by Ashley Josephine: Here’s why I chose yoga as a way of life…
I want you to know my story, not because it has any particular significance to your own trajectory on this path called yoga, but because I want you to know that you’re not alone in feeling like you’re not really sure why you’re practicing yoga. I’ve already shared a lot of my story on this blog, in my about section, and sometimes in my classes, but what I’m about to share with you here is a little more personal. My own personal reasons for why I continue to choose yoga as a way of life.
The potential for Yoga happens every second of every day, whether you realize it or not.
As I examine my path, I realize I’ve always been practicing.
You see, my practice is to examine and to analyze and to experience and to contemplate and to synthesize. That’s what I’m uniquely predisposed to do naturally in this lifetime. However, this creates a near-constant inner tension between my highest self yearning for freedom and my ego yearning for certainty. I can choose the path that will give me the most satisfaction but will pit me against every fear and doubt I can imagine or I can choose the path that will give me the most money and I’ll still be good at it and get lots of praise and appear to be “doing really well.”
I’ve come to believe we all have these two competing Selves battling for survival. Our practice is about figuring out which one is truly right for us and then being content with that choice.
The first reason I came to yoga
I don’t really remember my first yoga class ever. I rented DVD’s from the library in high school and maybe dilly dallied here and there with some yoga. In college I took a yoga class because I was feeling really stressed out and I needed to figure out how to self-regulate and calm myself down.
In the beginning, I came to yoga because I was seeking self-control. I was trying to find a way to help me calm myself down so I could stop having panic attacks.
Somewhere along the way, I started to become interested in DVD exercise programs. I started practicing a more physical form of yoga from the P90X DVD and knew that I wanted to continue taking yoga classes to help me maintain the level of fitness I had achieved during the DVD program. This is when I started going to a yoga studio.
Now, I was taking yoga to stay in shape, with the added benefit of it helping me calm down.
Secretly, and only apparent to me in hindsight, yoga was also introducing me to a sense of community I didn’t have at the time. I got involved in the studio and took programs that allowed me to develop closer relationships with teachers and fellow students.
Going all in and then retreating
Then, I got an internship at a yoga company. My panic attacks were getting better, I was in the best shape of my life and I got excited, so the yoga industry became my career. I was still using my English, marketing, PR, journalism, and writing skills that I worked so hard to hone but now I was applying those skills for a cause I really believed in. Plus, I was continuing to feel safe and supported in an incredible community.
I was getting closer to yoga as a way of life but at some point, I got disenchanted with the whole yoga industry career thing and I quit. I started my own business continuing to use my marketing skills to help others in all sorts of small businesses. I had also just finished my yoga teacher training. At the same time my professional corporate yoga career was dying my teaching career was being born.
Yoga became a hobby. I continued to work away at my business while teaching a couple classes on the side. It was during this time that teaching yoga became my passion. It was also during this time that I was overwhelmed and exhausted and I started to explore more gentle and therapeutic practices. Yoga became nourishing and not just about the physical fitness.
Yoga off the mat
Then I moved. Yoga became my lifesaver. The practice reminded me how to thrive in a place I didn’t think I could live in and be happy. Yoga, again, created community in a place I didn’t feel I belonged. I got excited (again) and chose teaching yoga as my career. But it was unsustainable at the time where I lived so I picked up more marketing work and split my time.
I moved again. Yoga allowed me to find a community, but it quickly became a job. I lacked inspiration as I continued to be distracted by other opportunities.
I moved a third time. This time I had a lot more opportunity to teach yoga based on where I am living. The possibility of teaching yoga as a career re-appeared and I pounced. Yoga was/is again my career.
But some of that disenchantment started to creep back in. I could see myself easily being tempted by paths that I knew in my heart didn’t fit what I really want to do. This time I stood strong, turned down opportunities, and quit gigs that no longer fit. I kept refining and learning and teaching as I figured out who I wanted to be as a yoga teacher. Yoga became my lab.
Somewhere along the way, yoga became my life.
Yoga as a way of life
That doesn’t mean that I practice postures all the time. That doesn’t mean that I spend my days in studios, although I do spend a lot of time in studios because I enjoy being there.
Yoga, as a system, has become the structure that I’ve needed in my life — the container — from which I’ve gained the confidence, inspiration, and conviction to show up fully as me.
And let me tell you, it’s been a journey getting here.
Also, I’m only here for this moment. Tomorrow is another day and yoga will continue to evolve for me as my life continues to unfold. It’s supposed to be that way.
I don’t know why you need yoga, which is why I don’t particularly like telling people exactly what to do. But I do know that if you feel like you’re floundering around in your life and you’re looking for some type of structure that will still give you freedom, yoga can be that framework that gives you permission to thrive, to live, to heal, to nourish, to explore, to be.
Yoga won’t fix you
Yoga is complex because our lives are complex. At the same time it’s a simple system that we make complex because we try to make yoga be more then it is. We try to make yoga be the thing that will fix us. It won’t.
We try to make yoga be the thing that will save us. Ultimately, only you can save yourself. Yoga can help you get there, but yoga itself won’t save you. You showing up to do the work will save you. You being open to new possibilities will save you. You having faith and hope will save you. Yoga gives you the structure and permission to show up, to become open and stay open, to find faith and hope, and to believe in yourself as a divine being. You save you.
The original intent
Yoga, traditionally, was a practice derived to help us transcend consciousness.
Truthfully, that’s not why I practice yoga. I believe that if you practice yoga devoutly you can transcend consciousness. But I’m not sure in this moment that this is what I’m after.
Yoga has certainly evolved my consciousness and will continue to do so. If my path towards transcended consciousness is a gradual slope of evolution, I’m okay with that. I’m not trying to transcend. I’m only hoping to evolve.
Just like in the beginning, I wasn’t trying to transcend, I just wanted to relax. I just wanted to be fit. I just wanted to fit in and connect with people who get me and accept me for who I am. I just wanted a job. I just wanted to help others. I just wanted to teach. I just wanted to learn.
I just want to live.
Yoga let’s me live.
It’s my hope that yoga lets you live too.
So why did you come to yoga? And how, if at all, has this practice changed for you over time?