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Yoga's Greatest Gift: A Present Mind

unnamed_copyWhen I think of what yoga and living a yoga lifestyle means to me, many things come to mind. I always think back to my first yoga class in Manhattan over 15 years ago.  A former dancer friend who practiced yoga regularly asked me to go to a class and I thought, “Sure, I’ve got this.” I was a competitive gymnast growing up, and I can never remember a time when I didn’t work out – I thought I knew what to expect.

So I walked into this beautiful, quiet room packed with yogis. It was a little dark; a lovely painted tree on the wall, and a single burning candle in the front. The teacher introduced herself, gave a brief talk (which now I know is called a sutra), and began the class with an Om and a chant. I thought, “What did I get myself into?”  I sat quietly and listened to the resonating sound of all the voices. Next, we were on to breathing, and I found myself thinking again, “What is this all about? I know how to breathe.” Next was movement, what I know now as the Asanas. Despite not knowing the names or really any of the poses, I looked around and followed. I loved the flow, the balance, the challenge, the strength, and the flexibility. At the end of the class we lay down on our backs (aka savasana), and again, I found myself thinking, “What?”  This calming, still ending to a workout was completely unexpected and unfamiliar to me.  We ended the class seated, with our eyes closed, a cleansing breath, and an Om – and that is when it all started for me.

I have to admit that my initial draw to yoga was the physical practice. It was a different kind of work out for me; however, over the years I’ve found myself seeking yoga, not only for the physical benefits, but also for the effects I was experiencing as a whole person. I can only describe it as a sense of “awwhhhh” after every practice.

I sought out yoga teacher training in 2014 to learn more about the physical practice, but mainly to learn more about living a yoga lifestyle, especially when it came to raising 2 young daughters. It is very important for me to be a role model in their lives. I want to lead by example based on so many of the wonderful, guiding, inspirational sutras and lessons I have heard in my many yoga classes. I really wanted to practice “taking my yoga off the mat and into my life.”

Now, at this moment, if I were asked what it means to live a yoga lifestyle, my immediate answer would be to be present, as cliché as it may sound. This concept of truly being present was the biggest and most life-changing lesson for me in teacher training. Being a working mom, raising 2 young daughters, and juggling all other aspects life, I began to realize that my mind was constantly in a state of chaos. I was always trying to get everything done, planning for the next event, and making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. This constant multi-tasking (which I thought was just what every mom was supposed to do) was in fact a distraction. It inhibited me from completely enjoying all the special moments that I intended to savor forever. Time was just passing me by. When I really sat down and thought back to various moments, I was actually having a hard time recalling details, as at the time, my mind was not present. This was eye opening and quite scary!

I believe I have made progress when it comes to being present, but I still have a ways to go – and I can’t wait to see the outcomes of an increasingly present mind. Through my efforts to become more present, I have already noticed a greater joy and sense of contentment in all aspects of my busy life, as well as a greater connection to what it means to really be in the moment. Remember this, as it is so true: ”The best gift we can give each other is our presence.” xx Allyson Rooney