30 May The Evolving Meaning of Yoga
What does YOGA mean to Me? And Soon, You?
Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD
Yoga can be exercise, quiet time, meditation, breathing, practicing kindness and compassion, a lifestyle, a way to turn inward and listen. It can be whatever the individual makes of it. My personal experience of yoga has changed from my very first class in the fall of 1994 through this present day. I am sharing my journey in hopes that you, the reader will feel free to experience yoga in whatever way serves you. Instead of saying “Oh, I don’t do yoga,” perhaps you will tell yourself “I can do yoga and I can make it what I need it to be.”
Now, yoga to me means to breathe (The literal definition means to yoke or to bind). To me, the most important thing my clients and or students can take from practicing with me is how to use your best tool – the breath. It is how to bind the breath with the movement to create a moving mediation. It is at times to lose yourself on the mat and to let go. To get out of your head and out of your body – to just be – without complications. And sometimes it is to connect with your body, to feel discomfort and to breathe through it – learning you can tolerate discomfort by focusing on your breath. Sometimes it is to move in my body, to feel my body, to challenge my mind and my muscles. To face fears, to lose balance, to fall and get back up. To let go of my ego and to recognize my mind and body are different every single day and that is 100 percent okay. That is what yoga is to me today, but it has been an evoling relationship with myself and my mat.
Yoga had always intrigued me. As a freshman in college I took beginner’s yoga as an elective course. Once I felt comfortable with the basics, I ventured into town –Fort Collins, Colorado to really experience something more authentic. I can still recall vividly the first three yoga studios I ever practiced in. I believe I was trying to find a sense of calm and let go of emotional baggage. Well, I let go. I literally hung upside down at this studio in Fort Collins, held by a piece of fabric. I think it would likely be considered acro yoga today. I woke up at 6 am to attend Women Warrior class. Only now do I realize this class was Ashtanga yoga. I remember thinking, “Are we supposed to be female warriors bowing down to the sun?” I also remember feeling my arms shake and the fatigue of the never-ending chattarangas. The physical commitment and the fact that the class was at 6 am – the time of sunrise, led me to abandon this class. (Did I mention I had to ride my bike to class?)
My practice was inconsistent throughout years until 2005/2006. I was pregnant for the first time and had an unfound fear that my regular routine of pilates would squish the baby. I felt more confident in the idea of prenatal yoga with a private yoga instructor. My instructor’s name was Jen Guarneiri. She taught me to move with my body. While alignment was important, it should not sacrifice the safety of your body. If my palms didn’t touch over my head, that was okay. This yoga was very accessible. It also felt incredibly good to do while being pregnant. No other movement felt as natural and easy as yoga did while being pregnant. I felt unstrained and at ease in my body. The best part of this scenario is that my husband whom I had thought would never ever practice yoga, became intrigued. My instructor offered him a free yoga session and he too became a yogi. The breathing, the stretching and the need to keep your mind free of chatter brought a new challenge and a reprieve. Yoga and mindfulness became part of our everyday life so much that it was one of the premises of my third book, Women’s Health Body Clock Diet.
After almost 20 years in NYC, we left for the burbs. My world turned upside down. I could not find a yoga studio similar to those in NYC when I needed it most. I could not quiet my mind, nor could I access my authentic self – I needed that – a place to provide a sacred space free of judgment. While I did not find that space, I did find a form of yoga that energized me. Ironically, I realized this yoga was the same form of yoga that I had first experienced in 1994. The opportunity for yoga teacher training presented itself and I knew I needed this now more than ever.
The teacher training experience was pivotal as I reached a new understanding of yoga and that was binding the breath with the movement. I never fully understood Ujjayi breathing until my teachers Lucy Feaster, Renee Scherer and Jenny Mirmelstein at Life Power Yoga emphasized the significance of the breath in Ashtanga yoga. It changed my entire practice. And has since changed my life.
Now my yoga has become the L’ifestyle Lounge, in Closter, NJ. It is all the different types of yoga we offer. It is 80 degrees Rock, Sweat and Glow, it is Breathe and Bend and it is yours, as much as mine. I invite you to begin your yoga experience with me and my amazing staff who are hand picked for individuality. Our classes range from warm power flow to prenatal to open class with instructors such as Lisa Schnall and Elyssa Toomey allowing for authenticity, alignment and your own yoga philosophy. Leave judgment home and come to the mat.