to learn.

2. How to have compassion for myself. This is a hard one. Getting easier, but still hard. If I set a goal and failed to make it, I beat myself up for being a loser and a failure. Now, if I am in class, I realize that sometimes my body just does not want to go into a certain pose, even though I was doing it with ease the day before. This carries into my every day life. Sometimes, my brain just needs to go in a different direction.

3. How to eat better. Yoga is big on non-violence on many levels. This is non-violence in thoughts regarding yourself (see #2), non-violence in the way we behave toward others, non-violence in what we eat, and non-violence in our beliefs. I’m not going to lie. I still love me some Italian beef and fries, or McDonalds, and junk food? Yes please. But I am making an effort to eat better. To put happy animals in my body so that *I* can be happy. Yeah, it may sound a bit woo-woo, but I can tell you right now that when Adam and I pay more and eat the meat or eggs that’s grass-fed, free range, organic, blahdittyblahblah, we both feel better, emotionally and physically. Many yoginis are vegetarians. I am not ready to go that far. But I can eat better meat, so that’s what I’m doing.

4. A new level of spirituality. It started in class, when we were finishing up with an Om. It was a really pretty sounding one–there were some men in class so there was some baritone action. I told my teacher that I loved the way it sounded, and she suggested that I attend a kirtan. I was intrigued because other instructors have us chanting at the beginning of class sometimes, and I like that. She said it was like a massage for our insides. Adam and I went to the next kirtan. It was weird for me at first. Everyone gathered around, call and response chanting in a language I did not understand. What? And how was this “doing yoga”, I’d wondered, having believed that the asanas (poses) were the main focus. But it stuck with me. The chants and the tunes and the music. And I started looking for them. (Fortunately I have an emusic.com account–lots of kirtan-type stuff on there!) Then I started to worry. Those of you who have been following me for years know about how I was super Christian. Although I have definitely broken away from the church and the Christian culture, that’s still the foundation of my beliefs–that relationship with Christ. I had some trouble reconciling the two. Chanting to Hindi gods? Is this OK? Then I checked the commandments: My God doesn’t want any gods to be thought of as more important as He is. He didn’t say anything about gods in addition to Him. I smiled and relaxed. If anything, kirtan has helped me get more in touch with God.

“Kirtan is non-denominational, the Universal language of Spirit, the song of the Soul.” – New World Kirtan

It’s celebration. It’s love. How is that not God?

5. I can do things I never thought I’d be able to do. How many times have I flipped through a yoga book or browsed a yoga website, looked at a pose, shook my head and went “not even close”? And then end up doing that exact pose the next day in class? I only go to class once or twice a week, but already I have better balance, better strength, and crazy flexibility. Many times I have to get past whatever mind blocks I have and just do it. I surprise myself every time I go to class. Who knows what’ll be next?

6. Yoga can be fun! It’s not all spiritual and serious. Two of my teachers–Cassandra and Mia–have no problems acting silly and letting us laugh at them and ourselves. Cassandra often tells us to “smile” during a pose–we’re all wearing such serious and probably frowny faces, especially during some of those standing poses! Laughing really helps me relax with my class, with the teacher, and with myself.

7. It’s OK to move slow sometimes. Do I even need to elaborate on this? Life doesn’t have to be all about rush, rush, rush. Time goes quickly enough. Just slow down, drink lots of water, and enjoy life.

Other things I am learning: to be more assertive and to stand up for myself (this is going to be a lifelong struggle), unwavering gratitude for my many blessings (I still complain too much, though), and letting my defenses down so love can come in.

I like what yoga is teaching me. I will continue on this journey.

Triangle Pose: Trikonasana

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