Yoga Milestones

Turning 30 has made Erica Rodefer Winters appreciate the milestones that she's experienced in her yoga practice. Here she lists the biggies. What yoga milestones have shaped your practice?

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I celebrated my 30th birthday this weekend. (Well, actually, I’m celebrating all week; it’s a big birthday, and I have a lot of cake.) It’s an important milestone. And yet, as I think about what it means to enter into a new decade, to feel more grown up and leave behind my twenties, I realize that age really is just a number. A birthday is a fun day, but doesn’t mean much. What does mean something is what I’ve learned during my 30 years that has helped to shape who I am and who I’m going to become.

There are milestones in yoga, too. For me, it isn’t the usual suspects that matter most, like graduating from a beginner class to an advanced class or completing a teacher training (though these are certainly causes for celebration, too!). Instead, it’s the little ah-ha moments along the way that have taught me so much and shaped who I am as a yoga student. The milestones that have brought about a deeper understanding of the body, a deeper connection between body and mind, or revealed something about what I’m capable of or who I am that have really stuck with me. Here are some of the most life-changing milestone moments I’ve experienced in my yoga practice so far. I can’t wait to find out what interesting milestones I’ll reach in my next 10 years!

Experiencing a calm, quiet moment of meditation for the first time. For me, it was that first few moment of calm focus on my inhale and exhale that made me realize that this yoga thing is so much more than a physical exercise. This feeling is what caused me to convert from yoga dabbler to a full-fledged believer.

Learning that an impossible pose is possible. The moment my feet lifted away from the floor in Crow Pose for the first time, I felt like I could conquer the world. Of course, other people get this same feeling the first time they’re able to stand on their heads. The pose is irrelevant. What matters is building strength, stamina, or flexibility to do a pose that once seemed impossible. That is the magic of yoga.

Breathing properly. It’s so simple, it isn’t? Learning how to use the breath, focus on the breath, and how to read the breath during asana practice is one of the most important parts of yoga. When I finally understood this key component, my practice was changed forever.

Suffering an injury. My first yoga injury wasn’t from actually practicing poses, it was from dropping a heavy wooden block on my toe. But it helped me learn to modify poses and make my practice my own.

Embarrassing myself. I don’t remember the first time I embarrassed myself in yoga class because, to be honest, when I started practicing yoga I was so timid and shy I was embarrassed by practically everything. I was embarrassed to Om. I was embarrassed to fall. I was embarrassed to not be able to do every pose perfectly. Eventually, though, I figured out how to laugh at myself and move on. I guess getting past my embarrassment is the real milestone.

Falling asleep during Savasana. Savasana felt so strange to me for the longest time. When I learned to settle in and get so comfortable that I was able to actually fall asleep, it was an amazing feeling. Sure, I wondered if I had snored and embarrassed myself, but it also helped me to understand how important it is to feel that release that a great Savasana can provide. And the importance of matching effort with ease and movement with stillness.

What are some of the milestones that you’ve experienced in your yoga practice that have shaped how you approach your practice?

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