Why Yoga- by A. Jiles

Why Yoga- by A. Jiles

Dear M,

I gave you a short and sweet response to your inquisitive question this afternoon, but I think you deserve a thoughtful and complete response. I can’t count on one hand the blessings yoga has brought into my life, but I do know I love the person I am when practicing with an open heart and a quiet mind.

*Yoga brings me to the present. I’d like to lie and say that my mind is an empty abyss when I step onto my mat, but I’d be throwing you a line. My mind is a crazed jungle of thoughts, and images, and lists, and that negative self talk tape that I’m trying so hard to overcome, emotions, and memories. Yoga helps challenge me in ways that lead me to the present. It helps me let go of everything waiting on me in the real world, and for the briefest of hours, I connect to myself. I connect to the breathe. I connect to the spirt.

*Yoga puts me inside my body. For years, I walked around disconnected from my physical self. I blame my 20s and the urge to undertake any and all unhealthy habits, but I started to see my body as separate, as this demon I had to battle. My darkest moment arrived on a stationary bike. I broke down and sought a practice that would help me accept my body, not completely overhaul it to fit a standard of unattainable perfection. Literally, yoga makes me touch and notice my body. A practice I am finding is hard for a lot of people. I have to feel and see what my <insert body part> is doing. My attention becomes single focused. Inhale. Exhale.

*In the center of it all, I find stillness. Things slow down for me when I’m practicing yoga. Instead of multi-tasking a billion things, I get to just be still. I give myself permission to find the quiet. Of course, a yoga class is not completely silent, but when all is said and done, I relish in the stillness of my mind, my body, and my breath.

*Yoga leads me to gratitude. Gratitude for all things. Good or bad. Insignificant or monumentally important. When I started looking at the world with gratitude, I stopped yelling. I stopped trying to prove my worthiness. I began to be thankful for the moment. Do I still have crappy days? Of course I do, but my general outlook on life feeds on gratitude and kindness.

*Yoga has brought me closer to God/universe/spirit. I’ve searched. I’ve rejected. I’ve argued the existence. I’ve defined myself against God for years. If I knew anything about myself, I knew that I didn’t believe in the theology and ideology that permeates the South. I never believed that I would find God on my yoga mat (as a matter of fact, I was skeptical as hell), but as my practice matures and deepens, I have begun to believe that yoga is almost solely responsible for me connecting to my version of God. God is all around us and has no name, but she/he/it lives in the space between you and me. The connection between souls. The connection to nature. The connection between my feet and my mat.

*I found courage on my mat. I’ve never been afraid to be me, but yoga gave me the courage to be me proudly and without hesitation. Yoga made it alright for me to be different. Being outside the norm is not always easy, but it is so much more rewarding than living under someone else’s expectations. Kicking myself up into a handstand might seem like a feat of strength, but for me, it is about having the courage to turn my life upside down and relish in the beauty of my courageous spirit.

*My mat is my mirror. Once I had been practicing a year or two, I began to notice the emotions that came with different poses. When you first start practicing, you are so concerned with the physicality of the pose that you concentrate intensely on following directions and moving your body in a completely foreign manner. After you start to figure out the puzzle, you notice a new layer of depth. Instead of concentrating on getting your foot in the right spot, you start to sort through the array of emotions that arise as you waver between going to yoga, as you step onto the mat, as you close your eyes, turn inward, and notice your mind and breath, as you listen to the sound of the teacher’s voice and move your body into the prompted shapes, as you lay on the mat in savasana trying to be aware, but unattached, as you bring your hands into the last prayer pose of the class, and as you walk off the mat and back into real life. You start to notice those same emotions in your day-to-day interactions, and as in yoga, you can always come back to the breath.

*I listen now. Hard to believe, but I’ve always liked to talk and have always had a lot to say. Yoga (and some talk therapy) slowed me down. I learned to listen. To my body. To my breath. To my mind. To people. To life.

*I do yoga for that blissed out look that you left class with yesterday. Finding that bliss brings me back to yoga. Being able to give that bliss to others keeps me teaching yoga. Complete relaxation. Complete surrender to the flow and grace of life.

Short and sweetly, yoga makes me a better and nicer person.

I am honored and privileged to be able to share this gift with you and your sidekick. Thank you for allowing me to be your teacher. There is so much more I have to share with you, and I honestly can’t wait.

Namaste,

A. Jiles

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