- Ashley Brown
As a dancer I have been very lucky and privileged to experience many different body therapy modalities. In college I was training to be a Gyrotonic® trainer. Due to a very complicated reason, I left and never completed my level-2 training, but I knew in my heart it wasn’t my path. At a very early age I wanted to try yoga, but due to its close relation to Hinduism, my family never fed the fire of yoga. Yet I got to experience yoga and Pilates in dance camps, and I didn’t like either one very much. I went through an Eastern/Pacific Island music phase in my early teens and was drawn to the mysterious sounds of Indian music and the feelings awakened inside of me.
It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I rediscovered yoga. I fell deeply in love with it four years ago when I was looking at new ways to redirect my energy from smoking cigarettes and staying in shape in between dance jobs. Little did I know the subtle energies I was tapping into would take major shifts and changes within my body and daily life. BKS Iyengar states in his book Light on the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, “Yoga is an art, a science and a philosophy. It touches the life of man at every level, physical, mental, and spiritual. It is a practical method for making one's life purposeful, useful and noble.”
Oh, how this came to me in such waves and stages! The more I practiced the physical poses (asana), the better I felt, my emotions were a little more manageable, and I was not tempted to smoke. This wasn’t the end of my lifestyle choices. I slowly stopped incorporating meat in my diet, making my own beauty products, and trying to live in the most compassionate way possible. This also strengthened my dancing. I could use this tool in between classes and rehearsal, I was able to move in a more versatile manner, and it helped me stay strong avoiding daily aches and pains.
Although I have had a long and deep history with my body and movement, I was very nervous to just jump into a public class without knowing much about how it would go. I started out in 2012, as some might do, with DVDs and online videos in my living room. After a few months, I started going to a nearby studio and quickly found my first teachers. I learned in these open classes what you can’t really get from technology: their stories. Hearing about how they learned a certain pose, who taught it to them, and knowing what kinds of muscles you were using was fascinating. I am so glad I had anatomy and kinesiology in college because I now love teaching with an alignment and muscular base for my yoga, and dance, classes.
It wasn’t long after I started open classes that the seed was planted for me to attend a teacher training. I had not thought much before about being a yoga teacher, but I thought, “Hey why not get paid to do another thing thing that I love and believe in?” When I found my first 200-hour training program, I felt like I had found my path into higher education. Before I started the training, I deepened my home practice and enlightened myself on readings such as The Tree of Yoga by BKS Iyengar. The training soon wasn’t about making money anymore; it became a way for me to deepen my human experience, how to be open and mindful in every living moment. Every week I was excited to learn about the ancient texts, the chants, anatomy, and the different stories of how yoga was, for each and every one of us, teaching and learning in the program.
As with all things we love and obsessions, there comes a time when you are ready to get to the finish line. That’s when the tiredness and the “grin-and-bear-it stage” might take effect. This is where the real yoga happens. The real work begins as a human being – when you think you can’t go on and your old habits might come out. This is where you use your breath, you study yourself, and maybe even Isvara Pranidhanani (surrender to God). This is where you have the option to stop, hold the reaction, and think about the next action, or keep making the same mistakes.
I am lucky to be surrounded by such calm and compassionate people. As an artist, my passion sometimes takes me on a whirlwind of emotions. Without them, I don’t know where I would find the space to notice my actions and subtly change the reaction into positive action.
So, why yoga? Yoga has helped me stay focused on my goals, kept me fit between long durations of dancing jobs, emotionally stable, and spiritually sound. I have never felt so grounded and solid in such a modality, besides the dance classroom, before I found yoga. Yoga may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. Try out everything and see what energy arises and moves through your body that makes you feel good and a better human being. May you find peace and happiness in your path. Namaste.