Yoga: The Salvation Through MeDecember 23, 2019
I started yoga when I couldn’t move. I was suffering from mystery illnesses that plagued me, shamed me, and frightened me to my core. In those days, I often wondered what I was doing wrong, had I somehow brought this upon myself? The most chilling thoughts stuck like sludge, and the most unbearable was the thought that I was to blame.
I lost many friends who no longer understood or empathized with what I was going through. Why I no longer could go out all night drinking, why I no longer felt like sharing the latest gossip… Even my own sister who I consider one of my best friends had little understanding and certainly little compassion for what I was going through. Layers and layers of heaviness… feeling misunderstood, feeling like my reality is not worth noticing and apologizing for my experience. On top of all of this, I had no diagnosis and little explanation to give others of what I was going through. I was also confused, and couldn’t quite articulate my symptoms, or defend my stance. I was in a fog, my nervous system was rebelling… It was an isolating time.
This is where I found yoga. It was the first glimpse of hope I had in months. I was down in Florida, my health got to the point where my parents were actually taking care of me and I had taken leave from work. My mother said, “I know you’re not feeling well but you have to come meet my new yoga teacher, she’s really good and positive, I think she will cheer you up.”
After the first savasana, I was sold. I asked her if we could chat after class, and my mother and Cathy, the instructor, all sat down for a cup of tea. Cathy shared pictures of her recent Yoga Teacher Training in Bali and answered all of my questions. “So what is this yoga thing, is it a religion?” Nope! It’s not, but it did offer practices and approaches to connect with what I now call God, but Cathy called Love. The cool thing about yoga is that you don’t need to buy into any belief system. You don’t have to just believe it, you get to experience it. This was a blunt contrast to what I’d been taught in Catholicism where I’d chant (dubiously) things like, “I believe in one god, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth…” you get the picture.
Cathy had a gift to connect with her students through inspiring stories, quotes, and writings and made it feel authentic and light. At a time when I so desperately needed these hopeful affirmations, she often moved me to tears. She shared yoga philosophy, insights into the Yamas and Niyamas, self-love, our innate natural perfection. These concepts I had never conceived of! I am perfect?? Could it be?? I drank it up. Ahimsa, non-harming, was my favorite Yama, and isvara pranidana, surrender, my favorite Niyama. I spent months studying those concepts and seeing their many applications and feeling little layers of heaviness lift and float away. I was, for the first time, becoming free!
It was so helpful for me not only to have a quote here or there but to have an entire path, an entire way of living, an entirely nondogmatic “bible” (The yoga sutras) to lead me to freedom.
I learned that the path to freedom was internal. I learned that yoga always begins now, and always meets us where we are.
This was great news to me, since when Cathy and I began our private sessions, I would just sit or lie on my mat and breathe most days. She assured me that this was yoga, potentially more so than a standard vinyasa power class. It was actually such a gift to begin my practice in such a nonphysical way.
I was able to understand more clearly how the asana, or postures, merely supports yoga’s greater meaning; to clear and calm the mind, connect deeply and see and know your natural goodness.
As the months went on, I healed. It wasn’t JUST the yoga, I also began slowly tweaking my diet, building a relationship with God, and talking (praying) to God almost every night, especially when I was afraid. As time went on I began to see there was little to no difference between myself and this “God” figure I was speaking to.
At the start of my entry to yoga, I leaned on the yoga, and revered the yoga as my savior. As time went on, and I continued to crack open, I realized I am the yoga, and I am the savior. A Course in Miracles says, “salvation comes through you not to you.” And as we move our bodies on our mat, or breathe consciously during our pranayama, this couldn’t be more true. I have an entire philosophy, I have a way of BEING, but more importantly, I have myself. Yoga teaches us that we can count on ourselves, we can trust ourselves, and ourselves are meaningful! As meaningful as God, no less.
In recent months I had a flair up in health challenges, reminding me not unlike the initial flair I had before discovering yoga. The first time I had this flair, yoga saved me. Most recently, I saved me. Yoga lead me to discover that there is nothing outside of myself that I need to be free, and that awareness showed me that my salvation truly comes through me. I’m so beyond grateful to this practice for revealing, bit by bit, the incredible shining gold core that has always been at my center. And I continue, noticing that golden center polish and brighten, experiencing all the reveals, all the twists and turns on this sweet yogic path with no destination.
Mackenzie O’Neil Mackenzie teaches yoga near the Cape of Massachusetts and is currently located in the coastal town of Duxbury. She enjoyed many months of yoga teacher training in the beautiful island of Stonington, Maine in 2018 where she apprenticed and really began her yogic and spiritual path, basking in the starry nights, and exploring the quiet wooded trails. Having been an athlete herself, Mackenzie loves working with sports teams and teens, sharing a message of mental and physical balance. While Mackenzie started her practice with more philosophy and slow movement in the midst of health challenges, she now enjoys a fulfilling physical practice as well and appreciates the various expressions of yoga. Yoga truly heals in so many ways! Visit her website to learn more about her, and how to connect.