One of my greatest passions has always been learning new concepts, ideas, activities, and practices and sharing them with others–and yoga is no exception. Since I first started practicing yoga nearly four years ago, I have been sharing my experiences and insights with friends and family and encouraging them to get involved. Through a shared practice and interest, yoga has brought me closer to several friends and has led me to meet many new and amazing people.
My yoga journey actually began on a 3-day hiking trip through Zaleski State Forest. On one of the afternoons, after finding a flat, grassy clearing, my friend Jenn, who had been taking yoga classes at our base gym, led an impromptu yoga session for us. Intrigued, I decided to join her at the base gym once a week. I was immediately hooked!
As usual, I had a desire to delve deeper into my newly discovered practice. Pretty soon I was no longer satisfied with yoga as a purely physical workout. I knew that I had stumbled into something with much more to offer, so I began seeking out nearby studios.
Several studios, workshops, and retreats later, I found what I was looking for and so much more. I’ve discovered not only the physical health benefits of yoga, but also the emotional and spiritual ones as well. Yoga has helped me grow and stretch in ways I never thought possible. It has revealed and continues to reveal a whole new inner world that was previously hidden to me.
Over the past four years, I have studied with many wonderful instructors, attended formal classes three times a week or more, and developed a consistent home practice. I am constantly reading books, blogs, and magazines and watching DVDs and videos to learn more and deepen my practice. At this point, I feel ready to take it to the next level. I want to truly begin sharing yoga with others.
While teaching has been in the back of my mind since early on, I was never truly serious about it until my recent trip to India. I spent 30 days backpacking through the Himalayas with a group of 13 other NOLS students–a truly incredible experience that has subtly changed my life in so many ways. One of the best parts of the expedition was the option to have daily yoga if students were willing to facilitate. There was one other student who had been practicing yoga for a few years, and the two of us took turns leading our peers through a morning yoga practice.
High up in the Himalayan foothills, I stumbled upon my calling to teach. I found so much satisfaction in watching my companions discover the joy of yoga for the first time — and the combined strength, balance, flexibility, relaxation, and peace it brought to them. Oddly enough, rather than being flustered or nervous as I stepped up to teach, I felt perfectly calm and natural leading them through each sequence. Some days I would start without a routine in mind and it would just naturally flow through me. I remember distinctly feeling and thinking, “I was meant to do this.” Moreover, I received numerous thanks and compliments from many companions and instructors, many of whom urged me to go home and become a yoga instructor. Now, here I am trying to make that dream a reality!
Just as I would find it terribly difficult to pick a favorite school teacher from the many remarkable teachers I have had over the years, I find it equally hard to choose a favorite yoga teacher. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with several phenomenal instructors from various studios, workshops, retreats, and random events, each with their own unique style and teaching techniques. Each of them has played a vital role in helping me to develop my practice.
With some teachers it is their detailed instructions for getting into proper asana positions as well as their subtle adjustments to guide me further into a pose that I most appreciate. With others it is their readings of yoga sutras or other inspirational writings and explanations of how yoga can be integrated into our everyday lives. Some instructors have helped provide greater strength and flexibility while others have focused more on relaxation and rejuvenation. Sometimes I appreciate breaking into a sweat and other times I love a cool eye-pillow being placed over my eyes as I relax into savasana. In general, I feel as though my best teachers are the ones who are able to take me to a place deeper inside myself. They are the ones who are able to provide a connection between the body, the breath, and the mind, as well as the inner self, the outer world, and the universal whole.
However, I will highlight one particular teacher who first introduced me to the beauty and power of the sacred syllable, the universal vibration, the sound of the almighty “Om.” I’ll admit, the first time I participated in the chanting of Om at the end of a yoga class, I was slightly skeptical, somewhat hesitant, and even a bit giggly. After a few classes, I began to let go of my nerves and inhibitions and to relax into the swirling sensations brought on by the vibrations. Jen helped to break the vibration into its three parts–beginning, duration, and dissolution–“A–U–M.”
The first time I experienced the reverberation created by the entire class chanting Om, I felt myself being elevated to a higher place somewhere both “inside” and “outside.” The first time I led this chant after a mountain-yoga session and achieved the same effect–a single reverberation created from many voices–I experienced that same sense of elevation. Now, the chanting of Om has become one of my favorite parts of my entire yoga practice.
Aside from yoga, another of my passions is for being part of and creating meaningful shared experiences for teams, groups, and couples. In my life, these have been experiences such as adventure-based or spiritual retreats, military trainings, and even corporate workshops. There is something incredibly powerful about a group of people coming together to achieve a common purpose, such as learning more about themselves, challenging themselves, learning new technical skills, or how to work better together as a team. While there are a great variety of incredible yoga certification programs available, I believe Yandara has something unique to offer in the shared group experience they provide. Rather than being spread out over six months or a year, this is a residential program offered in Baja, Mexico over the course of 26 days.
At Yandara, a limited number of students are accepted into each program to create a more intimate and personalized experience. This immersion-style training removes students from distractions and allows them to become completely focused on their practice and training. Essentially, students eat, sleep, and breathe yoga for 26-days! Delicious vegetarian meals and tea are served daily and students sleep on the beach in tents–just my style! This program is very into the connection with nature, which I see as an integral aspect of my practice. In addition to the traditional aspects of yoga, such as asanas, pranayama, yogic breathing, philosophy, anatomy, and physiology, Yandara also integrates various forms of meditation, music, and kirtan into the coursework. Last but not least, students are provided ample opportunity to actually practice teaching during the program, which I believe is a critical component.
As a yoga teacher, I would love to be able to bring yoga to the outdoors for more people to experience. By digging your toes into the dirt, feeling the wind on your face, and softening into the sounds of nature, I feel as though you are able to unlock a an entirely different dimension of yoga–one that allows you to reconnect with nature and explore new aspects of yourself. Furthermore, getting your hands dirty, balancing on uneven terrain, and trying to ignore flies buzzing around your head can offer a whole new set of challenges to work through! Additionally, I hope to integrate yoga with my passion for creating meaningful shared experiences (such as teambuilding workshops and retreats), much in the same way it was integrated into our NOLS backpacking course. The subtle peace and serenity of yoga combined with the physical and mental challenges of an outdoor adventure or retreat can create a remarkably powerful experience.
Also very important to me, I plan to help make yoga more available to those who wish to practice but cannot afford typical studio prices. I believe yoga is a gift that should be shared with as many people as possible, which is why I love and appreciate studios that offer yoga scholarships as well as donation-based classes. These awesome programs and studios are cropping up all over the place—students are able to come and practice and pay what they are able for classes. In fact, some studios are completely donation-based. There are also studios, like one that I regularly practice at, that use a portion of their proceeds to contribute to a scholarship fund specifically for yogis with financial need. I would love to work at a studio offering these types of programs, and eventually open one of my own. In addition to making yoga more available to locals through donations and scholarships, I would like to contribute a portion of my profits to charities that help bring yoga to communities in need, such as those in developing countries as well as here at home—in our inner city schools, treatment centers, group homes, shelters, and prisons.
Finally, as an Air Force veteran and current Air Force spouse, I would like to help bring yoga to our military members through the base gym as well as the base hospital. Yoga has actually been shown to help improve conditions of service members suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so the more courses we can make available on military bases, the better. In addition to the service members themselves, yoga can be an effective way to help manage stress for family members of those who are deployed.
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Adrienne Jurado
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