I decided to take up yoga upon the advice of my doctor.
Having reached middle age while combating grief over ailing parents, raising children, insomnia, perimenopause and plantar fasciitis, yoga seemed like a sensible idea. And being overly competitive, I secretly hoped my yoga practice would give me an edge in my tennis game.
Unlike my previous capers, where I would typically dive in with enthusiasm while lacking preparation (law school, master gardening, etc.), I figured out early with the help of a smart yoga teacher that the practice of yoga, while individualistic, does require proper technique for the long term practitioner. My yoga teacher explained that even if you never teach, a yoga teacher training program like Yoga Shanti’s would help cultivate a necessary home practice.
That was brilliant advice.
Since I came to yoga as a competitive-minded athlete, I figured I could master the poses through sheer determination and strength. During the first training weekend I was stunned to learn that I really didn’t know my own body—flat feet, tight shoulders, and all. The program’s emphasis on thoroughly understanding the mechanics of the human body and brilliant design of each pose gave me the insight required of a good teacher: one must work with imperfect bodies rather than some ideal that doesn’t exist. I became fascinated by the artistry of how skillful teachers, specifically Colleen and Rodney, knit together various poses to cause a certain physical/spiritual/mental effect. The unique structure of this program brings about a deepening of one’s own practice of all eight limbs of yoga.
As I cultivated my practice this past year, I slowly became calmer and quieter, finding an ability to observe rather than contribute to the unruly chatter in my head. All of a sudden I found myself dealing more easily and skillfully with difficult people and situations that used to make me crazy. I can now sit with my demented father and ponder his and my impermanence with glimpses of equanimity rather than panicking or going to pieces. Practicing and studying yoga has made the roller coaster ride of life—a long term marriage and raising two adolescent boys—a gratifying experience…rather than just bearable.
A deeper yoga practice via a teacher training program offered a few pitfalls, as well. I feel every bodily sensation more intensely—pain and pleasure. I’ve become the “Princess and the Pea.” Teacher training sharpened my ability to discern adept yoga teaching vs. inept—I now know how to practice yoga for my own body and ask helpful questions when teaching others. Although difficult at times, learning the technique of seeing things as they really are has been worth it. Compelled to practice and study yoga, I’m now enthusiastic to teach it, too!
As far as my tennis game, it’s better. Yoga practice encourages the stillness that reveals our most inner self and the capability to stay present in any given moment. My playfulness, focus, and competitive nature—when balanced—are a winning combination on the court.
During her long hiatus from practicing law, teaching writing and literature, and raising two inquisitive almost squirrelly boys, Therese pursued the intriguing arts of yoga, tennis, and master gardening. She found yoga so irresistible that she decided to share her love for yoga by teaching and writing about it.
She is a recent graduate of Yoga Shanti of Sag Harbor, New York’s 200 hour teacher training program led by Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee. Therese hopes to integrate her past experience and interests by advocating yoga as an integral thread in the fabric of existing medical and educational establishments.