I got up early on a Saturday morning one February and changed my life forever. I boarded the number 2 train at Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and emerged in the West Village. 13th Street was previously unknown territory for me, but from that day forward, I’d make a weekly pilgrimage to Integral Yoga Institute. My yoga practice is a sacred exploration that I have continued, expanded and deepened for over two decades and in countless studios on four continents.
As much as yoga is woven into every aspect of my life, I still wonder at the ways in which it surprises me. Like today.
Skillful, attentive movement guided by breath lifted the heavy, murky mood into which I entered this morning. Regret dispersed like dandelion seeds in the wind of Presence. Shame melted in the light of Love. Fear lost its bite with a caress from Gratefulness.
Yogic postures are beautiful, invigorating, soothing. In harmony with conscious breathing, they create space, strength and flexibility. My good, strong body allows me to know many of the poses in the yoga repertoire. But this is not why I come.
I come because yoga is a practice of deep personal inquiry. I come so that I might know more fully what it is to be human, to tease out the distinct feelings of a murky mood. I come to know and name the full spectrum of human emotions, to deny nothing, to observe the dance between darkness and light, expansion and contraction, going in and shining out. I come because I am a pilgrim of Devotion, and the edges of my mat are not the end of anything. They mark the beginning of the infinite and endless path of expression for my full radiance.
As my first yoga class came to a close, I had a new and unmistakable feeling. I was 90 minutes into a journey that would endure throughout my life, but at that moment, I had no sense for that future. I knew only the immediate and magic sensation that surrounded me. It was as if I were wrapped up in the softest silk.
In time I would learn the nuances and layers of that feeling. But in the shala of Integral Yoga Institute that Saturday, the only word I could assign to it was, Yes! A resonant affirmation that has echoed over the years, expanding my heart, focusing my mind, strengthening my body, ever opening me to the myriad possibilities of this one good life.
To all my yoga teachers and students, to the sages and wisdom keepers, to my own courageous heart, to the practice of yoga as a celebration of life, I humbly and deeply bow.