Yoga is great. I don’t do much of it these days, and I’m sure my body would prefer that I did. Since it’s getting a bit cold for paddleboarding, I need something to do for exercise. Perhaps this winter, I’ll start doing yoga some again.
Yoga was the first step on the path when I started to deepen while I was in my late 20’s. My lower back started to hurt, so I went to a chiropractor. He said my problem was that my hamstrings were tight as a drum and that if I could loosen them, my back would probably be fine. I did three things to address this, yoga being the first. I also got four sessions of acupuncture and then started to hold my hamstring stretches for a minute and a half to two minutes to really lengthen the muscles. I threw the kitchen sink at it, and I’m glad that it worked. Back to yoga…
That first yoga class was hilarious, as they are for most people, I think. By the way, if you’ve never done yoga, don’t worry about it – just go! The people there should be very nice and understanding, because they were once in your shoes, too. I had never done it before, so I didn’t know what I was doing. And there were mirrors everywhere, so it was tough to hide. It’s like doing that line dance at wedding receptions – everyone keeps turning ninety degrees, so you’ll end up in the front at some point.
I went with my good friend Ashley, who was quite proficient at yoga, and I put my mat next to hers. At some point I must’ve been facing the wrong way in a certain pose and we ended up facing each other from point blank range. We started laughing really hard. I’ll never forget that.
I’ve also had to leave a couple of yoga classes early because I came out of the gates too hard. This would’ve been when I hadn’t done it in a while and should’ve taken it easy in that first class back. I don’t think this happens to most people, though. I do have some back issues besides the hamstrings, so I have to be careful. Then throw the typical “macho guy” attitude in there and you have a prescription for ending up in child’s pose or corpse pose for the rest of the class. No big deal, though – the body heals and then strengthens and you’re fine.
One thing I noticed is that as I got better at the poses, the classes became more physically demanding. I was doing hot yoga down in Gainesville, Florida at the time, and my teacher, Big Ron, said that’s because I was doing it right! It became a pretty grueling workout.
The main thing that yoga did for me, though, was not physical. It helped me open my mind to a deeper world and a new way of thinking. The world I knew was pretty limited, and I was able to let go of those false boundaries and realize there was a lot out there that I had no clue about. No clue. Just being still, like at the end of class (and also at the beginning in some classes) – that was new. Focusing on the breath was new. Talking about energy centers, or chakras, was new. And speaking of these energy centers, some people get freaked out about them. Modern scientists know that everything has an energy field around it, so why is this strange? In fact, scientists know that all matter actually is energy – even something dense like a table or a rock is just energy moving slowly. So of course there would be some organization to this energy – everything else in the universe has some organization to it, even stuff that seems random. That’s what chaos theory is all about. A hurricane is pretty crazy when you’re in it, but the pilot flying above it sees something that’s beautifully organized and ordered. Back to yoga…
Taking it even deeper, I ended up with a copy of the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda. This is what really did it for me. He wasn’t the first Indian yogi to come to the US, but he’s known as the first to take up permanent residence here. This was in California from 1920-1952. At some point during the reading, I found myself screaming, “I WANT A GURU!!!” And beyond my belief, the next thing I knew, I had one. It was Master Choa Kok Sui of Pranic Healing and Arhatic Yoga, and I was off to the races.
My path has had a couple of significant twists and turns since then, moving into the “consciousness world” of teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Gangaji and then into the non-dualistic teachings of A Course In Miracles, which has been my home since late 2006. I don’t know that there’s really anywhere to go after that, but if there is I’ll find out then. It all began with yoga, though, and for that I am forever grateful.