By: Emily Berkey
Abstract: “ asking me to explain what yoga means to me is as challenging a question to answer as trying to accurately describe what the experience of childbirth was like only using one sentence. It’s fucking hard, man, but I will try.” Yoga Lover, Emily Berkey has watched her relationship with Yoga burgeon from the first flirtation to a full-on lifelong love affair. She shares some of that journey and the lessons she has learned along the way.
I’ve been practicing yoga for five years. What yoga was to me then is definitely not what yoga is to me now. At first, it was something I did to get a hot bod and to keep me looking fab in my 100-bucks-a-pop ass-hugging Lululemons. I was addicted to a style of yoga called ashtanga, which kicked my ass and had me leaving, the studio drenched from head to toe in my own sweat and tears. This rigorous 90-minute class made me question my sanity and why I kept doing this to myself whenever we reached the wide-legged forward fold portion where it felt like my ankles were going to break in half, but I loved it. I went back over and over and over again. When I was a baby yogini, I was all in. Similar to how someone behaves when they first become a Christian–the Jesus freak syndrome. I was that, but with yoga. A smattering of yogic jargon could be found all over my house: from candles, to magnets, to many of my shirts that I’d wear to inform everyone that I am a mothafuckin’ yogini and that namaste would be the most appropriate way to greet me.
This was part of my journey, and I love and honor it, as superficial as it may seem. The truth is, we all come to yoga for different reasons, but all of us get something far better than just a great looking ass- we get our soul lit on fire.
Now, yoga is a way of life.
Yoga is about confronting everything in my life that is causing me not to see things as they are. Yoga is hard. It’s about not buying my own bullshit. It’s about chopping up my victim card and throwing it into a fire, preferably during a fire ceremony that looks all witchy and freaks other people out.
Now, asking me to explain what yoga means to me is as challenging a question to answer as trying to accurately describe what the experience of childbirth was like only using one sentence. It’s fucking hard, man, but I will try.
Yoga taught me to connect.
Not just connecting my breath to my movement at my favorite Monday night vinyasa class. Asana (yoga poses) do teach me how to connect my body to my breath, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s about connecting with everything- letting what was once maybe ordinary or routine powerfully move me to tears. It’s like everything went from black and white to vivid color. I see things with so much more wonderment because I’m connecting so much more to, well, everything. It’s about getting excited about how beautiful a mushroom is, marveling at the intricate and delicate architecture of this fungi that’s about to be fuel for my body. It’s about connecting with people. It’s about listening to understand and to feel people’s stories, not just hear them. It’s about getting on my son’s level and engaging him in conversations that make him excited to be alive. Connecting with nature by just watching it with a cup of warm tea in my hands. It’s about stepping outside and feeling the dirt and grass underneath my bare feet as I say good morning to the sun. Deeply connecting to others, to nature, to experiences, is what makes life sparkle.
Yoga has also made me picky.
Somehow, my practice has made me give a shit far more than I have ever given a shit before. When I discovered that I’m a small part to a greater whole, and how I live my life impacts everything on the planet (maybe even the whole universe), I made significant adjustments to how I live (because you kinda have to, right? I mean, if the whole universe is depending on me… shit!). I’m not sure when this happened or when the exact moment was when I became conscious of it. Maybe it was my 2,073rd chaturanga. Maybe it was the closing chant after ashtanga when sweat droplets were falling into and burning my eyes–hey eyebrows, do your fucking job, alright! Maybe it was the sage that was burning at the front desk. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I care more than ever about you, and everything else because of my yoga practice.
Yoga has taught me to live in the moment and to create as many memories as possible.
Anything can be a memory that will be worth telling over family dinners several years from now. Anything. I can do laundry with my head still in a work meeting that happened 3 hours earlier, or I could be having a concert with myself while folding clothes. Maybe this makes my two boys laugh, or maybe just one (my tennager pretty much hates most everything I do right now. He’s a tough crowd these days). I’ve learned to stop doing so much mentally all at once and zone into the moment more. This has given me a new appreciation for life and teaches me gratitude for all the things in this moment right now. There are so many awesome things happening right around us all the time, starting with the current breath you just took.
Yoga is not all sunshine and unicorn emojis.
There is darkness that must be faced and embraced. I have to go within myself and look at the hard stuff, the things that I shoved deep down that are causing me to rot and fester. All that yuck has to be exposed and debt with. I think in AA this is step 4, taking a moral inventory of the soul. Yoga has given me the tools to see and deal with my own darkness.
Yoga has taught me to pay attention to my emotions because they are teaching me about myself.
Anger is not a good or bad thing, it’s about what I choose to do with this hot emotion, and yes, I have a choice. That pause before saying that hurtful thing is powerful. I always have a choice, and I’m learning to control my emotions and use all of them in constructive ways.
Yoga has taught me that I can say no. Yoga has taught me that I can say yes.
Yoga has led me to face my ultimate fear and to let go and trust something bigger than myself. Yoga has taught me to break old harmful patterns. Yoga has helped me forgive myself and others. Yoga has helped me understand that everybody is doing the best they can where they are and to just love them.
I started yoga teacher training over two years ago. I wanted to get my certification and to start teaching what I love and to hopefully help others find what I found. But then I realized something: It’s not about getting my teacher training certificate. It’s not about becoming a yoga teacher. Yoga is about becoming a better human than I was yesterday, and then doing that over and over again, every single day of my life. The truth is, I am already a yoga teacher, and so are you.
It’s so hard to say what yoga means to me without writing a novel or talking to you non-stop for three days. All I know from experience, is that yoga has made me rise, I think, in almost every area of my life. To the point where I don’t even recognize it as yoga anymore. A couple weekends ago, during a yoga teacher training weekend, I was watching a native american shaman dance around a fire. His wife was drumming and singing in their native song, and I thought, how in the hell did I get here? What started out as me just trying to get a hot body, has turned into something profound and seriously interesting. I’m not sure where my yoga practice will take me, but I’m still all in, and will probably be for the rest of my life.