By Christina Herbers
My first taste of yoga was so sweet. It was 13 years ago at the beautiful Prima Shanti temple, a yoga retreat in the heart of Queensland, Australia. Surrounded by Australian bush, my brother and I were introduced to meditation and yoga. My first teacher led us through a private meditation session that had us seated on our mats, and began with three sacred Ohm’s. We then chanted a mantra 108 times, Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, which means “may all beings in the universe be peaceful”. We focused on our third eye, and let our thoughts wander past. After practice, we laid on cots outside looking into the Australian outback, amidst chirping crickets and the blowing breeze. I felt like I was home, and I never wanted to leave. But leave I did, after a year of travel in Australia, I returned home to Canada, met my husband and fell in love.
My very first yoga practice left such an impression on me, that although life continued in Canada, it ignited my passion for yoga. My passion for yoga has been a slowly burning ember, and now it’s a bright flame in my life, and something that I look forward to practicing every day.
Yoga has allowed me to work through some dark and personal events. It’s been a moving meditation practice for me, and I’m grateful to friends that travelled beside me along my yoga journey. A few years ago, a friend invited me to a yoga class when I needed it most. I cried after class that day, the teacher had asked us to dedicate our practice that day to “speak in love”. That class resonated with me so deeply, as I had just had a big fight with my husband. After that class, I vowed to make regular yoga practice, my moving meditation, a daily practice.
Another amazing yoga experience that lives on in my mind is a sunset yoga session that took place the eve of Seawheeze half marathon run I completed in Vancouver last August. It was magical. Colorful mats peppered the beach with a beautiful pattern of pinks, blues and purples. Sitting on my mat alongside six wonderful friends, and hundreds of kindred strangers, we soaked in the sights of an amazing sunset. The relaxing sounds of crashing ocean waves, and melodic tunes gently moving us through each pose. I truly felt the energy from each and every person that day. And with my mat resting directly on the sand, it brought to life the phrase “let your body become absorbed by the earth.” So I took a deep breath, let my body be absorbed by the earth and was fully present in my practice.
Practice is such a great word for yoga, because it is just that, a practice. It took me many yoga classes, and truly listening to the many lessons from teachers saying “each persons body is unique, focus only on what is best for your body”. I have been trying lately to turn my focus inward, stop judging what others on surrounding mats can do, and focus my energy on my practice, with no comparison and no self-judgment. That has been a true challenge for me, but I have achieved progress. And isn’t that all we can hope for?
We can work on progression to go deeper, physically or spiritually. And to quote a British yoga teacher, yoga is progressive. It’s the only sport that you can work on for your whole life, and never perfect. And that is a joy for me. In yoga, practice doesn’t make perfect. No matter how many classes you’ve taken or taught in your life, each time you practice is simply another opportunity to deepen your practice. Work on the stillness of your thoughts. Work on the stillness of your body. Work on your focus, resist the urge to fidget during a pose, wipe away your sweat, or fix your hair. Allow your imperfect self to just be in the moment. Be in the messiness of your mind.
Thank you to my yoga teachers along my journey thus far that have taught me to be fully present on my mat, and to encourage the previous days stresses to melt away. In a world filled with tomorrows and yesterdays, my yoga mat is a trip I can go on, without ever leaving the City.
Practices at @mokshayogaedm and @soulfityoga