For 2016 we are honoring a yogi from our community every month. This August we invited Cherith Victorino to demonstrate our theme, restorative poses, and share her yoga journey. Namaste, Cherith! The ebb and flow of your daily practice inspires us in equal measure.
My yoga journey started when I was 15 years old, albeit I wasn’t aware then that I had begun a journey.
I was introduced to yoga through a $0.99 book that was concise yet comprehensive. It focused mostly on yoga poses and sequences with brief sections on breath work, bandhas (the book didn’t call them bandhas, but I now know what these body locks are called), visualization, meditation, and living well through diet and mindfulness.
At the time, yoga wasn’t as popular as it is today, so beyond the book I would do yoga (asana) through classes on television. Later on, I would take yoga classes offered at whatever gym I was a member of or through yoga DVDs. Eventually, I learned and picked up enough asana sequences that I could do them on my own at home.
Looking back, yoga was always a part of my life even though I wasn’t always aware that it was.
Somehow, it made sense and I just made it part of what I did, like relieving headaches with specific yoga poses. When I studied tae kwon do, I used yoga (what little I knew at the time) as a complement to my training. Back then, I thought of yoga (asana) mostly as a way to help me get more limber, to help lengthen my muscles or to warm up my body; I used yoga (mediation and breath work) to help me focus as well as to help me relax and sleep.
I also thought that to do yoga successfully, I had to turn my body into a pretzel. I remember pushing myself, trying to get my body into poses I wasn’t ready for – either because I wasn’t strong/limber enough or I just didn’t know that my anatomy might actually never be able to get me to look like what the yoga teachers or experts looked like! (Yikes! I cringe as I remember this.)
Fast forward to March 2013 when I signed up for my first yoga class at Yoga 216. (Little did I know at the time that this small act would be a big shift in my life.) By this time, I’ve had injuries that kept me from doing some of what I liked or loved to do. Going to yoga classes quickly evolved into a fairly consistent yoga practice which not only supported my working towards good (or better) health, it also became a great counterpoint to a demanding job and to a life in a city like NY.
A year and a half later, as part of my quest and eagerness to learn more and to evolve my practice, I completed the Yoga 216 Deepen Your Practice Level 1 Teacher Training. It was a transformative and an incredible experience that I shared with amazing yogis, including my husband, Bill.
Throughout my practice at Yoga 216, I realized that the constant dull ache in my shoulder (from an injury and one I accepted as something that I would live with for the rest of my life) had gone away and that I was getting more and more range of motion.
I learned that I am my toughest critic and that sometimes (okay, maybe most of the time), I need to have compassion for my self instead of pushing and twisting myself into a pretzel.
I learned that because this is a journey, I don’t need to get it right the first time around and that mistakes aren’t a bad thing, or trying and failing, or falling and then getting back up again is what this is about! And that because this is a journey, I continue to learn, evolve, discover, uncover and remember that being a yogini does not equal being a human pretzel (at least for me).
These days, my practice seems to be about unlearning old learned things, beliefs, ways of being – unraveling the pretzel that I’ve twisted myself into being all these years.
It is both an exhilarating and humbling process wherein I am reminded that among many things, and in many ways, yoga is also deeply healing.
I am grateful for supportive teachers like Nicole, Esther, Cynthia, Jennifer and Naomi, who thankfully remind me when I’ve forgotten, that one of the beautiful things about yoga practice is how it ebbs and flows with life, that it is always there when I need it, when I am ready.