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17 Years of Good Luck

by Milissa on March 27, 2011

in Philosophy,Yoga

Flash back to a time before sticky mats, cotton-lycra blends, and yoga studios offering convenience store hours with 31 flavors to choose from. It’s hard for 21st century yoga students to imagine the days before yoga appeared in ads for Chase Bank. In the early 90s, we practiced in church fellowship halls, lifted into Shoulderstand on thick athletic mats, wore baggy drawstring pants and t-shirts, and rested in Savasana for a minimum of 15 minutes at the end of class. Definitely not glitzy and glamorous, like the magazine spreads of a yoga lifestyle in 2011.

Seventeen years ago I stepped off the boat (literally, though there was a plane involved too) from Paradise Island, Bahamas, where I had completed a month-long yoga teacher certification. One of the reasons I took the course was to escape a Midwestern February that rivaled the one we experienced this winter. But, before I left my boots behind for a month of walking barefoot in the sand, my husband said to me, “If you’re going to take all that time off work, and spend all that money, I hope you’ll actually teach.”

“Drat!” silently cursed shy-little-me. “How will I ever get up in front of a roomful of strangers, demonstrating a mediocre Utthita Trikonasana without dying of embarrassment?” I just wanted a winter getaway and a chance to grow spiritually, I had never intended to make teaching yoga part of my livelihood.

But I had said I would teach—and yogis need to practice Satya, or truthfulness, I’d learned in my teacher training—so in March I rented a warehouse space in the building where I had an art studio and began teaching yoga to beginners. I taught what I’d learned: a classical asana sequence that included forward bends, backward bends, twists and inversions; Vedic chanting; pointers on eating a Sattvic (vegetarian) diet. It all fell into place: my first students were women I had met at the yoga retreat, who had come for a yoga vacation to the ashram that I’d studied at.

At the end of the first class I taught—which had started with my voice vibrato with nerves—a surge of warm energy coursed through my limbs, and I felt an inner knowing that this was what I was meant to do. Though my forward bends weren’t deep and my lunges weren’t low, “I can do this,” I thought. “There’s more to yoga than being flexible.”

It’s hard to put into words what I feel every time I teach a yoga class, without sounding flaky or new age. Plugged in to a deeper knowing, like a computer into a power strip, is perhaps the best analogy. There is something so much vaster than my small self coming through me when I teach yoga, meditation, chanting or give bodywork sessions.

When I started, I could never have imagined that I would still be teaching yoga almost two decades later. 17 is my lucky number, and I’m feeling so incredibly grateful and lucky to be in service to my community in this role at this time of my life. Thank you for your support and for letting me help you to remember the preciousness of who you really are.

New class sessions are starting throughout April. If you would like to join us register right away, as space is limited.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly LaBerge March 27, 2011 at 5:46 pm

So glad you are teaching yoga. You have been an inspiration to me. I loved reading about your start!

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Alice March 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

Bravo, Milissa! I think you summed it up well: “There’s more to yoga than being flexible.” There’s so much more, and I learned that from you. My first class with you was more than 13 years ago. I felt nervous and self conscious. But when you started class, I knew immediately I was OK. Your gentle guidance and reminders to let go of judgement and just notice has served me since then. I always know I have a place to come home to in your studio no matter what life is showing me or how stiff my muscles seem. Thank you for providing that!

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