Tuesday, July 12, 2011

sarah's yoga story....

{Interrupting the Tulum lovefest to offer up goodness from our very own Sarah Frank Bowker. This is nothing short of amazing and inspiring. Sit back, sip some tea, and savor these words from Sarah.}

A story like this begs to begin with an inspirational quote:

As a seasoned yoga teacher, I have heard many people proclaim, "Yoga saved my life!" The stories and people are unique, yet the conviction is always the same: "I couldn't have survived without yoga."
When I hear how yoga helps overcome the pain of injuries, accidents, illness, and emotional upheaval, I stand in awe. No longer an "it," yoga stops feeling like a mere routine, an entertaining form of exercise, or another spiritual "pursuit." It has become a living presence among us--touching and often healing those who come in contact with its power. When someone declares, "Yoga saved my life," what she means is "I saved my own life." She has reassembled what has fallen apart. The miraculous power of yoga does not sit out there in some ancient system of philosophy and body exercises. It's directly here and now inside the heart. Inside your core, your own true Self.
--Julie Rappaport

The week before I defended my master's thesis, I woke up in a panic. My alarm clock scared me into consciousness (a common thing those days) and I laid in bed, feeling my heart race, adrenaline coursing through my body. A sense of dread crept over me, as I considered exploring how tightly locked the left side of my jaw was, this morning. I knew the pain of unlocking it would probably be even worse this morning. I may have to skip breakfast, I thought.

But my worst fears were realized when I went to move my jaw, and for the first time, both sides were locked into place. OhmyGod, I couldn't open my mouth. Because of stress, I couldn't open my mouth. As the tears slid down my face, I worked for fifteen minutes to loosen the right side of my jaw, massaging the muscles of my face. "I can't live like this," I thought to myself. A seed was planted.

A few months later, after successful defense of my master's thesis, beginning my PhD education, and moving in with my boyfriend, I decided to make a New Year's resolution. Firmly convinced that I needed something to help me relax and handle stress better, I chose to explore what options Lexington had for yoga classes. I'd also struggled to find some kind of regular fitness activity since high school, and my lower back aching almost daily reminded me that maybe some strengthening work might help alleviate the pain.

I visited Barefoot Works the first time in January of 2007. From the very first class, I was hooked. It felt sooo good to move my body, explore my breath, and sweat! And I found such a supportive soul in Sharon. Yoga began to save my life - or I began to save my own life.

For the first time in my life, I felt that I was putting myself first by establishing my yoga practice. practice had later realized was that I was gathering the strength to make some Big Decisions in my life.

These Big Decisions included leaving an unhealthy romantic relationship, signing up for Sharon's yoga teacher training, leaving my PhD program--without my PhD, and signing up to go on Sharon's Tulum retreat, all in the span of one year! So what I'd initially thought about yoga- that I'd find ways to de-stress, I'd strengthen my back, and that it would support a fitness regimen--was just a tiny portion of the fruits of my yoga practice.

What my practice has done, and continues to do, is to shine a light on my most authentic self.

My practice keeps me connected to the Three Most Important Questions: Who am I? What do I want? What is my dharma (purpose)?

My yoga practice challenged many unhealthy habits I'd developed, that kept me from connecting to my most authentic self. Two habits in particular stand out - of doing things that others wanted me to do, without really considering if it was something I wanted to do, and of taking care of others first, and putting myself last (or not at all).

I've learned that my practice holds a space for deep spiritual connection and emotional release, in addition to the wonderful physical benefits of practicing asana. Most importantly, I've learned that my practice has helped me to remember how to save my own life, again and again.

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