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This past weekend, Power Yoga Morgantown hosted the Warrior Workshops – a three-day event designed to open you up, ground you down to the present moment, and create space for new possibilities in your lives. It might just sound like a lot of yogi buzz words, but that’s exactly what we did.
Day 1 of the workshops really set the stage for what was to come over the rest of the weekend. After a wonderful yoga practice full of open twists and core work sprinkled with laughter (no joke – there were 14 Mogis laughing during what is typically a very tense part of the practice), the discussions began. This is where we learned just how real we were about to get with ourselves, and for most of us, how uncomfortable that realness might get. With a room full of light, positive energy and journals in hand, we looked inside to see what our yoga practice brings out in us and where in our lives we may not be giving 100%. Challenged to work toward becoming more authentic in those areas of our lives, we walked out of the studio wondering what Day 2 would bring.
Day 2, we focused on tadasana – both in our physical practice and in the rest of our lives. Throughout our practice, we were reminded to start with our feet. “Ground down through your feet, then work your way up.” This was repeated through every posture – from downward facing dog to crescent lunge twist to twisted half moon. Partner work focused on maintaining tadasana, even when we lost the support of the one holding us, and our discussions once again forced us to look inside. What do we feel when we lose tadasana? What takes us out, and what brings us back? Armed with a whole arsenal of positive values, we were challenged to commit to a new way of being, and to stop telling ourselves harmful lies.
Day 3 focused on heart opening. By the last day, every woman in the room felt how safe of a space they were in. Sharing hard truths got a little easier, and partner work requiring extreme trust for some was accessible to all. After a practice full of backbending, partner work, and a little bit of silly strutting, the studio seemed to shine from within. There were tears and laughter and breakthroughs and thank yous. People lingered after class. New friends were made.
It’s taken me a few days to get my thoughts reigned in for this post. I wanted to be able to describe my experience in the Warrior Workshops in a few, succinct words. I think I speak for all of us, though, when I tell you I couldn’t narrow the list down because the experience was anything but succinct.
They were crying and laughter. Self-confrontation and breakthroughs. “I want to be perfect,” and “I don’t even want to try.” They were breaking down and building up. They were shame and vulnerability and love and truth and respect. They were “I am scared,” and “Hey, I am, too.” They were grounding down and shaking it out. They were hugs – both literally and figuratively. The Warrior Workshops were exactly what one might expect, and they were so, so much more.
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.