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by Jessica Abelson
When I first heard about yoga, I saw it the way many non-yogis do: a funny-looking exercise for hippies and “spiritual” types. Being the ultimate skeptic, the only reason I ever ventured into a class was because my best friend had caught the yoga bug and was addicted. And she wasn’t the only one. Suddenly I was seeing people walking around everywhere with yoga mats sticking out of their backpacks. Celebrities were all over magazines praising their newest passion, providing hope through yoga, you too could have that body. Unlikely, I thought.
The sudden rush of attention made me weary. Just another craze, I told myself.
Having grown up in a non-religious household, logic and science always reigned supreme. Any concept of spiritualism seemed silly to me. I pushed away anything that could not be absolutely proven, and yoga fell into the category. How could I truly believe that we have a third eye? Or that the stars and moon really affect my moods? There was no logic to back it up. If a doctor hadn’t signed off, I wasn’t playing along.
As I continued to resist the unknown, my friend told me how yoga destressed her and made her feel more fit and happy. She said I should try it. After much convincing and with great reluctance, I finally accepted, more to prove her wrong than anything.
That day I dug up some old spandex, trying in vain to mimic her very chic yoga look. On the way to class, I thought of my weekend plans, the boy I had a crush on, and what food I wanted for dinner. Yoga was not my priority.
When I arrived, I felt a wave of intimidation flow over me. Looking around, everyone seemed so comfortable, knowing exactly how to sit and stand and be. They had on “real” yoga clothes and unrolled their own mats.
During class, I did all the stretches to the best of my ability—treating it like a test, wanting to do the best. But I still didn’t see anything “special” about this yoga thing. I’ve certainly touched my toes before, I thought. And what’s with all the sitting and breathing?
But as class continued, poses that looked simple made my legs quiver and my muscles burn. With sweat now pouring down my face and the teacher telling us to “enjoy the moment,” I couldn’t help but realize how unique, but ultimately real, this practice was.
Soon I had lost all skepticism and judgment; I was simply too focused on my practice to care. Settling into my first Savasana, I felt subtle sensations in my body like never before: loose, light, free. Sitting up for the final meditation, I held my hands at my heart and, with full faith, bowed my head to the class. Somehow without any rationalization, let alone realization, I had simply trusted and experienced the moment.
Since then yoga has had a profound impact on my life physically, mentally, and yes, spiritually. I may not have a religion and I may not have great knowledge of the Yoga Sutra, but I have found faith in something beyond myself, something greater than me. Through the brightest and darkest of hours, I have faith in my yoga practice to carry me through with serenity. And to that I say, namaste.