by Mar Aige
My love story with mindful movement began at 18, when I tried my first yoga class at my college gym. The teacher was a kind old lady who explained that we had to completely let go of everything in her class. Ideally our backs would rest flat on the floor, each muscle gently touching the ground because there would be no stress or holding. She called the pose Shavasana, saying it was the most difficult of all. She then enumerated a long list of obscure-sounding body parts, asking us to relax them in turn. We giggled and tried our best. This was a different type of exercise, and I was very intrigued.
In later years, after having explored other types of conscious movement, I went back to yoga when I met teachers with an internal, energy-based focus. They often shared their very personal conundrums at the beginning of class, usually with a dose of humor. This made it feel authentic and motivated me. When they interacted with students after class their disposition was calm and cheerful. They seemed to live with awareness in a busy city, which inspired me. I wondered what their secret was and I see now that they had embarked in journeys of self-transformation.
Fast forward to last year, when my dream of participating in a yoga teachers’ training came true by joining the Yoga, Mind & Spirit training program at the Nalanda Institute. The first day I was nervous, but after some sharing during ice-breaking activities I realized I wasn’t the only one. Teachers made sure everyone felt comfortable and soon I was looking forward to our monthly meetings, which gave us more chances to get to know our classmates. Some shared they had gone through recent life changes, and it seemed they wanted to respond less reactively and make the best out of their current circumstance. This joint immersion helped us practice this in an environment of belonging, not evaluation.
The yoga sessions were empowering and a few weeks after each retreat, when the calm feeling started fading away, it was already time for a new energizing meeting. I’ve deeply appreciated this support; it felt like a nervous system reboot and as a bonus it temporarily increased my capacity for staying positive while doing other types of introspective work that included difficult, conflicting feelings and thoughts.
During these 6 months of yoga training we were invited to reconsider who and what we identify with, and how that relates to fear and reactivity. Practices like meditation, movement and chanting were nicely woven into the class discussions and helped experience this viscerally. Encouraged by this, I developed my first yoga classes, which I offered freely through Skype to people I had met at a self-care program, adapting them to suit their needs. I had regularly met with them for group practice and was happy to be able to complement their main program, adding breath, movement and mantras to their visualizations. Being a yoga teacher had been a big part of the positive visualizations I had shared with them, and they were very happy to see that my wish had not only materialized but could be of benefit to them. For some, it was their first yoga experience.
In the time between monthly meetings, motivated by the Nalanda Institute teachers, I incorporated playful practices into my day, curious about how small recurring tweaks would change my perception. These practices balanced the fear, pain, and fatigue that are part of daily life. I focussed my attention on common things that I do, like my short stroll to the school where I teach. I listened to the recorded laughter of a friend, focused on shapes and colors around me, observing people walk their dogs and sip their morning coffees. I kept it varied to help the experience stay fresh.
Everything looked vivid and alive. By the time I arrived I was looking forward to being with the other teachers and the students. In class I enjoyed my job more, feeling grateful for being an active part in the development of young children within a caring community. Just like yoga classes have modeled acceptance, patience, tolerance, and centeredness for me, I am encouraged to model calm during everyday conflicts at school.
In my very first yoga class I was invited to focus inward, relax, and connect to my body. It gave me the incentive to continue exploring all types of mindful movement. Yoga, Mind & Spirit, with its nurturing openness, has given me the confidence to embark in further teacher trainings that seemed unreachable before.
Editor’s Note: Mar Aige is a recent graduate of the Yoga, Mind & Spirit Training. She also works as a Spanish translator with Nalanda Institute.