Excerpt from One Breath, Then Another
I gradually stopped approaching yoga as a means of punishing myself, and came to see it for what it was: a perfect metaphor for how to deal with life. It was about training one?s mind to relax under stressful circumstances, accomplished by deepening the breath to help maintain difficult postures and moving with the breath from one posture to another. Yoga literally means union: the union of mind, body and spirit, encouraging the mind to stop belaboring thoughts about the past and future and embrace the present. I started to find the practice calming and centering; I continued to go every day and stopped crying through the classes. I found myself growing stronger physically, mentally and spiritually.
As I lay in final resting pose at the end of class, I was flooded by existential questions. Who was I? What was I doing? Where was I going? I examined the facts: twenty-four years old, five foot four and a half inches tall, one hundred and twelve pounds. Hair: a mat of curly Jewish frizz. Eyes: blue. I had two hands, two feet, arms, legs, internal organs and all the other normal human parts. I was going to keep waking up every day with several conscious hours to fill until it all stopped. I wanted my self to be ignited, irrepressible, for my life to be dynamic and meaningful. At some point, I wanted to be something, marry someone, live somewhere.
I received my 250 hour teacher training at Yoga Vidya Gurukul, an ashram outside of Nasik, India. I lived at the ashram for twenty-eight days, immersing myself in the yogi lifestyle. Every morning, we kicked off our day at 5:45 am with mantra chanting. Chanting was followed by two hours of yoga postures (asanas).
After morning asanas, we had one hour of karma yoga, or service work: cleaning, weeding, or preparing food. Finally at 9 am, we lined up for our silent breakfast. Then we had one hour of yoga nidra (guided visualization/meditation) and an hour of yoga theory lecture, or two hours of theory lecture. This was followed by lunch, a two-hour break, theory lecture, two more hours of asanas, stories and discussions, dinner, and the occasional evening activity consisting of a yoga documentary or Bhajans: devotional Sanskrit songs.
Meals consisted of simple vegetarian food eaten in silence to focus all our energies on nourishing our bodies.
I have been teaching yoga in New York City since returning from the ashram in November 2009. I have taught at The Flatbush YMCA, Third Root Community Health Center, Namaste Yoga, Yoga Spot and Shambhala in Brooklyn and the 14th Street Y in Manhattan.