I practice yoga 6-7 days a week as much as possible, which is most of the time. I wake up early to get in an hour to an hour and a half of practice before the rest of the house rises and I become mother and wife. My practice has become as essential to my well being as eating and I know without it, I would not be the person I am or nearly as healthy and mobile.
It's kind of interesting how a mountain gal who didn't live close to a yoga community got into yoga. Technology links us all. Yoga has been part of my life since college off and on. Back then, I was introduced to a basic sun salutation practice through a Jane Fonda VHS tape when my goal was basically be skinny and tough. Now, yoga is way more than a workout to me. It is the foundation of my spiritual practice. It is my time with God. As cliche as it might sound, it is true that my yoga mat has been a place of profound transformation for me in body and soul. I have a hard time describing what takes place there to those who don't have a practice because it is so ingrained in feeling. Yoga means union. Through yoga, even on the hardest days, I connect my body, mind, and spirit to the Divine.
The branch of yoga I practice the majority of the time is Kundalini yoga. It is said that Kundalini yoga is the oldest form of yoga and was kept a secret from the general public for centuries. Kundalini yoga was brought to the west by Yogi Bhajan and is considered a yogic path that is designed for the householder or those who participate in society as opposed to those who choose a spiritual path that separates them from society. If you Google Kundalini yoga, you'll get all kinds of interesting hits, most of which are sensationalism. Kundalini yoga is a very powerful natural technology, but taken under normal circumstances it is a practice that is safe and accessible to people from all walks of life and belief systems. The experience I have had with it is so special that I practice this style almost exclusively. It provides me with a physical workout and what I call "real" church - a physical/emotional experience of the presence of God.
There are no yoga studios anywhere near where I live, so I practice using DVDs and YouTube. In 2010, I became certified to teach prenatal yoga through the Asheville Yoga Center in North Carolina, but the interest for yoga in my community has always been too small to have classes. My home practice feeds me pretty well. Ravi Singh and Ana Brett are my go to teachers. They have somewhere near 24 DVDs and an upcoming book. Their website offers extensive resources and they have an online presence on Facebook to guide their students learning from a distance. Another teacher I appreciate very much is Maya Fiennes. She has an comprehensive video library and I find her practice very doable. One day, I'd love to share Kundalini yoga with others. We'll see where it leads me.
I feel amazingly blessed by sustaining a yoga practice. It has been worth prioritizing. Yoga is the only exercise I have found I need other than normal daily activities. Because of my need to keep my blood pressure low and the medication that helps me with that, other more cardio intensive exercise has become too much for me. Yet, through yoga and techniques like "the breath of fire" I do things that are "more aerobic than aerobics." I believe anyone who wants to can take up a yoga practice. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Yoga changes lives. Yoga supports my body and my body supports my life. I cannot ask for a better exchange. Yoga is a practice that sustains me.
Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. She is a writer, weightlifter, yoga and movement instructor, chakra reader, and Reiki practitioner.