After my first year of University, I realized I was gay and explored this new chapter in my life. Naive and somewhat reckless, I was diagnosed as HIV+ at the age of 21. My fear of death failed to appease my fear of living and I turned to drinking and drugs. The lifestyle failed to provide the relief I craved. My physical deterioration was matched with an impending mental and spiritual decline. At 27, I had full blown AIDS and was dying. There was a brief respite where I pulled myself together for a bit, but I quickly returned to my previous way of life.
Somehow I found myself in a hot yoga class. I decided to take a chance. I was out of shape, clumsy, awkward, and had little to no experience with health or working out and yet I kept coming back. My teachers encouraged me to keep practicing. With the realization that things had to change, I made a beginning and that's when this 'something else' in yoga really started to take its effect. The practice moved beyond just the physical asanas. The meditative qualities felt more pronounced.
Being an urban yogi, to me, means living and embodying a city life while still staying connected to the people and spirituality around me. What is our practice for? We put ourselves into this strange shapes then try to calmly breathe but for why? Sure. Some of it may be physical. The practice may be for relaxing our mind and to focus inward or to live in this single moment and breathe. But I think the greatest benefit is how to stay calm and slow our inside (both mind and body) down when the challenges of life arise. We are essentially practicing pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone in a controlled setting for those life moments in the future when we have no control. Is it possible to learn to breathe through it now so we can breathe through it then?
I would never have imagined that I would be doing this and for as long as I have been doing this, but I am profoundly grateful that I get to awaken each day and share what I've learned with others. I found physical strength and a more balanced, a peaceful mind, and a free spirit in my own life that I never knew could exist. I would like to share this experience of life with you and help be a guide in your journey - wherever it happens to go. Be it the physical practice or something beyond, my hope is that you can find what you are seeking and grow into something more as well. Namaste.