Television was my first yoga instructor. I remember watching shows, and doing the same yoga practice for a year every night, thinking to myself, “I got a good downward facing dog now! my flexibility is great! I need a different video.” I thought that yoga was all about flexibility and strengthening of the body. All I knew was that I felt good and that the woman teaching the class through the video made me feel good for that precious half hour that I put into it. But then I saw myself wanting more-more videos, more classes and more instruction.
Seeking a broader understanding of the practice, I started looking into local yoga studios.
Not being the richest of people, I was forced to take advantage of promotional deals, which ranged from a free session to a whole week of practice before I had to pay. I couldn’t afford the 150 dollars a month for a membership. But I was dedicated. At first it was great, getting different techniques from all sorts of different teachers who told me how I should and should not move, what the correct posture was for a certain asana (move or pose.) But there are only so many yoga studios in the South Bay. I was forced to make a choice. Either start paying for a yoga class or purchase videos and do them at home. Either way I had to spend some money, money I didn’t have. Getting paid, to me, meant getting a step closer to pay off rent, transportation and food for the next two weeks. Paying such a high monthly fee for yoga was almost enough for me to quit the practice all together. Yoga felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford.
My economic solution compelled me to start studying books on the art, reading as much as I could on the practice. I learned about the origination and its changes through time; whole dimensions and depths on yoga that I had not received from videos or classes. It’s a beautiful practice, showing different ways to focus the breath so as to awaken energies within the body, and using movements to bring illumination to different parts of the body. I started seeing that yoga is an expression of the individual to wake up his or her inner self.
Learning ways to dance and ride the wave of life instead of constantly fighting your way through. Yoga was not a stretch pose; it was a way of being one with the world. Looking at the origins of the word Yoga in religious texts, there were no actual moves written down for people to follow. It just started as the connection of the mind with the divine, eternity, god, the universe, or any other words to define a person’s particular inner self.
These days, I often get family and friends asking me to run them through a yoga practice. I am ecstatic when they ask me because it gives me a chance to show what I have learned and am still learning everyday. I often tell them that yoga classes are not just a teacher student type of dynamic. It is more like a dance between two peers learning from each other.
They tell me their weaknesses, strengths, stresses and problems in life. I just cater to them, being a support system for their progression. And they also help me. There’s been many times that a student, due to inherited flexibility or strength does a lot better at a move that I taught than I could do myself. They illustrate techniques in a more understandable way. I feel that the real yoga is the time we spend together; it’s like going out and getting a cup of coffee or going to the beach with a friend. It’s a shared experience. I learn the body capabilities of the person, as they tell me how they move, and I give them my comparison.
It’s a beautiful practice, a practice that I now take to the real world, doing yoga the exercise when I can, but having yoga within me at all times.
When I think of someone doing a downward facing dog, doing all these elaborate tricks with their body, I see them as beautiful, but I don’t think they catch the essence of yoga any more than my quest for the answers of life through different means-taking a walk in the hills, or sitting still with my breath. Taking one’s body through all of these loops, craving and wanting more “yoga,” I see it turning into a monster. I read people saying in magazines, “If I don’t do yoga at least three times a week, I don’t feel complete.” It’s funny to me because it makes the one thing that the practice was made for, to feel complete and at one, is the same thing that has you feeling incomplete when it not present.
This may sound a bit silly, but when I think of yoga, I think of my dog, Chico. He watches me go to and from work, rushing, reading, watching tv, being sad, being happy, eating, being angry and all sorts of other activities I do in my quest for life, hardly taking time to sit down and enjoy the moment, or at least acknowledging that every moment counts. You hear so many stories of people looking back on their death beds telling their family and friends to enjoy every moment, because once that moment is gone, it leaves forever. The practice of yoga is the same way, we keep heading for that perfection, that perfect pose, that next practice, not seeing that the concentration, time, and love you put into the pose is what matters.
Above all the gurus, ancient texts, philosophers, psychiatrists and practitioners that I have gone to or looked up for answers on yoga, I feel as if Chico is the sage in my life. It does not matter if he does not speak, just his look tells me all I need to know. That we do all these things, stress ourselves out, put ourself to balls, twist, run, jump, practice yoga, not knowing that there is no need to do any of this, that shavasana (final resting pose) is there from the beginning, all of the actions done to get you there are just to get you to see it.
See that life just is, life is yoga.
Cesar Flores is a writer and videographer with Silicon Valley De-Bug. He is also a lead organizer with Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project.