Late last year, I went through two major changes in my life. First, I left the company I considered my second home for almost thirteen years. I had been a magazine writer and editor for most of my career, but when the last magazine I had been working for closed down, I felt lost. I needed to regroup, re-strategize, and rethink my plans for the coming year.
At around the same time, I underwent a surgery to have myomas removed from my reproductive area. This meant I was not allowed to exercise for at least six to eight weeks. Prior to the surgery, I would occasionally run, practice yoga, and go to the gym, but post-surgery, the most I could do was walk. When I finally got cleared by my doctor to work out again, my muscles felt weak and lethargic. A simple downward-facing dog took a humongous amount of effort. When I tried to do planks, my shoulders trembled and my abdominals screamed in pain.
So when I found out about Urban Ashram’s Beginners Yoga Course, I thought it would be the perfect way to kick off my health and fitness goals for the New Year. But more than learning about the basic poses and the physical benefits of yoga, the course reminded me that there is strength within—that I have the power to transform myself, one step at a time.
START FROM THE BEGINNING AND WORK YOUR WAY UP
At the beginning of the two-day workshop, teacher Janaka Ordoñez said, “Wherever you are is the perfect place to start.” Each person in class shared why they wanted to do yoga: to gain strength, to clear the mind, to ease anxiety, to combat stress. People get into yoga for many different reasons—and they are all valid. It inspired me to know that I wasn’t alone on this journey. Everybody had their own battles, but the important thing was that we all showed up and got on the mat. This was our space and time to learn, and nobody could take that away from us.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
As our teacher introduced us to the basic yoga poses, one of the very first things he told us was to be humble and patient with ourselves—and isn’t that true in both yoga and in life? It takes time to learn a new skill, to master the movements. We can’t go from downward dog to a handstand in just one day. Some people think yoga is easy, but it takes discipline and practice to hold even the simplest poses.
Practicing the foundations was a good way to remind myself to honor and listen to my body. It helped that Janaka broke down the components of each movement—from breathing to savasana (corpse pose)—because it allowed me to be totally present and aware of what my body could do. It allowed me to be more mindful and really take to heart the lessons that were being taught in the course.
EMPOWER AND TRANSFORM YOUR SOUL
Aside from practicing the basic poses, I love how the course gave us a better understanding and appreciation of what yoga is really all about. Janaka discussed the eight limbs of yoga by Patanjali, which are like a set of guidelines for a meaningful life. It just goes to show that yoga isn’t just about physical exercise—it can also transform one’s life.
In Sanskrit, the word yoga means “union” or “to unite.” In a world that has become divided in so many ways, it’s good to remember that we are all one. As our teacher said, the energetic shifts in the earth affect our body, and we are all affected by each other’s energy as well.
No matter where you are in life and in your yoga journey, I highly encourage you to attend this workshop or Urban Ashram’s FNR (Flexibility Not Required) classes, which are suitable for beginners. Practicing on your own is good, but I found that it also helps to practice with experienced mentors and a diverse community of people who all want to transform their lives through yoga.
After the workshop, I can’t say I’m a yoga expert. My muscles still complain when I try to hold a plank for more than 10 seconds. There are no easy fixes in life and I know that I still have a long way to go. But after practicing with my fellow yogis and yoginis, I felt energized and empowered to move forward in my journey with a more peaceful heart and a positive mindset. I have no doubt that it will do the same for you.
Angel C. Aquino is a freelance writer, editor, and fiction author whose personal mission is to uplift, inspire, and educate others through her stories. She shares her reflections and practical tips on writing, traveling, and leading a healthy lifestyle at https://angelcaquino.com.