“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”
If there is a constant that has propelled me through life, it is my passion for learning- that, and an abiding faith that I’m here for a reason… that my life has purpose and meaning greater than the semi-random details of where I’ve been and what I’ve done. Education has been my means for evolving, expanding, and navigating toward that purpose. If there is one “hat” that I have always worn, it is that of enthusiastic student. It is with that enthusiasm and curiosity that I first welcomed yoga into my life.
I began practicing Hatha yoga more than a decade ago when I was an undergraduate in Charlottesville, VA. As a lifelong dancer who had recently hung up her dancing shoes, I found that yoga inspired an awareness of body and movement that was similar to my experiences with dance. Naturally, I gravitated to vinyasa/flow-style classes that emphasize the connection of breathing and movement.
While the musicality of these classes was the path that initially led me to the mat, my regular practice revealed a depth to yoga that captivated the curious student in me and inspired me to explore further. After a detour to graduate school in Cambridge, MA, I landed in Southern California and my “yoga education” began in earnest. While I was nurturing a fledgling modeling career in LA, I took a part-time job as a studio assistant at YogaWorks in Laguna Beach. It was one of the best things I have ever done. YogaWorks offered instruction in every style of yoga I had heard of… and some I hadn’t. Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Viniyoga, Kundalini, Yin, Power Yoga, Gentle Yoga, and on and on- and it was my job to learn about each of them. Heaven. To this day, I treasure my time there.
Alas, it came to an end when I relocated once again, this time to Sedona, AZ. That’s when the magic began. My magical education. I continued my practice of Hatha yoga, but I was also drawn into the mystery and majesty that is Sedona. Although my love affair with yoga had already entered its seventh year, it felt new again. A yoga instructor at my work there introduced me to what she called “energy” yoga, focusing not so much on physical exertion and exploration as on exploration of the subtle body through yoga. I began meditating daily (at the airport vortex, which was literally in my backyard). I began studying the chakras, the properties of crystals, and Reiki. Oh yeah… and I also became pregnant with my son, Maxim, two weeks after the move. Can’t forget that. That initiated an education on a whole new level.
With the birth of my son, I was reborn into the world. Everything looked new and different to me (perhaps from sleep deprivation, but whatever). Talk about “purpose and meaning”- I discovered a drive and motivation that I had never felt before. Strong, capable, dedicated, powerful… I had become a mother.
Following a six week, postnatal hiatus to honor what my body had just done, I returned to my mat. The expanded notion of what it means to “practice yoga” that I acquired in Sedona meant that I hadn’t really taken a break from yoga. In fact, it was my guide right through labor and delivery. But now I was confronted with the new challenge of being in a physical body that I no longer recognized. Like… who is this? This isn’t the body that danced and backbended and inverted and twisted and stretched, is it? Yoga, at that point, became a process of rediscovery and getting reacquainted. After all, my body had just done something so far beyond any asana I had ever been in. It had created a new life. It was still strong. It was still amazing, just in new ways that I set about learning through yoga.
Today, I have trouble separating any of the stages of my life and its events from the others. There is definitely “before Max” and “after Max,” but I’m older now (let’s be honest), and I’m getting more proficient at seeing a bigger picture. All of the steps and stages along the way have been part of the learning process of growing into myself and being the most authentic manifestation of Holly that I can be.
Like the lyrical unfolding of a beautiful vinyasa sequence, I have observed the evolution of my life since I began practicing yoga. From the mundane moments of choosing what to have for breakfast to a singular event like the birth of my child, yoga has been my companion through all of it. Yoga, literally meaning ‘to yoke‘ or ‘to join,’ is inseparable from my experience of each and every moment. It endows each moment with profound beauty and meaning. Today, I am more focused, more committed than ever before to being a devoted student and learning from every experience and every encounter.
I feel such tremendous gratitude that I am able to share my journey with other souls and, perhaps, even to lead and inspire a few of them. Every time I set foot on my mat, I step into a classroom of infinite potential. Each time I teach a new student, I meet a new teacher who expands my understanding beyond what it had been previously. Every moment, situation, and person we encounter contains within it an opportunity to learn and grow if we look at it from the proper perspective.
“Lucky me!,” says the yoga nerd in the corner.
(I am a Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance and a Reiki practitioner, certified in the Usui system of Reiki.)