One Yogi's Journey
My name is Lisa Herbert, I am 200 hour RYT and a Baptitse Certified Teacher. My journey from sad, lonely stay at home mom to yoga teacher began in late 2010. At that time I found myself woefully out of shape, my husband was working all the time and my kids were growing and becoming independent. I found myself at loose ends. I became obsessed with the television show “The Biggest Loser”. I would watch each episode and weep, as I soothed my sadness with a large bowl of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream (the irony, I know). Although I didn’t necessarily have the vocabulary at the time, the thing that had me hooked was watching people transform their lives. No matter how far gone their physical bodies were, how obese they had become, the contestants had made a commitment to change, to take action and to take control; and step one in this change was to transform their physical bodies.
I had never thought of myself as an athletic person. High school gym class was a nightmare of volleyball games and gymnastic workouts that I hated. Eventually, I opted for cutting class and smoking cigarettes in the bathroom, rather than participate. In college, my one foray into intramural sports ended in humiliation (the team forfeited future games rather than ask me to play). So how was I, many years later, going to bring physical fitness into my life without making a total fool of myself?
Very serendipitously, at exactly this moment, a yoga studio opened in my neighborhood. To me, Yoga seemed “easy”; no running, no trying to hit a ball, nothing heavy to lift - why not give it a try? After my first class I realized that participating in a 75 minute vinyasa class in a 95 degree room was anything but easy. When I came home, I needed a two hour nap (true story)...and yet - I went back. I went back again and again, even when I didn’t know the poses, even when the heat overwhelmed me, even when it would have been easier to stay home and convince myself that I didn’t really like yoga anyway.
As I sweated and huffed and puffed through each of those classes (often thinking “what will happen if I drop dead in here?”), I became more and more aware of one of the central themes of Yoga, that there is “nothing to fix”. That we, as we are right now, are perfect. That our lives will not become perfect when we have more money or marry the right guy, or have a bigger house. It is the striving to control our circumstances, to force ourselves and the people around us to align with a mental narrative that we have developed that causes so much suffering. It was definitely causing my suffering. As I continued to commit to practicing, my physical body began to transform, and more importantly, so did my thinking.
Stripping away this narrative is anything but easy, it is a commitment to transform a lifetime of learned behavior. Not rushing to conclusions is hard! Not needing to know all the answers is REALLY uncomfortable! Yoga teaches us to slow down the thinking brain, to give up the need to have all the answers right now. It awakens connection to the physical body. It’s almost as if we can create, in slow motion. Rather than trying to reach the peak of a physical action, right from the “get go”, Yoga encourages a step by step, breath by breath approach. Each pose is built from the ground up, “press down, pull in, lift up”. Training oneself to think and act from this place can be life changing (it was for me). Seemingly insurmountable tasks become attainable, when you give yourself permission to not control the outcome and to just do. For me, I went from thinking, ‘I’ll never have headstand in my practice - I’m not strong enough”, to just committing to taking the steps to prepare - head down, belly engaged, lift one foot, lift the other foot. Slowly, with time and patience, I became stronger and headstand became accessible.
Unlike nearly any other fitness modality, Yoga is primarily a way of thinking. It is about stripping away the limiting thoughts that we become attached to. It is about seeking out the truth, most importantly about yourselves, and being brave enough to believe that maybe we are stronger than we ever dared to believe. As the physical body becomes stronger and more able, the mind and the spirit follow. Yoga is the path to truly believing that there is nothing to fix. As the physical body grows stronger, the spirit is empowered, and truly, anything becomes possible.