What is the value of your yoga practice?
Does it help you relieve your back pain? Relieve stiffness? Stress? Manage anxiety? Clear your mind? Help you focus? Stay present? Improve relationships with others and yourself? Does yoga help you live your life better and more fully or is it just an exercise class to you?
For me, after my family, yoga is what I value most in my life. Yoga has given me the guidelines, practices and tools to more skillfully navigate this life, the ups and downs, accomplishments and disappointments, injuries, surgeries, pain and healing. Yoga has given me the ability to connect with my inner knowledge and experience the unchanging core of my being – Anandamaya Kosa – the body of bliss.
25 years ago I was blessed to find TriYoga. For my first 17 years of practice I approached yoga as asana attainment. I sequenced my classes to stretch and strengthen, starting with introductory postures and leading up to the penultimate asana of the class. I am not knocking this practice – it kept me coming back to the mat for 17 years. It has many benefits. It is a safe and effective practice, at least effective for learning the asanas. But what I didn’t realize was this was only a fraction of what yoga had to offer – just the tip of the iceberg.
In 1993 I was recovering from wrist surgery. I had been in wrist braces for 7 years. The surgery did not help and left me in more pain. I had to stop working because I could no longer use a computer. I became depressed. Although I had been practicing yoga for 17 years and teaching for 10, my own practice wasn’t lifting me out of depression so I decided to take yoga classes from as many different yoga teachers as I could. One morning, in the upstairs attic of a spiritual bookstore, the teacher gave the instruction to visualize a warm light flowing up the spine as we sustained a reclined twist. I felt the energy flow from the base of my spine up to my forehead and then it blew up all my thoughts and I dissolved into a sense of expansiveness. My whole body was vibrating with energy. Afterwards I told the teacher of my experience and she took me downstairs to the bookstore and recommended some books. I bought and read several, and decided it was time to find a master teacher. One week later I received a flyer in the mail for the Unity in Yoga conference celebrating 100 years of yoga in America. Well known teachers and founders from all the major lineages would be there. I decided to go.
That was where I met Yogini Kaliji, founder of TriYoga. My first class with her was a mudra class and as soon as I put my hands together in a mudra, I felt that same energy surging through my body. Later that day I was talking to some people, mentioned my experience in Kaliji’s class and “by coincidence” that person said Kaliji was coming to her center the following month, and her studio was just 20 minutes away from me (we were in the Poconos, PA and we both live in Massachusetts). I went to the workshop and again experienced the energy flowing through me. After the workshop I spoke to Kaliji, told her my experience, and asked her how I could learn TriYoga and who would teach it in MA (she is from CA). She told me “You will”.
And so it happened “by coincidence” that I was invited to speak at a computer industry conference in California the Thursday before the very next teacher training. I asked the conference coordinators if they would pay for my hotel for the weekend because it would be cheaper than paying for my flight on Friday instead of Sunday. They said yes, so I got an expense paid trip to CA and began my TriYoga teacher training. It “so happened” that I was invited to speak at computer conferences 3 additional times that year – just before each teacher training. I had never been to California before, but after Kaliji told me I would teach TriYoga in MA I made every teacher training that year with expenses paid.
As I practiced at home alone, I didn’t always know what the transitions or postures were (the names were different), but I felt the energy, and was guided by it. The energy was healing. The pain in my wrists lessened, and then eventually faded away. My back stopped hurting. The asanas felt more effortless. What I thought I knew about asana practice was being transformed as I focused on opening energy pathways, and experiencing the healing and transformative power of energy flows. I discovered the goal of yoga is NOT asana attainment. The goal of asana is to open energy pathways. I discovered that removing the obstacles to the flow of energy is supported by all the limbs of yoga. Living an ethical lifestyle, practicing ahimsa – non-harming, pranayama, meditation, mantra (millions of mantra repetitions), chanting. TriYoga includes the full scope of yoga practices. As the energy flowed it healed and expanded consciousness, knowledge, and bliss.
So what is the value of my yoga practice 25 years since starting TriYoga? It is my daily dose of bliss. Yoga is no longer just classes and home practice to me. Yoga is how I live my life, moment to moment, informing what I eat, how I think and act in the world. It is still a work in progress. The knowledge and experience is always expanding. I feel blessed with the knowledge and practice of TriYoga. I feel the practice can help you achieve whatever your heart’s true desire is. I have seen many students and TriYoga teachers throughout the world transformed by the practice.
But the catch is you need to do the practice to experience the benefits. So what are your goals? What investment are you willing to make to achieve them? What is the value of your yoga practice?