“What is yoga?” I am asked this question often as a yoga teacher and it is so hard to come up with a short, easy answer. Many people think of stretching, others of strengthening, chanting, or “om” ing, and sure, it can be a mix of all those things. My easy answer is that it is a mind, body, and spirit practice. But what does that mean?
My first visit to a yoga practice was all about my body. I wanted to look like those fit and bendy yogis I saw in pictures everywhere. I soon found out that yoga was so much more. It started with how it affected my mind. It made my mind quiet; that nagging anxiety that was a constant in my brain began to disappear. It started with a breath, then another. Soon I held a pose for eight breaths. Eventually I was able to quiet my mind from the beginning of class integration all the way through Savasana to the final Namaste. I spent some time working on cultivating the mind and then the magic happened! The spirit came flooding in (and here is my preaching moment) Yoga is LIFE CHANGING, that is what yoga is!
Yoga changed everything about how I see the world and it saved my life by making it whole, alive, and authentic. When I found yoga, I was in a tailspin, unable to recover from traumas of childhood, my teenage years, and onward. I was unable to forgive myself for mistakes I made in the past and unable move forward. I lacked the confidence to love myself for who I was and not who I thought everyone else wanted me to be. Most of all, I was missing out on loving myself wholeheartedly for all these things, because that is what makes me who I am. Learning to love myself helped me to become a more compassionate person to others.
When I did my interview for Yoga Teacher training, we discussed at length the personal transformation format they chose for 200 training and about how it would help us find our “ness”. Through yoga I have gotten back the “Meghan-ness” I was born with. I have peeled away layers, upon layers that I have been covering up with trying to be what family, friends, other parents and society wanted me to be. Finding my inner strength, flexibility, openness, love, kindness, patience, compassion for myself and all things I share this universe with, that is what Yoga is to me. Namaste.
~Meghan Hermsen, Yoga Instructor, Reiki Master