Why we need Vitamin Y (yoga)

(This was written about a week ago during our second last night in Siem Reap, Cambodia.)

It’s our last night in Siem Reap (again.) John has had a serious case of food poisoning that is still lingering. Tomorrow we are headed to Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri; a province to the east that borders Vietnam.

Today I did yoga for the first time in about a month and a half. Before I left for the trip I was too busy planning, organizing, packing, cleaning and moving, and now during the trip we’ve been busy sightseeing, walking, hiking, traveling, wandering and planning our next move.

John’s food poisoning (and inability to walk about) inspired me to get back to my center and find my roots, which plant best on a yoga mat. I went to the Ahimsa Academy in Siem Reap, which is a rooftop studio that overlooks all of Old Town, including Pub Street.

My yoga teacher, Thomas, has been practicing yoga for 40 years and took us through a semi stationary, semi vinyasa practice. My mind raced at first, louder than usual but I expected this due to the fact this was the first time I’ve practiced in a while. Eventually the yoga poses got harder and my mind got quieter as my ujjayi breath got louder. Presence in the posture leading to presence in my bodymind and eventually peace in my heart and soul.

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Sometimes we fall off our yoga bandwagon and it’s easy to make excuses for why we can’t go (and then if you’re like me, you judge yourself constantly for not going), but eventually we (I) need to understand that everything is a cycle. Sometimes we cycle into yoga and sometimes we cycle out, the only thing that matters is that our yoga mat waiting for us without judgement (svadhyaya).

Yoga gently pulls us out of the madness of our mind and introduces us back into our body and the present moment. Practicing yoga is such a euphemism for practicing life. Yoga can be difficult, but then when we invite air into our lungs and patience in our heart, we find a little more space in our tight muscles and a little more stretch in our bodies. Life can be difficult too, and the same applies; we bend so we don’t break.

I am a recovering athlete. I played soccer all my life and then swam competitively in high school and then throughout college I began to run. All of these were distractions to get out of my mind, finding I had to do something to get rid of my ‘lesser’ emotions like anger. When I found yoga a few years later it brought me back into my body, helping me through emotions instead of getting tossed around by. You can’t think your way out of a yoga pose, but you feel your way through it.

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I have scoliosis and my slightly-bent spine has always made it extremely difficult to even touch my toes; which has always a judgement toward myself. Through practicing patience through yoga I have been able to touch my toes and then some. That being said, I do still get caught up with how my practice should look. Being a yoga teacher, I feel like I should be able to do more poses and stretch in certain ways, and for now I need to understand that my spine is not ready for that. One of my favorite things that I’ve heard in yoga during the different stages of more difficult poses is “this is the pose, stay here until you feel stable.”

My first yoga practice was Bikram and due to the ‘athlete’ mindset I would pull and tug my body into the different postures; I thought how it looked aesthetically was the goal I was aiming for, but through slower practices I found that if I have patience and gratitude for where my body is, it will open in time; it needs my support instead of my judgeyness.

So thankfully amidst the madness, I’ve rediscovered my inner peace, located inside myself of course, but also on a 68’” by 24” magical ‘peace’ of plastic. And my daily practice of svadhyaya – self study & non judgment continues ☺✌🏻

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