I met Alison at Yoga training in Hawaii. It was not a bad place to make a new friend. We roomed together, and as a result, became to know each other quickly on a deeper level.
We talked about yoga, and what it had, and was bringing to our lives. I said it had helped me calm down, and be able to focus more on my writing. It also allowed me to relax as a parent, and connect to others more easily. She too had similar experiences with the practice helping her in other areas of her life. So, I asked her to elaborate for all of you.
Below is what she wrote.
Yoga as My Constant
by Alison Ahmoye
I have been practicing yoga for almost a decade now. I started out tentatively, signing up for a Beginner’s Hatha Yoga class at a community center in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood back in 2003. I was one of only three students. Our teacher was a 30-something Caucasian woman whose dreadlocks would have rivaled those of Bob Marley.
Up until that point, I had always been intimidated at the thought of a yoga class. Perhaps it was the mysticism attached to the ancient practice, along with the fear that I didn’t think I would fit in, or be good enough to do those yoga poses. You know, the ones you see in magazines.
Thankfully, my first experience into the world of yoga was a positive one. I had initially signed up for the beginner’s class to check out what this yoga phenomenon was, and also to test out the claims I kept hearing that yoga’s benefits extended beyond the physical. I wasn’t even quite sure what that meant, but it sounded appealing.
I now look back at this experience as life-changing. It propelled me into a deeper world of yoga. From Hatha Yoga, I tried Ashtanga (a more athletic vinyasa flow), then I found Baptiste Power Yoga and I was hooked.
Throughout my time as a graduate student and my first job as a TV reporter, I found time to practice yoga. Even when I didn’t have a studio or gym to go to, I would crack open a yoga book or watch a DVD and practice at home. There were periods of time when life got too busy and my practice suffered. But something kept drawing me back, and I always was eager to grab my mat and to find the poses that had somehow become second-nature to me.
As an early power yoga practitioner, I was first drawn to its physical benefits. I loved how strong I felt. I loved to sweat and feel like I was getting a workout. But as I continued, I started to realize why I kept coming back. Those claims that yoga transcends the physical into the spiritual and emotional were true.
At different stages in my life, I strived for different things in my practice. During my early reporting career, I wanted to feel strong and would approach my yoga classes with that thought in mind. It was as if I was trying to prove something to myself and to the world. I would kick my own butt through each class, sweat up a storm and leave feeling powerful.
As life progressed, so did my yoga practice. I started connecting the dots to how I react in different poses and how I react in various situations. I became a mother and found my intentions in class turning toward gratitude, unconditional love, sometimes even humor. There were also many frustrating days as a reporter, and during those times my intentions were of serenity and equanimity.
I started to relate who I was on the mat to who I was off the mat. When I tipped into crow for the first time, I felt immense pride. Pride because I had accomplished what I had once deemed as impossible. When I timidly kicked up into a wishy-washy handstand, I felt fear. Fear of taking risks. Fear of failing. When I stood in mountain pose, I felt gratitude. Gratitude for every aspect of my blessed life.
Each of these feelings, along with many others, show up for me in my daily routine outside of the yoga studio. While I still push myself to the edge every time I practice, I have found a softening in my practice. I have learned to stay focused and fully present not only during yoga, but also in each moment of the day with my family and others with whom I cross paths.
I no longer work in TV news. No more tight deadlines for two minutes of airtime. I teach yoga instead. My attention is now on alignment and breath instead of soundbites and live shots. There is no doubt that yoga helped me find balance while I pursued a career in journalism; and in many ways, being a reporter provided me with a great skill set to be an effective yoga teacher. Despite all the life changes in the last decade, including my career, becoming a full-time mother, moving cities several times and making new friends along the way, the one constant throughout has been yoga (oh, and also a very supportive husband).
Now as a yoga teacher, I see the young yogi I used to be in many of the students who come to my class looking for a great workout or just a place to de-stress. I watch them transform with continuous practice, improving their poses while shifting their focus inward. It is truly amazing to see.
For me, yoga isn’t just exercise anymore. The physical benefits of the asana practice are definitely wonderful by-products of yoga, and why many people initially “do yoga.” But yoga is so much more than something you do. Connecting body and breath in yoga allows for a meditation in motion. It’s my opportunity to create something new, take something in or give something up. And I know that this will always be available to me no matter what life throws at me next.
You can practice with Alison Ahmoye at Studio Rincon in Menlo Park (www.studiorincon.com) and at Möbius Fit (www.mobiusfit.com) in Redwood City. Both have schedules online.