The Unexpected Cumulative Effects of a Consistent Yoga Practice

Last week, I shared a shared a Facebook post from a page called “Ladies Pass it On.” For me, it was about letting go of limitations and expectations. It was about stepping out of the boxes that we put ourselves in because we think we need to do certain things and act a certain way in order to be perceived as responsible and successful. For most of my adult life, I’ve felt bound by those boxes. And it has only been since starting yoga teacher training and opening Main Street Yoga that I’ve started sticking one limb at a time outside of the boxes that I had put myself in years ago.

Back when I was in high school, there was no box. I had planned to go to college right after high school. I wanted to study theatre and be an actress. I was told I had talent and it was something I truly enjoyed. So I set my sights on leaving West Virginia. Family circumstances delayed my matriculation and in the interim (what I now refer to as my “lost year”), I ended up pregnant. A few years later, I was a divorced mother of two boys . . . and so began my box building.

I went to college at 25. I was driven. I needed to prove that I was more than what my circumstances suggested. I graduated summa cum laude and went to work as a legal assistant. In my head, I was successful because I didn’t have to wait tables to support my family. I had an English degree and a desk job at law firm where I was valued. After 8 years, I took another desk job, this time at an architecture firm where I again felt like a valued employee.

I had practiced yoga for nearly two decades. I started while I was in college. I had always thought that at some point I would like to teach yoga. And then this little force of nature we know as WV Yoga Girl started teaching yoga at Palatine Park. We started talking about how great it would be to have a yoga studio in Fairmont. So I decided to take the plunge into teacher training. My practice increased from 2-3 days a week to 6-7 days a week, and I was completely unprepared for the change it would effect.

While I was in teacher training, Sheray and I looked around for spaces that would make a good studio. Nothing seemed quite right. But a little over a month after I graduated, the perfect spot revealed itself and became Main Street Yoga (thanks in no small part to my amazingly supportive husband). Everything happens in perfect timing.

Trying to work a desk job 40 hours a week while teaching yoga 6 days a week became less and less sustainable, so after more than 9 years at my second desk job, I got the whisper from Mother Nature . . . the one referenced in the Facebook post . . . “It’s time.”  My idea of success had shifted. I no longer needed the 8-5/M-F box to prove my self-worth. My new success was watching my yoga students find more self confidence when they achieved things on the mat that they thought they never could. It was watching them rise up out of savasana and seeing looks of total relaxation. It was having them come to me after their very first classes and tell me how much more aware they were of their bodies, their minds, their emotions, their surroundings.

So I quit my desk job to teach yoga full time, something I never intended to do when I started teacher training. I left behind a good income and benefits. Teaching yoga is now my main source of income and a few days a week, I help my husband at his pizza place. Yep, I’m waiting tables again. And you know what? I like it!

Getting back to that Facebook post . . . it featured a picture of Helen Mirren, unmadeup, natural-looking even if not completely natural. And it reminded me of another unintended effect of my regular yoga practice. I have stopped wearing makeup (with the exception of mascara). A few months ago, looking at myself without makeup was very disappointing. It bothered me, but little by little, day by day, I began to see myself differently. I love what my skin looks and feels like without makeup, despite the dark circles under my eyes that are caused by allergy-related sinus congestion because West Virginia is now apparently a rain forest . . . . But I digress.

So what the hell does all of this have to do with a regular yoga practice? Isn’t yoga just another form of exercise? Yes. And no.

Sure, yoga can be just a physical practice. But with regular practice, we develop enhanced awareness . . . physical, mental , and emotional. We start to see ourselves differently. We start to see others differently. We start to see the world differently. And we don’t even have to try to make this shift. It’s a natural, unexpected by-product of our practice. Will most of us quit our desk jobs and stop wearing makeup? No. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if most of us stopped judging ourselves? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all realized that we are more than just our circumstances? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all “stop the madness of comparison and the ridicule of schedule and conformity and start experiencing the joys that a life free of containment and guilt, can bring?”

Because what is yoga but an invitation to “Let it go, really let it go and feel the freedom of the fresh, clean spaces within you?”

See you at the studio.