My very first yoga class was in 1999 at a studio named Heartland Yoga. Heartland no longer exists, but my yoga practice has flourished as a result of that beginning. In fact, those first yoga classes sit in my mind like a beautiful photograph. When I’m struggling in my current practice, I remember those early days and I lean into those joyful moments when hope was cultivated deep within my spirit.
At that time in my life I was on the hazardous detour of perfectionism. I was chronically self-critical, constantly striving for more in my life and never giving myself the break that I needed. While I thought I was only investing in the health of my body, my mind, heart and spirit began to grow.
Yoga helped me to cultivate the courage to be vulnerable, imperfect and self-compassionate. It started me on the path of becoming real. What I mean by “real” is that I started to become more authentic, genuine, more in touch with my…self. Instead of thinking that I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it, I realized that just being me was good enough.
I was a farm girl who very abruptly made the shift to city life as a young adult. It was shocking. At that time, I simply thought that if I looked perfect and did everything perfectly, that I would avoid any painful feelings associated with others judgment. It was a self-destructive and unattainable goal.
Yoga allowed me to see that I was enough just the way I was. It gave me the capacity to be warm and understanding towards myself during times of great difficulty. It also allowed me to see that these thoughts were part of a collective mindset and that I was not alone. Most importantly, yoga helped me to be mindful and not get caught up in my thoughts.
Most of us are wading through uncertainty, self-doubt and self-criticism. Yoga has provided me with resilience in the face of this relentless “never enough” cultural message that we are all bombarded with on a daily basis. I am living and loving now with my whole heart.
I suppose the name of the studio where I first practiced was accurate. I discovered my “heart land” in yoga.
~ Jennifer ~