Soon after my 200-hour yoga certification, I embarked on becoming a yoga therapist. I enrolled in a three year, 900-hour certification program that met locally one weekend a month. I craved to learn more. Dig deeper. I wanted to further my knowledge and training to help others in a more personal way, one on one, so they could reap the benefits of yoga to heal, transform, live, and flourish to their best potential.
This program coincided with my mom's physical and mental Alzheimer's decline. Whether it was taking my mom to her doctor's appointments or giving her caregivers a break, I traveled the Indiana Toll Road to my mom's countless times on weekdays and for weekends through her downhill slide. My husband was patient and supportive. My kids were in the most excellent classroom of their life, witnessing my daughterhood, motherhood, and who I truly am without the label of a role. At this particular time of being sandwiched between caring for my mom and being present to my family while trying to also do something for me, something had to give. One of the ingredients was souring the recipe for balance if there is such a recipe.
I had juggled the yoga therapy schedule for a year and a half at this point. One morning, my teacher and I were going over the program's requirements and what I had yet to fulfill. Upcoming family events and caring for my mom were coinciding with the training weekends. She presented me with a question that made me pause for a hot second before my intuition led me in answering. She asked me, Are you committed to my program? Huh, I thought—her program.
I was committed to learning more about yoga. The program's experience up to this point had its strengths and flaws and wasn't always smooth sailing, meaning not perfect, which is OK because what in life is perfect? Was this program still in flow with my life? Did it feel, right? Positive? In a supporting role with the main characters in my life story, including myself? Or was this an invitation to stand in my truth and separate ways? How the question was presented, which may not have been the way she intended it, made me feel like I should devote myself to something in which I didn't believe. For me, it felt like a worshipping invitation rather than working together through the authentic teachings of yoga.
I am dedicated to my family as a mother and wife first and foremost, I told her. I also am committed to caring for my mom and advocating for her authentic voice as Alzheimer's invades her mind. These are my higher commitments, I added.
The program no longer felt right. It didn't feel in line with my morals and values. While the program may have benefitted some of my fellow students' personal growth, it was stunting mine. I left the program after completing 450 hours, which means I'm technically 650-hour yoga certified, which is all just a bunch of numbers, an increment of numbers that are not recognized by the yoga registry of certifications. I'm not a numbers person anyway, so all is fine and good! Yes, I've studied and practiced, practiced, and studied. I've questioned and learned, thrown out, and inhaled. I've taken away what feels right and genuine while weeding out what feels dark and unauthentic throughout the years of practicing yoga. I could have meandered through and completed the program to get the yoga therapist's title only to end up as the worst yoga therapist who ever lived! For a while after, I continued to lead the private women's groups I wrote about in Yoga-Part 1, including the church ladies-refreshing breaths of love and renewal, acceptance, and expansion.
Expansion-this is a keyword for yoga. Affective teachings and learnings naturally empower others to expand, grow, and rise to their best potential. In today's society, is yoga watered down and estranged from the truth of its original teachings? Or are all the different ways to practice available to meet people where we are? To flirt with and float on and eventually bring us back home?
The styles of yoga are endless.
The schools to study form are numerous.
The ways to practice are countless.
Some may bring us to tears.
Yet it's healthy to stay humorous.
Here are just a few of the ways.
Because the list could go on for days.
In prisons, armed forces, with geriatrics, and youth.
Hot yoga, Power yoga, Holy yoga, Viniyoga.
Yoga with wine, goats, cheese, and on boats.
Transcendental meditation, Christian, guided, or freestyle.
Wait. That would be fantastic—a boat on the Nile.
Hatha and Vinyasa yoga are my favorites.
Did I mention visual meditation?
I naturally meditate this way.
Yes, no matter how I try to meditate.
It becomes a visual.
So regardless of what evolves for you.
Whatever you try should be nutritional.
I don't know everything there is to know.
Beware of those who think they do.
Start with a class, try another, and another still.
The only person who knows what's right for you is you!
When it feels pure and honest, stay.
When it doesn't, go.
Then acquire a mind of child's play.
What works for me may not work for you, which may not work for your neighbor, which may not work for your neighbor's sister, which may not work for your neighbor's sister's husband.
Did you follow me with that last sentence?
I'm not sure I did myself.
I know, like yoga, this whole thing is confusing.
But I've had fun writing this.
It's been quite amusing.
Moral of the story: Yoga is a fantastic tool for many reasons, but yoga's depth is vast. Sometimes it can get watered down to become more of a business than a service to others. It is possible for someone or a particular style that isn't in touch with this ancient practice's authenticity to lead in a direction that is not beneficial to help us live to our highest potential. But to each, their own. Authenticity will shine through where and when it should. The practice of non-judgment for the greater good of humanity swells in the purest of yogis.