lessons learned: A ParaYoga Immersion at Willow Street Yoga Center

It’s been three weeks since I snuck away to study again with my teacher — Yogarupa Rod Stryker — at Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.  For a gal who prioritizes yoga, community building and travel as regular parts of her life, these opportunities are an extra special treat. But this trip was incredibly needed for a variety of reasons.

ParaYoga collage 1

The immersion started on a Friday with the Gheranda Samahita Immersiona day long dive into an ancient text that deeply influenced and shaped ParaYoga. A theme for the weekend seemed to quickly arrive that morning, summed up by a quote by Thomas Hobbes posted by Yoga International that I saw during the weekend: “The first and fundamental law of nature is to seek peace and follow it.” 

hello my name is

I’ll admit: in the months leading up to this weekend, my personal practice would be called, at best, sporadic. I did my best to commit to a daily meditation for ten minutes, but was derailed easily. (This YogaGlo video of Rod’s is my go-to — a great place to start if you’re new to meditation.) There was no regularity to my physical asana practice and my additional studies/reading was put on the bookshelf.

I am going to cut myself some slack here as there’s been a great deal of change in my professional and personal life this summer. A new full time job and settling into a new yoga teaching schedule, plus throw in a busy social calendar and trying to sell our house — one can easily understand how something like a self-care and self-development practice could get loss in the shuffle.

Unfortunately, it has also been a season of loss — two close friends from high school passing away this summer not easy by any means. My great aunt passed away last month (the week of the immersion actually) and I knew many others who were dealing with ill loved ones and grieving in their own lives. This hyper sensitive soul was physically feeling the pain from all that sadness.

I arrived in D.C. that weekend emotionally broken down — a bit lost myself. I knew it was time to move on, but needed a reminder of the tools to do so. It was all very fitting that Rod dove into the Awakening the True Power of Yoga on Saturday morning, where he took time to guide us through Moon, Sun & Fire practices — and in that order. That’s when that Thomas Hobbes quote — and Rod’s teaching especially — started to reveal its magic as the hundred (ish?) people at Willow Street that weekend eased into finding the light within themselves.

parayoga yogitea saying

We worked through a Moon practice Saturday morning, a Sun practice Saturday afternoon and a Fire practice Sunday morning. By the end of the progression, I found myself emotionally cracked open again, but in the way where I was ready to receive the opportunities of life that were being presented me. I was no longer paralyzed by fear, by “what if?”  Instead, the question became “what’s next?” and I was ready to answer it.

Being and staying open was the key to this transformation. I think of when I was younger and just starting to plan special events, I would hesitate to ask for help, thinking I could handle all the details myself. I learned quickly that wasn’t the case, and by asking for help, I was able to accomplish tasks, achieve goals faster. I have to remind myself to do this in my own life — and with my yoga.

During the day on Sunday, I had the chance to chat with Rod one-on-one about some of what had been going on in my life. By the end of that afternoon and his Asana & Contemplation to Access Intuition & Inner Guidance session, my teacher shared some incredibly helpful guidance on what I could focus on next in my personal practice. If I would have sat their on my mat that day and not said a word (first to Pat, one of the teaching assistants that weekend; next to a fellow student — both who gave me some encouragement open up & share), I wouldn’t be three weeks into a daily japa based meditation practice and a deeper commitment to my studies today. Putting myself out there and asking for the help I needed was the bravest thing I could do for myself that weekend, and I am grateful I did just that.

Three days and eighteen pages of notes later, the main lesson I was left with was apparent:

ParaYoga I have more work to do

At a previous training where I studied with Rod, he spoke of how he travels to study with his teacher at least once a year. Since they are separated  geographically, this journey is incredibility meaningful for a variety of reasons — in the very least, to rekindle the excitement towards a personal practice. I find this to be true each time I visit Yogarupa. My knowledge base and my faith in the sciences of yoga and tantra expand. I’m again presented with the reminder that we have the tools to create peace, confidence and transformation in our own lives. Why wouldn’t we tap into them to find the best versions of ourselves on a regular basis?  Even in the times when we “forget” we already have the tools, we need to know it’s okay to ask for help to get us back on the path. So accept that loving nudge, that kind encouragement. Allow yourself to move on to bigger and brighter things. That’s my plan, at least.

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