Sojourner: Inner Peace
By Mara Minsberg
While I wish I was the type of endlessly open minded person who approaches new experiences without judgment, I often find it difficult to suspend my impulse to act contrarily. I have long aspired to be a person who can throw her full buy-in and support behind unfamiliar practices and jump in with solely positive intentions. In reality, however, when someone offers an unsolicited testimonial on his or her latest life changing endeavor, my initial instinct is to respond with thinly veiled cynicism.
In the spirit of the New Year, however, I decide to withhold my usual nay-saying instincts and follow the admirable example of my more open-minded acquaintances. A close friend of mine swears by her daily yoga practice, praising its ability to create a sense of inner balance and enhanced spiritual clarity. Her descriptions sounded like a fitting remedy for quelling my instinctive natural doubt, so I find a drop-in class that fits my schedule on a Thursday evening at Brazos Healing Center at The Med in College Station. My friend’s recommendation suggests the experience could afford me an opportunity to stretch both my body and mind: a fitting prescription for a perpetual sideline skeptic.
With a decidedly more open mind than usual, I drag my ever-cooperative fiancÃ© along for Kundalini yoga, a class touted by Brazos Healing Center’s website as a great entry point for yoga beginners. After a long and exhausting day work followed by a quick clothes change in the office bathroom, we meet at The Med for our first session. Upon entering the room, I see a small group of men and women sitting cross legged on mats set up evenly spaced around the small studio. Observing the Zen-like decor, completely frosted windows, and calming music, it is hard to believe we’re still inside The Med. The ambience is soothing and inviting, and we assume our positions awaiting the leader’s instructions.
Our instructor has a very calming presence about her, dictating our poses and breathing patterns with simple commands and helpful explanations, the ideal combination for a pair of novices like us. We begin our practice with a krya, a mantra to focus our minds. We concentrate on feeling the vibration of the individual words, and while I’m characteristically doubtful at first, I give it a try and am surprised to find myself feeling increasingly relaxed and focused.
Our hour and fifteen minutes of yoga consists of various body-stretching poses with incorporated breathing techniques. I am somewhat surprised to see our instructor working off of her notes, but she explains that yoga is more of a science than people typically assume. She refers to the sequences as “prescribed” and takes time to explain how yoga focuses on stimulating our glands, particularly in our endocrine systems. This is not the approach I was expecting, and I appreciate learning about the theory that formed the basis of our practice.
As we move through the various poses, the teacher instructs us to keep our eyes closed and concentrate on achieving proper technique. While at first I feel a bit silly sitting with my eyes closed in a room full of people, I soon realized its benefit. It prevents my self-consciousness from acting up, forcing me to focus only on what I am doing and allowing me to ignore all other external stimuli. It is harder to feel silly when you know that no one is watching you or judging your movements. I feel myself relax, focusing so completing the designated tasks that I no longer have the mind space to worry about my pride.
The sound of the groupsâ€™ collective deep or rapid breathing has a profoundly calming effect. For the first time in months, I feel a rare sense of clarity and focus accented by a noticeable lack of mental clutter. Generally my mind is swimming with a persistent hum of mundane daily thoughts, but during yoga I am surprised to observe an unusual quiet in my head.
Following our session, I take some time to reflect on the experience. The class has me thinking about how rarely we take the opportunity to truly clear our minds; instead, we allow the buzz of inner noise and our mental manifestations of stress overtake us. The noise is underwhelming, often so omnipresent we don’t even notice the buzz until we take a meditative effort to flip our personal off switch. As promised by my yogi friend, yoga provided an outlet for clearing my mind and resetting all of the negativity I had acquired and of which I had borne the burden all week long. While my natural instincts may veer toward skepticism, yoga provided the necessary clarity to overcome this usual judgment and just focus on creating a positive personal experience, both physically and mentally.
Brazos Healing Center is located at the Medical Center in College Station at 1602 Rock Prairie Road Suite 1000 in College Station. For more information on sessions, services, workshops, and classes, visit their website at www.brazoshealingcenter.com or call (979) 402-3595.