By: Tressa Vazquez, 200 HR E-RYT, Co-founder of Sun Yoga
As yogis we each come to our mat for our own individual reasons, they are as unique as the reasons that keep us returning time after time. That is the beauty of yoga, when you connect to your own practice it meets you right where you are, offering exactly what you need in that moment.
It didn’t matter that I was raised by a beautiful yogini who had a solid home practice most of my childhood and a strong studio practice as I got older. I had to discover yoga on my own and that personal discovery happened for me in 2008. I had tried yoga a handful of times the preceding decade but it never clicked with me. In 2008, I was an obese 28 year old and as part of my New Year’s resolution to change that, I joined a gym. Multiple times a week I would climb onto the elliptical just outside of the yoga room and watch the class as I exercised. Finally, one day the yoga teacher came out and invited me in. I gave her all of the reasons I hear so often now as a teacher as to why I couldn’t come in, “I’m too overweight, I haven’t done yoga in years, I’m not flexible…”. She assured me that I too could do yoga and that yoga was for everyone. She changed my life that day. Over the next year I practiced yoga regularly. Yoga allowed me to cultivate a healthy, wholesome relationship with myself for the first time in my adult life. I lost 100 pounds. I changed the way I related to food. I became active in life. By 2009, I had left the gym and created my first studio in my home where coming to my mat daily became possible. My practice grew and my passion deepened. In 2010, I took the leap and completed my 200 hour teacher training. I went in, like many yogis do, with no real intention of teaching, I just wanted to dive deeper and learn more. By the end of 2010, I was teaching my first weekly class.
I think it’s because I began my yoga journey as such a true beginner that I have made my teaching about bringing yoga to people who may not fit the typical stereotype of a modern, western yogi. It wasn’t an outright conscious decision to focus my efforts in this way but it was an openness to the big picture plan that has continued to pull me in this direction. I spend a majority of the hours in my week teaching chair yoga to seniors, working with students who face physical challenges and limitations including cancer (current and past), Parkinson’s disease, Epilepsy, Scoliosis and post op recovery of various types. In working with students with these demographics, there is one thing I am joyously reminded of everyday, yoga is for everyone. Through the use of asana and pranayama and through the contemplation of the yamas and niyamas I have seen amazing space, both physically and mentally, created in my students. There is so much power found in linking the body, the mind and the breath together through yoga and the benefits created impact the whole human. I’ve led 20 year old dancers effortlessly through surya namaskara, I’ve led professional athletes slowly through surya namaskara and I’ve led 100 year old, wheelchair bound students through beautiful versions of surya namaskara. They all have the same end result in common; at the end of their practice their bodies are soft, their hearts are open and their eyes are beaming with life.
In 2014, I met Jim, my current business partner, when I began to teach a restorative yoga class at Cosmic Cafe. Jim had practiced yoga in various forms for much of his adult life. When I met him, he was in the throws of leukemia and his prognosis was not good. At that point in his life, even the restorative class was a struggle for him and so he approached me and asked me to take him on as a private client. That next week I began to make the weekly drive to Jim’s law office where we would move his conference table and roll out our mats. At first our sessions focused mostly on pranayama (breath), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation/contemplation) with minimal asana. I would go week after week and it wasn’t long before there was a noticeable change in Jim. Within a few months Jim’s asana practice began to grow, his body was getting stronger, his mind was calmer. We transitioned from a very restorative practice into a gentle, slow but moving practice that continued to grow. Within a year of our meeting, Jim’s leukemia was in remission and I was leading him into more advanced asanas. I remember the day Jim held bakasana for the first time with steadfast determination. He told me after that session he told himself “today was the day”, he was going to hold bakasana and he was going to do it for me. We continued to practice together weekly. I joined Jim on some of his annual adventures attending yoga festivals and exploring Bali. It was during this time that Jim’s vision began to take shape. He wanted to create a space where anyone could come do yoga, to create a community where yogis new and old, beginner and advanced could come to connect to the richness of their own yoga journey and so Sun Yoga Center was born. Like a yoga practice it is not a static space, rather one that continues to unfold with each person that comes in, alive and energetic. It is a reflection of the practice that connected Jim and me.
When I say wherever you are yoga meets you there, I say it from personal experience and I say it because I’ve witnessed it countless times through the people I work with. Yoga is not about holding a handstand perfectly. Yoga is not about expensive yoga clothes or the latest in recycled mats. Yoga is not about the fullest classes or the hardest workouts. Yoga is about one person connecting their breath, their body and their mind in a present moment practice. Sometimes that practice shows up in perfect handstands and hard workouts on recycled mats, absolutely! But sometimes that practice comes in soft smiles and steady breaths on blankets and pillows. That’s the beauty of yoga. It meets you right where you are.
Chances are if you’re reading this then you are probably already a yoga practitioner. So, for you, know that next time your friends or family tell you they can’t do yoga for x, y or z reasons, you can tell them that yoga is for everyone and it will meet you where you are. If you are not a practitioner and you are ready to calm your curiosities then know these few things; not every studio is for every yogi, if you try one and it doesn’t click, don’t stop looking! Keep going until you find a place that feels right. Many studios offer a free or discounted first class or trials so finding your studio home won’t cost a ton. Know there are many types of yoga, many types of teachers and many types of students, this isn’t an accident. There will be somewhere for you. If you are dealing with physical or mental situations that may affect your practice seek a teacher who has experience with your scenario. Your yoga is just that, yours. Come to your mat and embrace it right where you are. Yoga will meet you there.
Sun Yoga is located in Richardson at Beltline and Coit their address is 101 S. Coit Rd #327 (in the corner). 972-234-0500. www.sunyogacenter.com