By Jana Hill
Bennu Yoga owner
I came to yoga to find some peace. I was drowning in the deadlines and details of my journalism training, and the stress was overtaking me. My first class was in Bellingham, at Yoga Northwest — and it was love at first toe-tingle.
My toes actually did tingle when I left that day, and noticing my toes made me realize that the “body awareness” and “mind-body connection” thing were not just words uttered by uber-cool people, milling about the food co-op before driving off in microbuses. I went to college in Bellingham, after all, and people with those descriptors were more plentiful than average — they said yoga would do this, increase awareness and bring about calm. And they looked pretty darned calm to me — must be the yoga, right? I figured they may be onto something. Maybe this mind-body connection thing, this body-awareness thing, maybe it had a science to it. It must. I felt it.
Then a decade whizzed by, and several years more. I’ll abbreviate the yoga-related bullet points that have occurred since my first yoga class, in 1998:
- News jobs, desk work, lots of sitting with few breaks.
- Long commutes, more sitting.
- Little back tweaks. More sitting.
- Sitting, stressing out, and sitting.
Then, late in 2006, pah-twang, my mid-back went out, much wailing ensured, much ibuprofen was swilled, and things just got worse from there.
I left my job, and hobbled home to be a stay at home Mom and freelancer, because the printing press does not come to a halt until you heal. Newswork is just like on the movies — trust me. It’s fast.
That was big. That was my dream job, and I left it. It was the biggest act of yogic surrender I had ever performed — to avoid the struggle, push, and insistence needed to make things be the way you want them to be, instead of accepting them for what they are. And that, my dear friends, is what yoga is, and what your practice does. We move, attentively, and accept today as it is — in doing that, those move-and-accept-as-is habits spill into daily life.
My teaching style, and the words I offer to guide people through a practice — those all derive from that experience. I offer my practice to other people.
In flow classes, my practice is difficult, because I have leaned on it to wring out some very tough moments. Soft-and-gentle yoga is not my medicine: my sequences are felt the next day. I lean toward noisier music, because my head is noisy — I figure other people have noisy heads too. Yoga is my go-to. It is an outlet. It is medicine, and it is a release.
I also treasure yoga as a spiritual home, and in some ways, it is like a friend. But I do not utter many spiritual quips while in class. And, recently, I heard one of my students notice that — she said she had spiritual conflict in some classes, but did not feel that way in mine.
My spiritual messaging in yoga is subtle to the point of utter silence. It’s there, but I don’t verbalize it much — we move it. Mindfulness training through physical yoga is like an invisible hand, reaching out and turning the lights on.
I hope that everyone in the world practices yoga. If you don’t click with my class, I’ll help you find one that will work for you.
I’ll end with the one and only spiritual comment I make in my classes — Namaste. I’ve sought out many translations and explanations, but the way I see it, it means “My spirit says ‘hi’ to your spirit.”
See you in class. I’ll work you hard, then at the end, maybe our spirits will say, “hi.”