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Yoga entered my life at a time of high anxiety and stress. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, living and working in a rural community with teachers and communities. I lived alone, spoke only halting Luganda and basically had to make my way through the community every day as the only white person, "mzungu", most people had ever seen in person. I was the object of intense curiosity and scrutiny--and for an introvert, this caused a good deal anxiety.
One of my fellow volunteers introduced us to yoga and meditation during our in-country orientation trainings. She gave us a simple hatha practice and some basic guidelines for meditation. All this was completely new to me at the time. I didn't realize it then, but this simple yoga practiced probably saved me from some sort of breakdown.
Since then, yoga has been a leading spiritual force in my life. I've practiced many styles, but currently find a home in vinyasa and yin styles. Yoga has kept me sane through the illness and loss of both parents over the last few years. Yoga helped me immensely when I was providing hospice care for my mother, who died in 2006.
What I've learned over the years about myself and the practice of yoga is that yoga allows me to touch a greater degree of connection--to myself and to all others. Bulding an awareness of the body and accepting its' present state and limitations has helped me to cultivate a compassionate response to myself and to the world. The connection to the breath allows me to truly drop into the present moment and to relax into a bigger perspective. There aren't many other opportunities for building such awareness in our everyday lives. Yoga makes my heart, mind, and soul bigger, stronger, and softer--able to hold the greatest joys and the deepest sorrows with some type of tenderness.