Columnist Cary Carr finds out that yoga is not only an exercise, but a way of life.
This semester, I signed up for a yoga class, thinking it would be an easy two credits and an extra opportunity to work out three days a week. How hard could it be to meditate and throw in a couple of warrior poses?
After the first few classes, and a very lengthy syllabus, I started to think I might have chosen the wrong class. There are quizzes, papers and some serious reading to do. My professor is a dedicated yogi, and she does not give out undeserved A’s.
On top of some extremely difficult postures and sweat-breaking balancing poses, yoga is intended to open your eyes to self-observation and potentially change your way of dealing with the world around you.
One of the first things we learned in class was the yamas, ways we deal with the world around us, and niyamas, ways we deal with ourselves, including self-observation, nonviolence, contentment and surrender to life force.
My professor would give us personal stories, while enlightening us on the many ways social norms and a materialistic society have impacted our ways of thinking. Soon enough, I started to question the way I was living my own life.
Somehow, a two-credit course intended to cut me a break this semester, ended up truly impacting my way of viewing the world around me. For many, yoga is not just a hobby or a way to get toned. It requires an unfaltering dedication for its practice.
My professor, who speaks about anatomy, philosophy and chemistry with ease, made it apparent that to be a yoga teacher, you need extensive schooling and a willingness to give up hours upon hours to acquire trustworthy accreditation.
I have to admit that before this class, I gave yoga fanatics the common stereotype – peace-loving vegans who go nowhere without a juice smoothie. But what I found was that yoga is much more than sun salutations and organic-yoga mats. It’s a lifestyle.
The yogi lifestyle made me start to think about my own experience with dance. While many people probably assume all it takes is a little bit of rhythm or the ability to shake it every once in a while, I know that dance is so much more.
I’ve trained since the age of 2, with endless rehearsals, tiring auditions and countless competitions. While sitting in class or trying to fall asleep I would go over choreography, playing the songs in my head.
Even my closest friendships started with the people I would regularly see at dance team practice. And when we would talk about dance moves or technique, no one around us understood our own special language.
I also see the world in a completely different way. To me, every movement is more like a piece of art, and it is easy to spot grace or rhythm just by watching a person walk down the hallway.
While other people obsess over singers’ vocals or the beat of the music, I obsessively watch the backup dancers in music videos or concerts, analyzing their choreography and stage-presence. And as many people gushed over the recent movie “Black Swan,” I couldn’t keep my eyes off the ballet dancers’ incredible technique.
Even at 20 years old, I would still describe myself as a dancer before anything else. To me, just that one word holds many attributes that no adjective could possibly capture.
And it’s not just dancers or yogis who have a distinct lifestyle. When I look around Main Campus, it is unmistakable how many students live their lives by rules outlined by physical activities.
The cheerleaders, the tennis players, the football stars and the gym junkies all have their own characteristics. I’m not talking about the pigeon-holing we all do based on looks and clothing, but rather, the way athletes view the world because of their dedication to physical activities.
And all of these physical activities have something in common – they require dedication, ambition and a never-ending passion. Athletes who stick with their sport or activity perservere through rejection, injuries and obstacles, and that is what shapes them.
Whether it is the years spent to become a trained dancer or the dedication and focus it takes to be a true yogi, physical activities will inevitably turn into lifestyles if there’s enough time and love put into their practice.
While I may not fully understand yoga, I now have true admiration for the people who practice it and the way they incorporate it into their lives, inspiring others along the way.
Cary Carr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.