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For the last several months, Manduka has been running a #ThisIsMyYoga campaign on their website and all over social media. Everyone from world reknowned yoga instructors to Instagram yoga stars to a girl in Morgantown, WV, has been participating, and it’s been pretty great to see. Yoga means so many different things to so many different people, but today I’m going to tell you what it means to me.
First, let’s take a trip back in time to my freshman year of college at WVU. I made a great group of girlfriends in my dorm, and all of us were terrified of gaining the “Freshman 15.” We decided to try out the student rec center, and we tried it out in a lot of different ways. We signed up for personal trainers, took spinning classes, accidentally ended up in advanced Zumba, and signed up for a yoga class.
To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about that class. I don’t know what style of yoga we practiced, I don’t know who taught, and I don’t remember exactly who I went with. I do remember there was a mirror in the room. I do remember scrambling to be in the back of the room to escape said mirror. I remember feeling absolutely ridiculous in happy baby and refusing to ever go again.
Fast forward to 3 years later, and I was living with one of those girls from the dorm and a new best friend I made my sophomore year named Bekah (you guys might recognize her tall, lanky frame and dark blue Jade mat posted up beside me in the front of the room). Bekah was the next exposure I had to yoga. She practiced at home when she had time or when she was stressed. She practiced with her boyfriend at the time. She practiced in the park. She encouraged me to practice with her, and I mostly ignored her. Shortly after graduation, she jetted off to San Diego to work with Invisible Children, where she lived with a yoga instructor and got more immersed in her practice.
After Bekah got back, we sat in her living room practicing YouTube yoga from time to time, and one day we decided to check out the website for a new-ish studio in town. This was our first experience with PoYoMo. We swore we would go, and about 4 months later, we finally decided to try the Community Class.
I fell in love.
After that first class, I couldn’t wait to go back. Since that first class, I’ve been in and out of the studio and in and out of my practice, but somewhere along the line this practice I share with all of you changed me. I count to 5 before I explode on someone at work. I breathe through it when someone cuts me off in traffic (usually). I flip around in my living room trying to teach myself headstands. I do absolutely absurd things in very public places (like New York City).
Somewhere along the line, I stopped giggling at “let your toes shine!” and “the pose begins when you want to leave it.” Somewhere along the line, I learned to shut off my mind and listen to my body. Somewhere along the line, I learned to love, and even look forward to, happy baby. Somewhere along the line, I learned to draw strength from the power of a community breath. Somewhere along the line, I became a Mogi.
So what is my yoga? My yoga is strength and clarity. It is patience and quiet. It’s finally nailing it and falling out the next time I try. It is breakthroughs, both happy and sometimes not so happy. The physical benefits of my practice speak loudly – they’re the drops of sweat on my mat and the sore but happy muscles that greet me the next morning, but the benefits that yoga brings to my mind and soul speak a little more quietly. It’s connection to myself and the present moment. It’s a sense of calm. It’s an outlet that allows me to experience raw emotion in a way that nothing else can. My yoga is me. And my yoga is all of you.
Like many people today, I come from a “broken” home. It doesn’t feel broken, though – it just feels really big. When I was younger, this meant multiple holiday dinners, and multiple holiday dinners meant a whole lot of presents for days on end. Now that I’m older, my family is even more spread out, but I have just as many holiday dinners to attend. Somewhere along the line, though, I realized these dinners aren’t about presents anymore; they’re about presence.
pres·ence noun – the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing
Obviously, presence means being there, in the room, with the people you love. But did you also know that presence means being there, in the room, with the people you love? I know, I know; I repeated myself, but hear me out.
For many, the best part of the holidays is being with the people you love; whether that’s friends or family or a special someone. Imagine this scene: you’re surrounded by family you haven’t seen in a year. The kids are finally walking and talking, your cousin got married, and there’s that one uncle who can only make it every other year and can’t quite remember how to spell your name correctly. The room us full of laughter and reminiscing. The best thing you can give your loved ones in your full presence.
It’s 2014. Social media is, and has been, everywhere. Our loved ones are more spread out than ever. Internet friends are as common as childhood friends. But there’s one thing to keep in mind – you aren’t spending your holidays with your Twitter followers, so why would you be giving them your undivided attention?
Our asana practice teaches us to be fully present in every moment – the good and the bad. Whether it’s a yummy stretch in half pigeon or a can-we-stop-yet struggle in Warrior II, the only way to get the most out of it is to be there, to really feel it. This holiday season, we invite you to carry that presence with you off your mat.
Here’s to wishing you a happy holiday season, mogis – one that is filled with all the best presence.
By Kelli Snedegar