I’ll begin by providing a bit of my personal background in an attempt to flesh me out as something more than words on a screen. My yoga journey began in 2004 with a Hatha class in a community hall along side my mom. Although we enjoyed the class for its relaxing quality, I can’t say I was hooked. I found myself overwhelmed by many of the postures and confused by the words spoken. While I was eager for some sort of intense connection to the practice, after the 8 week session was up, the class proved to be nothing more than the postures that I was lead through. I felt like an imposter as I lifted my hands to my heart center and spoke the word “Namaste” aloud because I truly didn’t have an understanding of what that meant.
It wasn’t until several years later, when my older brother took his yoga instructor certification that I decided to roll out my mat again. It was that very class that still stands out as where it all really started. It was like when I finally learnt how to ride my bike. I could have sworn my dad was still holding on to my bike seat but when I looked behind me, he was a full block away waving from the bottom of the driveway. I looked ahead, full of determination and excitement. I let my body take over and suddenly the delicate art of balancing, peddling and steering all made sense. I couldn’t figure out how just days before I was totally incapable of something that now seemed so natural. It was through this understanding that I got my first taste of total freedom and bliss.
My first yoga class with Mike wasn’t unlike that day when I first learnt to ride my bike. It was at that class, years after my first yoga experience, that I finally gained an understanding of what yoga meant to me and how I was able to treat it as a tool to improve my life. Mike knew that many of us were new to yoga, so as a means of breaking down any barriers or pre-existing notions, the first instruction we received that day was to give each person in the class a big hug. (High 5′s were an acceptable alternative!) It was like magic. The energy in the space changed immediately. None of us were strangers anymore. We had made eye contact and hugged and every single one of those connections was meaningful to me. I felt at ease.
Throughout the class, Mike had us interacting with one another in a big way. He encouraged partner work so that we were learning together and told a couple silly jokes so that we were laughing together. Mike’s teaching style was so honest and genuine (and continues to be!) that I think we all felt an enormous sense of ease and comfort, which ultimately aided in our ability to connect both individually and as a group.
At the end of class we were invited to take part in a group savasana, which allowed those of us who were comfortable to do so, to reach out a hand or leg and physically connect with the people around us. This was a surprisingly powerful experience for me. I felt incredibly connected with all the people that I had just practiced with and it was during that savasana that I really began to form a deep understanding of what yoga means to me. Just like the day I learnt to ride, I suddenly understood yoga and found myself in a state of total and complete bliss.
Yoga for me is about building community. While this may not be a very traditional philosophy, I do believe that as with all things yoga is evolving and that in our societies today, where we find ourselves connecting with our computers and cell phones more than we do with real people, yoga has the power to connect us and encourage us to become something more powerful together than we can be on our own. The same group of us who attended Mike’s first class continued to attend on a weekly basis for over a year and I now call most all of them dear friends.
I am currently employed part-time at a yoga studio in my city and I spend the rest of my week working with Blake, the love of my life, on his farm where he sustainably raises and produces grass fed pork and beef. In a short time, I will be transitioning from my urban lifestyle to a rural lifestyle to begin my life with him. I feel very excited to be able to come equipped with all the skills and tools that yoga has afforded me.
In a landscape where farms are growing larger and more industrial, we are beginning to see a frightening depletion of community in our rural towns. In my opinion, farm families are the backbone of our society and it is more important than ever for them to find support from one another. It is my dream to be able to not only offer yoga to small rural communities that would otherwise be forced to travel a significant distance to take part in a class, but also to be a positive force in the encouragement of healthy rural people and healthy rural communities with the hope that the rest of us might be able to find continued sustenance in their labors.
For me, Tribe Yoga is an incredibly natural fit. That they promote a down to earth teaching approach and encourage the atmosphere to be one of relaxation, fun and ease meshes entirely not only with my own approach to yoga, but my lifestyle. I also find myself drawn strongly to the fact that Tribe sees enormous benefit in teaching yoga in a way that is entirely accessible to those of us living a very modern and western lifestyle. When I first perused the schools that have teamed up with this yoga scholarship, I was instantly drawn to Tribe and would feel honored to receive my training from the Tribe teachers.
I look forward to my ever-evolving yoga journey and am open to all the opportunities that will continue to be presented to me.
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Angela Kozlowski
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