Meet Marci, a Senior Teacher at Yoga District as she shares an honest, heartfelt expression of her personal struggles with the practice. You can join her in her practice at multiple locations.
I almost gave up my yoga asana (exercise) practice over the last year. Injuries, frustrations, and judgment towards myself created a hostile relationship between myself, my body, and the poses I had once fallen in love with. How did I, a senior yoga teacher, avid practioner, and advocate of yoga almost walk away from the very practice that changed my life? Let me start with how I came to yoga in the first place.
When people ask me how I came to yoga, I always tell them backwards. After studying and practicing meditation and mindfulness for years, while on retreat one of my teachers invited me to start practicing yoga asana. At the time, my curiosity and interests were connected to meditating in silence or having philosophical debates. Not moving my body into a series of poses. Over time with constant practice I became hooked. I connected with a full eight-limbed path of yoga including asana (poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation, and ethical rules. The series of poses on a daily basis brought a heightened feeling of presence and focus in my meditation and opened me up to deep insights about myself. I saw my mat as a microcosm of my life where the thought and behavior patterns I manifested on my mat were certainly present off the mat. The practice was not about the poses for me, but the unique connection the practice brought me to the center of my being. To a deep peace within. To a sense of unity with other beings as we moved together in unison. And to an infinite well of love that I had never experienced before.
Flash forward to the last year. A time where I almost “broke up” with yoga asana in a sense. Suddenly I found myself grasping for the poses. I found myself judging my body for not being bendy enough or strong enough according to my own timeline of how my poses “should” be evolving. As a teacher I questioned whether students would come to a classroom where my body decided it was not interested in moving into certain variations of poses. I began shying away from practicing in public classes determined to perfect my poses in the sacred space of my own home and later to attend classes when I was “good” enough. What started as the development of a strong home practice in addition to practicing in community became a slow isolation of my practice to the confines of my home. I found myself extending the amount of time I was practicing my asana practice at home, repeating poses over and over again. I found myself comparing my personal asana practice with others posting pictures of their poses on social media. At first, my secluded determination created results. My poses began to deepen and my body continued to strengthen. And then the roof came caving in as my body started to experience injury after injury as I became more and more attached to an outcome. Whenever I experienced an injury I was forced to rest my body and spend days either doing no poses or only gentle movement. My frustration grew as some flexibility and strength I had previously gained faded away. My ego mind clung ever more strongly to the idea of where my physical practice should be going rather than embracing where it was. I started judging myself for clinging to the poses, a pitfall I knew about and had watched students and peers fall into time and time again. I felt ashamed for falling into the same pit that I had known about all along. The pitfall that was precisely the opposite of why I started practicing in the first place. After several injuries and breaks from my yoga asana practice, I finally had enough and almost walked away from my asana practice. At the bottom of “the pit” I finally saw the hole I dug for myself over time and decided it was time to pull myself out. What helped me fall in love with yoga once again? One word…community.
During this difficult time I came to recognize the true power of practicing in community. I recognized that after developing a strong home practice, it was time to come out of the woodwork and to practice in community again. Attending yoga classes again reminded me of the magic of satsang, gathering with people who are committed to walking a similar path together. In community I found support, connection, and love in a culture that is otherwise deeply individualistic. I found the “unity” in Being once lost in my reclusive practice at home. Now practicing in community several times a week is a top priority for me and gift to myself as part of my self-care. Walking a path of the “middle way” for me means both integrating time alone and with others to practice my yoga practice.
Community inspires me to be “seen” and to invite others to do the same. This “come as you are” environment is both why I love practicing in community and what I seek to create in my own classroom when I teach. Practicing in community reminds me of the beauty in diversity of pose shapes and manifestations of each body, personality, and experience. In community I fell in love with yoga again, I fell in love with my body, and I fell in love all over again with myself. Now, like never before I am committed to creating and participating in satsang and encourage others to do the same.
As it currently stands, this world was created as a giant web of interconnections and dependencies. While so many of us like to “do it ourselves” and not rely on others, we were inherently born into a world where connection is at the center of existence. If you haven’t been to a yoga class in a while, I invite you to attend one. If your schedule is busy, I encourage you to find classes that work with your schedule and try new traditions and teachers. You may just meet your new best friends, new favorite teacher, have an interesting conversation, or learn a new trick. If my story sounds familiar to you and you have found yourself judging yourself in your yoga practice, know that you are not alone. Most students and peers I know at one point or another have judged their practice and their poses. Many of us have put undue pressure on ourselves to be something other than ourselves. Community is an opportunity for us to bring each other back to center and help show each other the beauty inside of ourselves and each other that we sometimes neglect to see.
With dark soil come beautiful flowers. This journey has left me in love with yoga and experiencing more joy than ever before. To inspire others to do the same in their yoga practice and community, I’m taking yoga pose photos with students and peers to embrace our beauty right here right now, today. You can join in the virtual satsang as well! Join me here: https://instagram.com/marcimoberg/ And in the meantime, give yourself the gift of practicing in community maybe even just one time this week. You too may just be reminded of the gift of satsang and discover new insights about yourself.