My 8th grade students can’t believe I teach yoga. “You’re too loud, Señora!” they tell me. At school, I’m a fireball of energy, constantly moving and talking and yelling “¡Vamos a clase!” before the bell rings. But after a week of this pitta-like environment, yoga is exactly what I need. It took me a long time, however, to figure that out.
I tried my first yoga class 20 years ago at a local fitness center, a recommendation from a doctor who said I needed to manage the stress of teaching. I liked it, but those last ten minutes of savasana were too uncomfortable. I wanted to leave but I didn’t want to be rude, so I’d lie on my mat, staring at the ceiling, thinking of everything I had to do the next day. I stuck with it for about three months, but any pose that was too quiet or reflective scared me.
Yoga wasn’t working for me. I joined a Pilates class.Pilates, walking, jogging, weight training…..I was exercising! I was in good shape! I had friends at the gym!
I was also mentally and physically exhausted. That year, I needed emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. Six months later, my podiatrist recommended surgery for the pain in my feet, pain which came on, obviously, from standing all day, but which was exacerbated by the type of exercise I’d been doing. Perhaps a gentle yoga class was what I needed?
I found a little yoga studio in Occoquan called Soaring Spirit. I attended class once a week, on Saturdays. I learned what it is to be “mindful,” and eventually craved those last 10 minutes of class. I felt calmer and more settled, and stopped pondering my to-do list in those quiet moments. The studio was a haven. My feet didn’t hurt anymore; my body was flexible. Yoga was changing me.
I subscribed to Yoga Journal and read books about yoga. I learned about the Chakras, Ayurveda, and the Doshas. I signed up for YogaFit training to get my Level 1 certification and started teaching part-time. When Soaring Spirit planned its 200 hour teacher training, I signed up. There was so much to learn; so much to discover. Over time, my body fully healed and I was able to return to other forms of exercise, but none of them have impacted me as much as yoga.
My practice has made me a better schoolteacher. I’m more patient with my middle schoolers, and I know that when the stress of teaching is getting out of control, a class–even once a week–is soothing and reassuring. Yoga also allowed me to concentrate on a goal I’d had for years: to write for children. I published my first picture book in 2014, the year I studied at Soaring Spirit.
I’m still very loud, very hyper and very social! I still stress out when I have too much to do. But I now know when I need to slow down and breathe, and I’m more in tune to the side of my personality that needs a break from all the chaos. That’s when I find my mat.