Thank You

It was a Monday night, and I was teaching a restorative yoga class.  I was sitting cross-legged in the dimly lit yoga studio gazing at the sun mural.  My students were resting in savasana, corpse pose, the last pose in any yoga class.  The room was quiet, and I was trying to stay present while my students rested. I was running my thumbs over each finger over and over while I focused on my breath.  I listened to the ticking of the clock.  I tried to be still.

It was mid-breathe when my mind started to wander.  And then a thought emerged:  Crysta, you are living the life that you have dreamed.  You’re a teacher (I’ve wanted to be one since 4th grade), and you’re a yoga instructor (I’ve wanted to do this since I was in my thirties).  Even on the hardest of days, you are doing what you always intended on doing.  All of my being began to feel and hear these words:  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  These words became my unspoken prayer to whatever higher power there might be.

That being said, I don’t really pray anymore.  There are several reasons for this.  First of all, I don’t believe in prayers of petition.  I don’t think that prayer works in that way.  I also don’t believe in praying for things like a new car, a job, or a relationship to work out.  I don’t pray for these things because I don’t believe this is how the universe works.  I believe in a higher power.  I am constantly questioning what this higher power is, but I do think that he/she/it is filled with love.  This higher power doesn’t grant wishes like a fairy godmother; instead, I think that he/she/it is with us always, giving us strength.  I think that this higher power knows our deepest longings and our deepest worries.  This power is always with us, even when we feel the most alone.  I don’t need to pray, because my prayers are already known.

I do believe in gratitude.  Expressing appreciation for the many beautiful things in my life is a form of prayer.  My life has been far from perfect.  I have regrets.  I’ve made mistakes.  I have experienced deep loss.  But I believe with all my being that there is always something to be grateful for.  My daily prayer practice is to write in my gratitude journal, to document the experiences and the people who make my life better.  I am grateful for beautiful sunsets, books that I don’t want to put down, friends who keep me going, my family who supports me, a steamy cup of mint tea, an afternoon at my favorite coffee shop, memories of my children, a job that sustains me, a hug from a student.   Gratitude is a prayer to the universe, a prayer to the higher power, a prayer of thanksgiving for all of life’s small blessings.

As I sat in my yoga class contemplating my life, I felt fully aware that life, despite its difficulties, is good.  Life is also challenging, complicated and unfair.  Yet my life feels fuller — richer —  when I acknowledge the small, daily things that bring me joy.

Dearly beloved

We are gathered here today

To get through this thing called “life…”


My Yoga Journey

It’s a dreary Sunday, and I’m sitting at my favorite local coffee shop reading about chakras and sipping on mint tea.  I’m aware that if you saw my book titled Chakras for Beginners, you might think I was a little strange or new-agey.  But I’m preparing to teach a Heart Chakra yoga class/workshop.  I’m reading up on the chakras so I have a bit more insight to share with my students.  You see, aside from being a teacher of children, I’m also a teacher of yoga.  I received my certification this year, the year I turned 50.  Becoming a yoga teacher has been something I’ve wanted to do for years, and now I’m doing it.  I am living my dream, so to speak.  As the owner of my yoga studio says, “We have the best job ever.  We get to make people feel better.”  I don’t take this job lightly.

I started doing yoga officially when I was 17. I stumbled across an article with ten yoga poses in Seventeen magazine.  I cut the article out and did these poses every night before bed.  I couldn’t articulate the effect yoga had on me at the time, but I knew that I was calmer.  I slept better.  And I liked doing the poses.  I never told anyone that I was practicing yoga, but even as a teen, yoga was having a positive impact on my life.

Prior to my teenage foray into yoga, I’d been doing yoga for years and didn’t know it.  I started gymnastics at the age of five, and before practice, we’d stretch.  The stretches were yoga poses.  As a kid, I was also a runner.  Before practice, we’d stretch.  You guessed it — the stretches were yoga poses.  So I grew up with an appreciation for stretching as a prelude to any physical activity.  It wasn’t until my 30s or 40s when I realized that yoga itself was a physical activity that also settled the mind.  I began to see the positive benefits to the practice. 

When I was in my 30s, I was busy raising my two children.  I attended classes sporadically as my schedule would permit or put on a yoga video from time to time.  I loved it, but my focus was more on work and kids.  In my 40s, I started attending Yoga in the Vineyard on a regular basis.  This combined several of my great loves — yoga, wine, and socializing with friends.  Finally, about five or six years ago when I was going through a tough time, a friend of mine took me to her yoga studio in Olathe.  I attended classes here occasionally for years.  I loved this studio immediately with its chill vibes and colorful sun mural.  I enjoyed attending classes, but again, I was busy with work and kids. And during this time, I had a child who was fighting cancer.  So my priority was her care, not my own self care. 

Then the pandemic hit.  I knew the owner of my studio, as an independent business owner, was likely struggling to stay afloat.  So I bought a package of classes and eventually became a regular studio member.  I did yoga virtually, as I was able, to help her out and to care for myself as I was struggling, too.  Near the beginning of the pandemic, I lost my sweet daughter to cancer.  Afterward, I did yoga even more.  Yoga was my respite.  My practice allowed me to step out of my head and out of my grief for an hour at a time.  I say this in complete seriousness:  Yoga saved my life.  The practice of breathing and stretching and being present helped me have moments of peace during my sadness.  In fact, it still does.

Last fall, I talked to my teacher, the owner of my yoga studio,  about her teacher training classes.  I knew this was somewhat impractical.  What would a person my age do with a yoga teacher certification?  I didn’t know what my plan was, but I did know I wanted to learn more about the practice of yoga even if it was just for the sake of learning.  I talked a friend of mine into joining me, and we embarked on a 200 hour program to become yoga instructors.  In February, we “graduated.”  And within a month, a class opened up at our studio.  My friend and I now take turns teaching a Monday night restorative yoga class.  In addition, I teach yoga to a group of co-workers.  And I’ve booked a couple of other yoga gigs as well.  I’ve even done a bit of yoga with my students at school.

The importance of this journey to me is not only that I pursued my love of yoga, but that I pursued SOMETHING.  As I age, I try not to take a passive role in my life.  I believe in constantly learning and striving and growing.  To me, becoming a yoga instructor is more than just teaching yoga.  It’s about running towards life, trying new things, and letting the world know that age is not a deterrent from accomplishing goals.  At the end of the day, I know I’m stronger — inside and out — for delving a bit deeper into the practice of yoga. 

“Yoga is not about touching your toes,

it’s about what you learn on the way down.”

Jigar Gor