Published Jul 22, 10 AM
By Lisa Morford
“There will come a day,” she said, “when you won’t be able to stand the thought of another fucking chaturanga. And that’s when yoga really happens.”
Three months into my yoga teacher training, my teacher said this. I’d been practicing yoga for almost two years, and usually hit the mat five to seven days per week. A sign on the wall at one of the earlier studios I frequented recommended a daily practice for the most benefits. This stuck with me, and I tried to “do yoga” every single day.
When my teacher said these words, I laughed outwardly with the rest of my fellow trainees. But inside, I scoffed. Cute, I thought. But she doesn’t know. Yoga was a part of my life. I couldn’t imagine that would ever change. This was more than just a hobby: it was a lifestyle. Yoga was something that I needed in order to feel normal.
Positive changes happened when I first started practicing.
I became stronger, more fit, more sure of myself. I felt beautiful and in awe that I could accomplish poses in my body I’d never imagined possible. Soon, though, my practice became so engrained in my identity that it often made other aspects of life difficult.
In short, I put yoga above all else. Above the days when I was tired. Above the days when I was sick. Above the people in my life (“Let’s make plans, but first let me check my yoga schedule…”) Above my relationships (“You want me to sacrifice taking a class for you? This one day? Stop stifling my freedom!”) When I planned vacations, I scoured the internet to find nearby yoga studios. I couldn’t go without my yoga.
Admittedly, I learned a lot those first couple years.
I practiced at many different studios in several different cities. I took outstanding classes and classes that I didn’t enjoy at all. I saw it all as part of the process. I loved feeling that I was a part of a community, wherever I went. No matter where I landed, I could unroll my mat in an unfamiliar place and find myself somewhere familiar. The strangers on the mats next to me were my brothers and sisters, people who understood the need to show up again and again, day after day.
Once, I attended a workshop with Bryan Kest. He said many powerful words, but this has always stuck with me: People bring their shit into yoga, and they turn their yoga into shit.
But my identity became so wrapped up in this need for yoga, that I really only felt good about myself when I was living up to my self-imposed standards. If I had a busy week and only made it to four classes, I felt bad about myself. If I didn’t take hard enough classes, I felt bad about my body. In addition to all the ways yoga had healed me, it had also become a part of my sickness. People bring their shit into yoga, and they turn their yoga into shit.
When I graduated from my yoga teacher training, I launched into teaching.
I accepted any class I was offered, which quickly led to an unsustainable schedule. Before I knew it, I was teaching thirteen weekly classes in addition to my regular job. I began to sacrifice my own practice so I could show up for my responsibilities. When I did make it to a class, I struggled to turn off the inner teacher (“Oh, that’s good, I’m going to use that” “What? That makes no sense” “This sequence is terrible” “I need to remember this sequence!”)
Before I knew it, I had reached a critical point in my practice and short teaching career: I couldn’t stand the thought of another fucking chaturanga.
I stepped back. I stopped teaching. I accepted a fulltime job as an assistant manager at a yoga studio, so I could stay in the environment but work behind the scenes. I attended classes as a student again. My focus shifted from one of constant achievement to one of constant inquiry.
I also invested more time into my personal life.
I made the conscious decision to choose people over yoga classes. If I got a class in, great. If not, oh well. Yoga was meant to be a tool, after all, not something that defined who I was. Some days I didn’t feel like being in a studio, so I’d do something else. Run. Go to the gym. Take a nap.
One day, while running, my heart felt unusually present in the pulse of breath and movement. In that moment, I realized that yoga had allowed me to connect with myself more intimately—to learn what it felt like to savor the experience of being alive. But I also realized that I wasn’t limited to my yoga mat in order to have those experiences. Life was everywhere: In a run with the salt breeze in my hair. On a day spent at the beach, amongst the laughter of friends and the power of the waves. In bed with my lover and in the steam of lips and skin and tangled sheets. And yeah, some days, I still wanted to experience the way it felt to move on my mat. My decisions became conscious and empowered choices made in answer to this question: What do I need today?
Some days, yoga or a run or a gym session is what I need. And others, it’s a cold beer on the patio with my roommates. Or a pint of ice cream shared with my boyfriend while we binge-watch TV shows on the couch.
Yoga has taught me how to savor the moments, how to get into my body and be unabashedly myself. Because for me, the practice is about learning how to live most fully. To love myself without condition, whether I “do yoga” or not. If I run or not. If am skinny or not. And I am learning to take those lessons beyond the scope of the yoga mat. Because it’s there, in the daily moments, the moments that matter, the moments I am there for, the moments I am alive and a part of the world and connected to the people in it, that the real yoga happens.
About Lisa Morford
Lisa is a writer, yogini, and spiritual nomad currently nesting in Carlsbad, California. Living boldly, taking chances, and laughing
loudly top her list of aspirations. She has found a guy who inspires, encourages, and motivates her to be the best version of herself every single day—but best of all, they have fun together. She’s a fan of running, yoga, green smoothies, craft cocktails, dark beer, cooking at home, chocolate, coffee, and red lipstick. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside’s low residency program in Palm Desert. Her list of books to read grows at a much faster rate than she could ever hope to consume in this lifetime, but she keeps adding to it anyway.
Find Lisa at:
Her blog: The Saltwater Record