Today’s Freestyle Fridays guest post is by my friend and fellow yogi/ blogger, Jamille. Check out her blog, Into the Mirror, she has beautiful insights. We have known eachother for years, even shared the same dorm in college, and our lives have once again entwined. She has enjoyed a beautiful journey to yoga. And her beginning will hopefully inspire others who have been hesitant to give it a try. Enjoy!
I am a devoted practitioner and teacher of Abhaya yoga.
I am a professional, working in software sales.
I am an “out” and outspoken lesbian. And, I’m new to blogging – so please be kind & patient with me.
I was raised by tree-hugging hippies who ended up working for the U.S. State Department. I grew up both in the states, where I knew Kerry from when we were kids, and also overseas. My family was not your typical church-going-southern-family. However, Mom had a real spiritual bent and I grew up learning how to meditate and chanting mantras. Basically, I was raised to be a yogi without ever knowing it.
In my family there was a certain disdain or undertone of derision towards those who were “bible-beaters” or had “found religion.” And I do not just mean my immediate family, but in my extended family as well. We were spiritual, but it was just understood, unspoken. Further, as I understood it, there was a general understanding that those in my family who did adhere to Christianity were just better at it than most. They were “real Christians.” The veracity of that is not within my purview. What I can speak to is that any proselytization was looked down upon. It simply was not done, not spiritually, not politically. You simply did not talk about your beliefs and you certainly did not share them with anyone. It was rude. We were not interested in what anyone else thought nor was it ever a good idea to let someone know what you thought. None of that business was safe. As you are quickly learning, there is much in my family I, as it turns out, do/did not conform.
When I was first invited by my teacher to try hatha yoga, I was not nearly ready. It was 1998 when Nancy, who later became my teacher and friend, originally invited me to try the practice. I replied to her invitation with something insipid and flippant like, “my body does not bend like that,” when I really had no idea what I was talking about. In 2009, I found myself living as Nancy’s tenant in her rental property and curious about yoga and her then studio, Abhaya Yoga Center.
I will never forget my first time. I was terrified. I was over-weight, out of shape, and I was smoking about one-and-a-half to two packs of cigarettes a day. But my father had just died of brain and lung cancer and I knew I had better move or I would not be long behind him. I messaged Nancy and she promised to take good care of me at her “Slow Flow Beginner” class on a Tuesday night. I got there early in loose-fitting clothing as Nancy instructed. She gave me a mat to borrow and I promptly rolled it out in the back and center of the room. I figured it was the safest place to hide, of course. The corners were already taken.
I ended up next to an older gray-haired gentleman. He could tell I was nervous. I made it pretty obvious… sitting there on the mat holding my knees under my chin as close as possible and not making a sound or looking anyone in the eye. He gently started chatting me up. I remember him saying, “Yeah, we will do the chanting and the whole nine yards. Some people really believe in that ‘mumbo-jumbo,’ but for me it is the exercise. Me and my wife just really believe that exercise is the way.” I kindly let him talk and nodded and smiled. I could not help but feel somewhat sad for him, and slightly appalled at the same time. He did not know me from “Adam’s house cat” either, and not only had he assumed that I would “think like him” but he assumed that I was uninformed or uneducated in yogic/spiritual philosophy. But as long as Abhaya yoga center was open, our gentlemanly friend paid for a yearly membership for both him and his secretary. He never missed a class that his schedule allowed for.
For me, this encounter would mimic my relationships with those both inside and outside of yogic circles time and again. There are always those who are non-believers. There are always those that believe without applying any critical thinking skills. Me on the other hand…within about 4 months of practicing, I was straight-up addicted. I was running late once to a special seminar at Abhaya and was texting Nancy about it. Without a beat she texted me and was like, “What happened to you? You are such a yoga-nerd now!” This from the first ever certified Jivamukti yoga teacher. And even now, to this day five years in, do you want to know what I talk about more than anything else? Yoga.
I do not go out and seek to talk about it. Ultimately, there is still that girl in me that is still tied to my familial beliefs that proselytization of any kind is simply not done. But, predominantly because of my natural extroversion and because of Facebook, social media and blogging, people know I love it. They know it changed my life, though they may not know how or why. They watched me change and thus watched it happen.
There is something silent and ineffable that happens on the mat that draws those that are skeptical in, and even teaches them how to create space. They may not want to talk about it, or acknowledge it, but “it” happens on the mat. When you smile and nod at them on their way out the door, their eyes shine with it. Yoga does that… it crosses boundaries and barriers.
So, I remind myself on the daily of the teaching from Sharon Gannon that came to me through Nancy, “Shyness is a form of vanity. Shyness is the belief that you are too good to share yourself.” And so each and every time I am approached, I dig in and work to rise to the occasion and talk about yoga, my Yoga, and my experiences. For me it was life-changing, life-saving. And now that I teach, I have watched a small, dedicated, and serious few feel that initial draw, pull, and shift. If I accomplish nothing else of value in my life, perhaps I helped a small few find some peace. That, in and of itself, is worth everything… Everything.
In this way, following both practices, I honor the teachings of both my old family and my new family. Eventually, old friends reconnect. Eventually, beloved studies like writing, asana, and philosophical/spiritual thought intermingle. All teachings run together, given a long enough timeline. In time, from sun-salutations to savasana – from birth to passing, we all come full circle; or rather… we all wander down the same Winding Road.
Thank you Jamille!!
If you would like to guest post, message me here. Happy Friday!