How Yoga Saved My Life

PalomaAbout how a young mother journeys into an ancient practice to find stillness…

I enter my Yoga room and prepare for the practice. Mentally, I drop everything and come to the moment. Physically, I become aware of my body by breathing. I begin to move in and out of different postures, lifting my arms, folding my body over my legs. I feel my body opening up and relaxing.

Virabhadrasana II or Warrior II, is one of my favorite poses. Spreading my legs apart on my mat, I rotate my right foot out and my left foot in. I lift my arms horizontally away from my body. My right knee bends 90 degrees above my ankle, and I engage all of the muscles in my body. As my breath comes in I focus all my attention to a point at the center of my fingertips in front of me. As I hold the pose, prana, or life force, circulates through my body, heating it up like a pot of water just starting to boil.

After the asanas, all of the energy I’ve created comes to a stillness. Relaxing every muscle, my body is now prepared to sit for five to 15 minutes for pranayama and meditation. Following my breath in and out of my body, I start to chant a mantra in my mind, which helps me to focus on the stillness within me. Eventually I experience a feeling of oneness, coming closer and closer to the goal of samadhi, the superconscious state, transcendence.

When my session ends, I feel revived. I am able to keep a sense of inner peace with me wherever I go and I can project that calm energy to those I come in contact with for the rest of my day.

Teen pregnancy changed life
When I was 15, I got pregnant. My life changed drastically. I was so confused. Was I still a teenager, one who would have to make adult decisions? Or was I an adult, stuck in a teenager’s body? I was terrified.

Something told me deep down that I was meant to have this child. I found support from my parents, friends and relatives. I started to study art and film production and began to find myself. I felt like a mound of clay being transformed into an actual person. Alicia Isabel became my angel, my inspiration and my motivation to succeed.

When I enrolled at Pima Community College, I signed up for a Yoga and meditation class. The class taught me how to manage my stress and gave me an awareness of my physical body and my spiritual presence. In time, my instructor, Kathleen Kordich, encouraged me to move further into the practice. I started to learn about the eight-limb philosophy of Ashtanga Yoga, a style of Yoga that integrates the physical practice with a spiritual way of life. I learned about the “yamas” or “don’ts” to practice: nonviolence, truthfulness, moderation, nonstealing, and noncovetousness. These teachings helped me pay attention to the things I wanted to change about myself. For example, I began to see how my objections to killing animals were linked to my choices about food. Eventually, I stopped eating meat. Now I am more aware of the control that I have over my actions.

I also learned about the “niyamas” or “do’s” – cleansing, contentment, austerity, the study of ancient texts, awareness of the divine presence – and began to incorporate them into my life. I began studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and began using different techniques to cleanse toxins from my body preparing for my asana practice. All of these new actions were like putting a puzzle together. I had to search to find discipline to keep my life from falling apart.

Eventually, I followed my teacher’s instructions to create a home routine. My first attempt was full of distractions – kids running up and down the stairs, people watching TV, family members arguing. All these sounds seemed 10 times louder when I tried to sit down on my mat. I needed to set up a special Yoga room.

I cleared out boxes from my brother’s old room and stored them in the closet. I washed all the walls and floors. I collected different statues, paper flowers, pillows, shawls and wall hangings to decorate the room. I lit a bundle of sage and smudged the room to cleanse it. Waving the trail of smoke in all of the directions, I asked that the room be cleared of any bad spirits. Finally, my daughter and I rolled out two yoga mats and placed a pillow down on each. I found seven prayer bowls in a closet, left over from my mom’s experiment with Buddhism a few years ago. We filled them with water to complete the home studio. In my own house I now had a room devoted to Yoga , meditation and spirituality.

Soon everybody in my house enjoyed having a Yoga room – my dad, guests, and especially my daughter. Often, when I am busy cleaning or sleeping, she goes to the room. She likes to wear long, flowing dresses and spin around, dancing around the room like a swan in a lake. Sometimes she will even carefully rearrange everything in the room. She also likes to read in the room. When we practice together, I see her mimicking my every move. She is delighted to try her own variation on a posture or just to have my attention long enough to see a new dance step that she made up.

As I have moved further into my practice, my daughter has moved further into hers. Even though she hasn’t established a routine, I can see that I have influenced her through mine. In the morning when I practice jala neti, a ritual sinus cleanse, with a Neti pot, she watches me. “You have to make me my own little Neti pot,” she tells me.

Having this space brings us closer together as a family. It has also transformed me as a mom. The patience I have learned helps me stay calm whenever my daughter finds herself in any sort of predicament. Because of my practice, I have learned to speak to Alicia as another person growing in this world. Passing on the tradition of Yoga to her fills my life with joy.

As I see my own daughter learning from my practice, I am compelled to teach other people. What good would my skills be if I just keep them inside? A part of me waits for the time when I am ready to step up and take a yoga teacher training course, when I can open my own yoga studio and can share what I’ve learned. In my future I see a healing center, a community of like-minded people connected by a common goal to maintain healthy lives as human beings. Someday, with practice, everything will come together, breath by breath.

When I sit for dhyana, meditation, I feel still. Everything in the world seems to stop. All the problems that can trouble me–stress, identity, sadness, anger–fly out the window. With each inhale and exhale, I learn to control my emotions and inner thoughts. I begin to see these troubles as a barrier put up to help me grow. Each breath helps me climb over the barriers to become more fully myself. Paloma Jacqueline–single mother, daughter, writer, photographer, artist, filmmaker, athlete, yogini, understanding, compassionate, open-minded, peaceful dove.

The session ends. The mind is quiet. I bow to the divinity in myself and others. Namaste.

Article by Paloma Jacqueline


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