Gifts from my yoga students

photoOne of my yoga classes that I have been teaching for the last 4 years at a corporation has had its last hurrah. Although this was a pretty unconventional yoga class, done in the cafeteria, on a cold, hard, dirty floor with ants and loud warning bells going off in the middle of class, this was one of my favorite classes.  It wasn’t because of the stellar environment but because of the students that came every week. They truly loved and appreciated me and the yoga I was sharing with them. It changed their life.  Although I was bringing to them the gift of yoga and inner peace, week after week they showed me what true caring was.  They knew I had been going through some rough times and they were the ones ironically that were there for me.

As I was going for a run the other day, I was thinking about this particular class and how I was going to miss them.  This then brought me to another thought. I began to reminisce over the last 13 years I have been teaching yoga and how my yoga teacher, Mokshapriya, was right when she said to me when I was going through a really rough time in my life and feeling alone, “You are not alone, you have your yoga students.” At the time I really couldn’t understand that truth. It didn’t sink in, I just kind of blew it off. During my run the other day though, that truth came barreling into my mind, then into my heart and I literally had to stop running I was crying so hard.  I couldn’t believe it. What an epiphany for me. Yes, Mokshapriya, you were right. I get it now.  All these years I thought I was giving so much of myself through my yoga classes and private sessions but in fact it was and is my yoga students that give so much back to me.

I remember so many times I would be crying in my car driving to go teach a class, pull up to the studio, wiping the tears off my face and saying to myself, “Ok this is not about you right now, get it together. You have no idea who’s in that class, what they are going through and how much they might need yoga right now. Put your pain and heartache to the side, smile and show them your love.” Those were some of my most powerful classes.  Most of you don’t know this, but while you we’re in shivasana, I would sit there with you and silently cry. I went through some pretty tough times in the last decade, as many of you know.  Teaching yoga was my saving grace. My students were my saving grace. As I look back on all the emails, notes, talks, hugs, words of encouragement that have been given so freely and abundantly to me over the last 13 years I am overwhelmed with such gratitude and love that I can’t help but shed tears as I write this letter to you.
So I want to say thank you. It seems that these two words are not enough for what you have given to me, but I want you to know that all of these moments and all of your support has helped shape me and has helped me to grow and to heal. You have been an important part of my journey and I am so grateful for your presence in my life. To all of my yoga teacher friends, you too have helped me to heal and grow. Thank you for holding my hand, for holding my heart and for loving me.
I love you,
SoulFire (Stefania)

Embrace the fire.

In yoga there are a set of guidelines for living in a harmonious, peaceful and truthful way with yourself, others and the environment.  They are called the yamas and niyamas. There are ten. Today I am focusing on the Niyama, Tapas, which loosely translates to transformation. It is the burning away of all that is holding you back, limiting you from being and living from your ultimate truth and potential. Most of the time it is our limiting thoughts and beliefs, our “story”  we have about ourselves that hold us back.  The tapas or spiritual fire is a clearing and renewal, and is a necessary part of our evolution as spiritual beings. There are many ways to purify ourselves and our thoughts and minds.  Yoga practice is one way that is very effective and efficient.  Looking at nature we can take example from the giant sequoia tree, one of the oldest trees on the planet averaging 3,500 years old. The secret to the longevity of the sequoia is the elemental power of fire. Periodic forest fires clear away everything that threatens the trees survival while ensuring their growth and regeneration. giant_sequoia4Without the fires’ heat, the sequoia cones couldn’t open and release their seeds.  Without the clearing force of fire sequoia seedlings would be overcrowded by competing shade trees and not have enough sunlight to grow.  In our own life usually looking back we can see how a perceived failure or our dreams going up in flames brought us to another phase in our life more wonderful than which we could have ever imagined.  When you are in the pit of the “fire” remember that the adversity is an opportunity to grow, to transform by letting go of the old habitual thought patterns, and to embrace more fully your innate talents and creativity. A gift resides in every moment. Let it burn!