The Pursuit of Yoga By Alex, John and Kirsten

What does yoga mean?

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that aims to join the mind, body and spirit to promote physical and emotional well-being.

In Sanskrit, yoga means to 'yoke' or to create 'union or connection'

Here, we will follow three women with a passion and love for the practice as they share their story on how they found yoga and what it was that made them grow to love it.

Mary Morgan, the owner of the Yoga Space Oxford, unexpectedly found yoga. Her love for the heat and physicality of kickboxing led her to trying hot yoga. She began with a Jujitsu type yoga, and later found her way into Baptiste yoga: a physical and more demanding style of yoga.

“It’s hard to pinpoint what kept drawing me back to my mat, but for some reason I just started craving getting on to my mat.”

“There are benefits and changes that you start to notice about yourself maybe 6 months later or a month later or just after class, but something kept drawing me back there,” said Mary Morgan.

She decided to do yoga teacher training. Mary Morgan had no intentions of ever really teaching yoga, but instead, she hoped this training would help to deepen her practice and teach her more about yoga.

After training, things changed for Mary Morgan. Her love and passion for yoga grew, and she realized she had to share it with the world.

“The more you learn, you deepen your practice, then I just wanted to share it with everyone. I wanted to teach to anybody who would stand in front of me and listen or take a class.”

After her children grew up and left her and husband as ‘empty-nesters,’ they decided to move from Nashville back to their roots in Mississippi. This landed her here in Oxford, MS.

She knew opening her own studio was what she wanted to do, but she didn’t have much of a plan. She followed her heart and followed her passion, and from there, she felt like everything would fall into place.

Mary Morgan found a space and decided to opened up her studio. With a little less than a year under her belt as a business owner, she knows there is still so much to learn.

“I had a passion for teaching yoga but running a business is a completely different story. So, for me, it’s growth all the time, every day.”

Her main goal as the owner of the Yoga Space Oxford is to make everyone feel welcome. As a teacher, Mary Morgan says you quickly learn to drop all judgment and expectations of the people who come into the studio. No matter age, body styles or physical condition, anyone is able to do a yoga class. There are ways to make it more intense and there are modifications to make it less intense. Yoga can be for anybody and any body.

Mary Morgan says her teachers are a huge part of what helps to create that environment and community. She tries to lead by example so that people come in and feel comfortable and like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

“I hate to say follow my lead because I don’t want them to be me, I want them to be who they are, but on the same token, I would rather lead by example and lead from a place a love versus 'here’s a list of what we do.'”

She wants everyone to feel recognized in her studio, and that is what is most important to her. “Everyone is there for a different reason, and everyone deserves to be seen and cared for,” Mary Morgan says. “I am just there as a guide. Each person is really doing the work themselves. I am not there to fix them. I am not there to do anything but lead them through their practice.”

Looking back on her journey with yoga, Mary Morgan points out that initially, she didn’t go to yoga for the healing aspect, as many people do. As years went by, her husband developed some illnesses that took a tole on his health and wellbeing.

“At that time I was so grateful for yoga because I knew without a doubt that it was because of my yoga practice and my meditation practice that helped me stay sane. And it really gave me a safe place.”

Daniella’s journey to yoga was similar to Mary Morgan’s in the way she searched for a craved the physical aspect of yoga. But what drew her in and made her keep coming back for more was the ability to clear her mind.

In 2012, her mom passed from breast cancer. This was a pivotal moment in Daniella’s life, as she was the main caretaker for her mom and dad; not to mention, she would soon be graduating from college.

After losing her mom, she began to self-medicate in a way. She tried anything and everything to keep herself busy. Things were different, and there was nothing left in her cup to give to others.

“I had a lot of stuff that I was shifting through and trying to figure out how to navigate the world. I was miserable to be around. I wasn’t the same, obviously but I found the yoga.”

She fell in love with yoga because of the movement and meditation. Noticing a difference in herself didn’t come quickly. It was very incremental and took shifts day by day.

“It was the only time in the 24 hours a day that my brain was not moving at a million miles an hour. It as the only time afterwards that I could sleep. Everything would shut off. Nothing else mattered. There weren’t any nerves. There wasn’t any anxiety. There was none of the grief. It was just me and my sweat and my mat.”

After doing yoga teacher training, Daniella realized she had to teach and had to share.

“My cup was full for the first time in 3 years. First thing I did for myself after my mom died.”

For Daniella, yoga got her out of the low place she didn’t even know she was in. It created a union for her:

“Union back between my body my mind and my spirit. All of those things were broken and yoga was the first that put me back together.”

Anna, a college junior from Little Rock, was in the lowest of lows in her life- and knew it. Yoga was her last hope.

Anna went home during her freshman year of college because of her struggles with anxiety. After a lot of medication, therapy, and even some time in a mental institution, nothing was working for her. She had panic in her ‘every day’ life. She had no motivation. She had no hope left. She was putting all of her worth into others and focusing only on being a people pleaser.

Her parents heard about yoga therapy and decided to have Anna give it a try. This was their last hope before possibly losing their daughter completely.

“I wasn’t doing anything to take care of me and yoga was the answer. Where instead of searching for someone else to tell me the next thing to do, it was me figuring it out and me feeling it, telling myself what to do. Rather than depending on everyone else for the answers yoga allowed me to believe in myself and believe that I could overcome it.”

Anna didn’t want to ‘need’ anyone’s help. She was the kind of person who always helped others, but she soon realized that yoga was going to be the thing that allowed her to turn her life around.

“The mat became my safe place. So I could come in no matter how I was feeling and this is what made me appreciate it so much. I was using it at my lowest and days that I am better I can come in here and celebrate it and use my body so that I am better prepared for the next time something comes my way.”

Yoga therapy was her calling, and now she can’t imagine life without it. It gives her time to unload and restore, and for her, it is necessary to make that time for yourself.

“So much of our day is spent thinking about the past or thinking about the future but being able to come into yoga and say I am right here, my hands are on the mat right now. Im grounded. Im okay. And just thinking about what I am doing right now is life changing and be able to just tune into that moment and then go about the rest of your day knowing that you’ve built yourself up. You’ve fueled your tank. Your cup isn’t empty. Because as soon as you fill your own cup, you can pour into others. Filling your own cup is going to benefit you and everyone around you.”

She talked about how so many people have this thought that taking time for yourself can be selfish, but in reality, it’s the exact opposite.

“If you come in here and giving yourself that hour then you’re gonna show up better in all the other areas of your life. Sometimes it's just giving yourself that time to hear yourself."

Anna said the biggest lesson to be learned from her journey to yoga was allowing herself to turn her ‘mess into her message.’ She hopes to continue teaching and bringing hope to others.

As Mary Morgan said: “So many people come to yoga from a different angle. I went there because of the physical practice at first. I enjoyed the heat. I enjoyed the fast pace of the class I was taking. I enjoyed the difficult poses and really challenging myself. Whereas the next person or the person on the mat next to me, they were there while they loved the physical part, what was bringing them to their mat is they were searching for some sort of healing or that was their safe place from whatever issues they were working through in their life. Mine changed from going to my mat for the physical practice to then I really realized the mental benefits. The person that comes to their mat for the mental benefits in the beginning then gets to experience and maybe starts to recognize the physical benefits of the practice.”

“We are all on a journey. We are all in a different place in our lives. We all come to our mat in the beginning for different reasons and as we grow and travel through that journey it may change what brings us to our mat. We all get there from a different way but for whatever reason someone comes to their mat, it’s a good one.”

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