Keeping Things Whole

Oct 13, 2009.

The highest yogic results will come quickly to those who practice asana intensely on a daily basis. –Yoga Sutra I.21.

I was born in Michigan, but grew up primarily in Israel. My Dad was Israeli and my Mum is Scottish, so there have been diverse influences on my life, my culture, and my accent.

Our family was atheist and we didn’t observe or celebrate Jewish holidays very much. From a young age, the word God was a loaded, foreign concept to me. I’ve always believed there’s a force of Good present in the world, with which you can align yourself. Nowadays, I like to replace the word God with Good in a sentence, and see how that shifts my response. I’ve always believed in reincarnation – I remember thinking this at a very young age.

I never considered myself an athletic person. In fact, I often dreaded gym class in school. I relied on intellect and creativity as my form of expression, and didn’t think about the body too much. In college, as I learned to draw the human form and design clothing, I became interested in the body and its sculptural potential. I moved to NYC in 1997, to work as a designer in the fashion industry.

While working in fashion, I started practicing yoga at the gym as a way to work out. I appreciated the stretching, the emphasis on breath and the introspective quality of yoga. But it wasn’t until attending a free class at Jivamukti Yoga School on Lafayette Street, that I started taking the yoga practice more seriously. At first I practiced yoga twice a week, but over time I increased the number of times I practiced. Instead of yoga being one more thing to fit into my schedule, I was able to weave my daily schedule around the time I set aside for practice.

I found a morning class that I could take every weekday at 8am before going to work. I loved the consistency of practicing every morning, at the same time, with the same teacher–Jeffrey Cohen. I loved starting the day with yoga! It changed my outlook on life; I was calmer and more able to deal with stress. My yoga practice got me through some challenging times–a difficult break up, graduate school and a career change.

The practice made me stronger, physically and mentally. It changed my posture and my walk. It made me feel beautiful. It made me want to smile more often. My skin and eyes glowed. People noticed the difference and commented on it.

“When the energy channels are purified, there are external symptoms. The body becomes thin and glows. Then one should feel certain of success”. –Hatha Yoga Pradipika II.19

The more I practiced Yoga, the more I wanted to learn. The Jivamukti method teaches about all aspects of Yoga, not just the physical postures. It goes deeply into the ethical practices, philosophy, scriptures, Sanskrit, chanting and meditation, as inseparable from the physical practice. As taught by Jivamukti, Yoga unfolded as an interconnected series of practices designed to spread happiness and freedom to all beings, a force of good.

I have been a vegetarian from age 18. It started when my sister had a disturbing experience while eating a McDonald’s hamburger. She took a bite and felt that it was living, moving flesh. She put the hamburger down and hasn’t eaten meat since. Inspired by her, I followed without really articulating why. It just felt right. Later, as part of my service in the Israeli army, I worked with cows. These loving, sweet, beautiful beings deserved my respect. I couldn’t eat them.

Jivamukti’s association of ethical vegetarianism and environmentalism with the Yoga practice resonated with me deeply. Everything came together–ethics, yoga practice, and my personal philosophy. Inspired by the teachings I received at Jivamukti, in classes, retreats and at the Jivamukti teacher training in 2007, I changed my lifestyle completely.

Now,

I practice 5-7 times a week.

I practice the ethical yogic principles (yama and niyama).

I am vegan (I use no animal products in food, clothing or other products).

I reduce, reuse, recycle and compost, as much as possible.

This has changed my life.

Once I started practicing Yoga daily and changed my diet, I experienced an immediate and radical shift on a physical level. Extra weight dropped off. My cholesterol levels, which had bordered on high, dropped from 215 to 175 within the space of 2 months of vegan eating.

On a mental and emotional level, I feel more peaceful and at ease. There’s a sense of wholeness and connectedness to the earth. It’s become easer to face challenging situations with equanimity. The practice has become a way of aligning myself with Good. And I’ve found a community of like-minded people, teachers and students, who have become great friends.

The Yoga practice continues to unfold and expand. I constantly learn and find connections between aspects of the practice and the natural world. This is so exciting to me.

If you’re interested in a daily yoga practice and its physical benefits, I highly recommend reading this short essay by my teacher, Sharon Gannon: http://jivamuktiyoga.com/focus/focus.jsp?viewFocusID=4

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