Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2012

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Page 49 of 51

An Authentic Yoga Path Sometimes a change of perspective is all we need to see clearly backwords By Katherine Peach M miles, yet my days began to feel clouded with the monotony of traffic and high rent. This cynicism crept its way into the yoga studio, where I felt surrounded y perception of the City of Angels changed drastically when I moved from the bike-friendly neighborhood of Venice to a car- centric stretch of Marina del Rey. A subtle shift, and just a few by make-up wearing, high-style yoginis. I was burned out, too, with the unspoken battle for floor space, and became suspicious of what I began to see as manufactured "McYoga." I usually practiced undeniably athletic power yoga, but how could I be sure that gentle kundalini or compassionate kripalu wasn't a better style for me? I was ready to get my own teacher certification, but I wanted to ad- vance deeper in a setting that reflected my own style. I wanted to develop personal authenticity, not sculpt a flawless yoga bottom. My teacher's class was rigorous, but taught me to listen to my body, and search showed no lack of options, with retreats stretching across the globe. Exactly what I was looking for I wasn't sure, so I searched for programs that offered heart-centered sessions and a connection to the outdoors. When I learned that Boulder, Colorado boasted more sunshine throughout the year than San Diego, I started packing. My experienced yoga friends questioned my motives for wanting to leave my body—or was it my mind?—started telling me to find a change of scenery. I began to look outside Los Angeles for yoga guidance. A simple Google a city that houses some of the most respected contemporary instructors. Above all, they advised, find your teacher. I couldn't say that I didn't have some reservations, but six weeks at an ashram beckoned me for a test run. So I bought a one-way ticket and left the rest up to the universe. Once I landed in the mile-high city, I immediately felt the relief of clean, crisp mountain air. I felt like I had drunk the proverbial Kool-Aid. flowered full of prana. I stumbled upon a restorative class where we used an obscene amount of props to melt into guided visualizations. I flowed with grace in another. The teacher trainings incorporated a standard practice of meditation, but I was still restless, despite the groundedness of the mountains. I rented a car and visited a vegetarian ashram nested in the front range of the Rocky Mountains. The energy streaming off the lake was palpable, and although the vinyasa flow class was packed, no one rushed. I pushed my body, mentally comparing style and energy to my first instructor in L.A. "I've seen this place change people's lives," the ashram teacher told me after class, her eyes glowing. I didn't doubt her, but my mind was swirling. I needed some perspective. An easy three-mile hike took twice as long as expected in the high altitude's thin air, giving I took classes in which "blossoming" was typical verbiage; we dug into our yogic gardens and a pretzel while my legs shook uncontrollably, but in that mountaintop moment, I came to realize it meant how I feel, not where I place my mat. In the end, I decided to go home to study me plenty of time to sort through my recent experiences. Contemplating the majestic snowcaps, it dawned on me that I had already found an instructor I trusted to guide me. My teacher in L.A. showed patience to yogis of all levels, of all kinds, which was what had initially inspired me to pursue my certification. I'd just been too distracted with searching for the "right" path to realize I was right where I needed to be. I let my judgment of what a yoga studio "should" look like overshadow a practice that literally means "unite." I finally understood my instructor's advice to "keep your eyes focused on your mat." I'm pretty sure that guidance was directed toward not feeling outdone by the person next to me who was bending like 50 wholelifetimesmagazine.com in L.A. and leave my cynicism behind at 5,430 feet. Instead of focusing on divisions, I deter- mined to support my yoga community regardless of personal style or the price difference of our yoga pants. I am far from the perfect yogi, but I strive to become a teacher like mine, who makes each student feel accepted and celebrate the jour- ney. After all, it's my intentions that make me my own ultimate teacher. Katherine Peach is starting her Loyola Marymount University certification program this fall. She's still searching for the just the right yoga mat to take along on her journey. Photo: Lauren Ford

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