A Real-Life Lesson About Yoga

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“Yoga means addition – addition of energy, strength and beauty to body,
mind and soul.” ― Amit Ray

On January 2, 1999 I walked into my bedroom, plopped on the bed that I shared with my then-boyfriend, and prayed intently to God.

With tears streaming down my face I looked up to the ceiling.

“I no longer want to live. Can you help me?” I whispered.

I had been arguing non-stop with my boyfriend of 11 years, and after the last piece of furniture had been smashed to pieces in our 1 bedroom apartment (and countless bruises on my body) I realized I had enough. It was time to find something that would help me escape, if only from my tormented mind.

The next morning I shoved myself into the crowded N train that would lead me to my office in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. As I looked around at my fellow corporate executives I noticed a young woman sitting in the corner. Donning a long necklace made of beads and a somewhat tattered yoga mat between her legs, she looked annoyingly happy. All I could think was that her happiness was attributed to her enjoying her aloof, hippie lifestyle.

I envied her—or her happiness. As she stood up from her seat and walked toward the subway doors I wondered what types of people she surrounded herself with. Did she really practice yoga, or was it a spiritual front?

That afternoon, instead of having lunch at the Lemongrass Grill, one of my favorite Thai restaurants I decided on takeout and began looking online for anything on yoga.

I came across a website that offered step-by-step Ashtanga poses by Dharma Mittra. As I looked at each of his postures I became more eager to learn them. I printed every single pose and created a 56-page bound book that I could refer to.

That night, after my usual 6-mile run and walking my little shih tzu Gizmo I lit a candle and sat quietly on a blanket on my bedroom floor. I quickly skimmed through the book, flagging the pages of the poses I would attempt.

I waited impatiently for my boyfriend to leave for his night job to begin my first official yoga practice. I started with four, modified In Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutations) and immediately began to feel a difference in my awareness. Breath became the anchor to my movement, which would be a pathway to my meditative practice.

At first, because of the fresh bruises in my ribs and lower back caused by my ex-boyfriend I was not able to practice postures such as a seated twist or locust pose in their fullest expression. However, because of my determination to be fearless I was able to bring myself into poses I never dreamed possible. Thus began my journey of asana; not aware of the vast knowledge I would be exposed to in the coming years.

In July of last year my dear friend Caren took my husband and I to a yoga class in Naples, Florida. The teacher’s style was very different to the Ashtanga classes I was used to in New York, but I was delighted to learn various types of asana practice.

After class we went back to Caren’s place. As I grabbed a bottled water from her refrigerator she said, “You know, you would be a GREAT yoga teacher!” I looked back at her with eyes of bewilderment. “Really?”

The quest for teacher training sessions in my area began, and I was adamant on finding someone who would not only be teaching what modern yogis knew, but what the ancients shared with their students.

Initially I thought teacher training would involve heavy asana practice and honing the skills needed to become a yoga teacher, but it became so much more. The journey transitioned from a workout to a work in; breakdowns to breakthroughs. In the last few months my asana practice has surely improved my strength and flexibility, but there was one unforgettable lesson that has transformed my entire Being.

Since healing from physical abuse and my survival of the September 11th attacks I found that I forgot how to breathe naturally. I allowed my mind to control the evenness of inhales and exhales, or lack thereof.

In stressful situations many of us tend to hold our breath. But when there’s no natural release from the body, the stress on your heart and circulatory system can elevate blood pressure two to three times above normal.

In one’s physical practice of yoga or asana, breath work is extremely important for the body temple to flow each posture. Various types of breathing techniques such Nadi Shodhana, also known as alternative nostril breathing with retention can calm the mind and prepare for meditation, while Ujjayi or “victorious breath” can invigorate and create heat in the body.

Whether one practices Ashtanga, Vinyasa or any other yoga practice, returning the mind to the breath is what will assist in the focus of the mind’s eye.

In just a matter of weeks I will conclude my teaching training course at the Yoga Pagoda. Not only have I established lifelong friendships with the studio’s teaching staff and my fellow trainees, I have found the inner strength to re-introduce myself to my Self—a valuable lesson indeed.

I wrote this post as a celebration for the International Day of Yoga, which was declared by the United Nations General Assembly. Due the overwhelming popular of physical yoga postures here in the West, it is a blessing that we can all learn to incorporate ancient and modern practices into our lives.

It’s your turn. Have you found breathing an important part of your yoga practice? I would love if you shared your thoughts below.

Until then, Namaste, Namaskar. xo

Michelle

About Michelle Cruz Rosado

Michelle Cruz Rosado is a professional speaker and bestselling co-author of "Pursuing Your Destiny: How to Overcome Adversity and Achieve Your Dreams." Follow Michelle for inspiring messages and quotes.