By Jennifer Carter Avgerinos
When I first came to yoga, it was as a means of escape. Escape from the pressures of my life, escape from my mental chatter, and escape from sitting at a computer or in meetings all day. It wasn’t a means of spiritual practice at the time; it just helped me balance out my life in the corporate world. The classes that I encountered or perhaps were drawn to early on were more ambient and womb-like. I wanted to zone out for an hour while listening to the latest Buddha Bar soundtrack in a candle-lit room. I was drawn to the classes that were for the otherwise unathletic.
Later, as I gained flexibility and strength, I became more adventurous. I wanted to learn more about the history and philosophy of yoga. I just knew that what I was experiencing in a one hour class once or twice a week was just the tip of the ice berg and I wanted to be in on the rest of the secret. At the time, I actually had no inclination to ever teach, but I went on to get my 200 hour training and have taken several other trainings since then. These experiences have been some of the best in my life so far.
As time has passed, I have noticed that the class offerings have become more ridiculous – hot yoga, horseback yoga, paddle board yoga, naked yoga. I’m not judging, I’m just saying.. I strive to ride the waves of external circumstance instead of fighting them. I dropped into a class once while visiting my family out of state and was told by the instructor that my palms should always be touching in hands to sky pose or it wasn’t being done correctly. Really, who says? Isn’t the point of all this just to find a little mental peace and perhaps a little personal freedom? When someone says such a way of yoga is the right way, or (even worse) the only way, that’s a big giant red flag that you should not be practicing with that teacher. Your yoga should be—must be—the yoga that’s right for you, and sometimes, the best way to find out what that is is to just try out everything.
Brace yourself for the real shocker: the teachers teaching your classes are quirky, deeply flawed, and maybe even a little crazy. That’s why so many of us got into yoga in the first place – because life seemed impossible without it. I popped into a yoga class at my gym just last week and the teacher set up her mat at the side of the room instead of the front of the room and proceeded to spray water on a yoga mat sized towel covering her yoga mat. I’m not quite sure what that was all about, and for some reason she chooses not to play music in her classes but the experience was delightful despite the lack of ambiance.
My personal path has been, and continues to be, organic, messy, uncertain… and outstanding. One of the biggest factors was listening to my heart, even when that voice was small. There’s such an inner knowing that we all have, even when we can’t quite articulate the idea, we can feel it. My advice is something called kaizen – a Japanese word that has come to represent the process of making continuous, tiny changes to move forward. This philosophy has benefited me greatly both in the corporate world and in my yoga practice.