When I first moved to New York in 1997, I was finding myself in the big city, yet lost as to what to do with my life. Life had thrown me some slings and arrows and I came out ok—even strong. Yet even the strong get a bruise now and again.
I had a great job and a lot of things going my way, but something felt “missing” and I was not at ease. I felt a great emptiness and reached blindly for various things to assuage this strange discomfort.
On a whim, I thought I’d break up my gym routine with a yoga class. It was just a stretch class, really—we did yoga asanas (postures) but there was no discussion of any yoga philosophy, and there was no meditation or chanting. But at the end we would lie down in what I would later learn was the pose “shavasana.”
Without any direction from outside, in these shavasana times I would begin to feel repeated, profound experiences of peace, happiness, joy, compassion, support, connectedness, oneness—feelings of being welcomed home. Feelings that we hope our families give us and feel with us.
I began to feel at home in my own body. I began to hear my own voice.
Finally it struck me—this thing that was happening—this peace that came from nothing but stretching and breathing—was the greatest gift. A quieted mind, a feeling of peace and loving support, completely independent from anyone or anything. It simply existed whenever I went inward.
At that moment I knew in my gut, and in my bones: I HAVE to share this with EVERYONE.
That was the beginning of my personal adventure. That is why I am a yoga student, and teacher.
Not everyone has the same experiences in yoga or meditation, but more and more research is being conducted on the effects of these practices, as well as others like Tai Chi and massage. What is being found again and again is that people who use these modalities are having less stress, more happiness and greater health. Even things such as white blood cell count have been seen to increase through these practices. It doesn’t get much more real than that.
The Integral Yoga Institute has a motto: An easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life. I love this motto for its precision and simplicity. It doesn’t matter if you believe in a soul or a Self, or a God or Gods, or if you believe anything at all. It doesn’t matter. Most people want feelings of ease, peace and meaning. Yoga can bring that to you. And it’s the greatest gift.
My sincerest wish is that we all be happy, free, and awake.
Om shanti shanti shanti. Peace, peace, peace.