I was first introduced to yoga when I attended a class at my local gym. Like many women, I walked into my first yoga class with the goal of burning calories and losing weight. But that was over a decade ago and, thankfully, my understanding of yoga (and body image) has evolved immensely. In the Yoga Sutras, a classical yoga text, author Patanjali teaches us the true purpose of yoga: Yogash citta vrtti nirodha: yoga is the cessation of the modifications, or fluctuations, of the mind. That is to say that yoga is the quieting of all the chatter constantly happening inside our heads.
Ten years later, the reason I continue to get on my mat day after day, is because it is consistently one of the few moments in my life in which I truly feel present and the chatter quiets down. During my hour-long practice, the only thing I am worried about is distinguishing between the left and right side of my body, where my body is in space and whether or not I’m still breathing while it’s there. If my thoughts drift, even for a brief moment, from what my body or breath are doing, I’ll begin to lose the quality of the posture. It takes all of my focus to position my feet, legs, pelvis, abdominal muscles, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and head to the best of my ability. Patanjali reminds us that the present moment is the only real place life exists. If that’s true, how often do we truly feel alive? Like many people, my thoughts tend to fluctuate between ruminating past events and anticipating the future. But in yoga, even the most familiar poses require absolute concentration.
It was this feeling that inspired me to enroll in a yoga teacher training soon after college. It was during training where I learned that the physical practice of yoga, asana, is just one of the eight limbs of yoga (Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana, and Samadhi). What I am continuing to learn is that the postures of yoga are merely a tool to gaining mastery over the physical body to prepare us for the second half what yoga is; the yoga that deals with the senses, the mind and our state of consciousness.
Unfortunately, the westernization of yoga means that often, the yoga we encounter is devoid of its history and philosophy, focusing too much on the physical and too little on the spiritual. Too many teachers and too many studios market yoga as a fitness routine solely for the purpose of toning our muscles. And it’s true, a regular asana practice will create more flexibility and strength. But yoga is not truly yoga if we only show up for the physical benefits.
My desire to emphasize a complete understanding of yoga is why I opened Hola Yoga, a studio in East Nashville. I hope to share and serve the community I live in by bringing more mindfulness to the practice of yoga. Hola serves new students and seasoned practitioners alike, so come say hola!
Khrystyne Baltodano is the founder of Hola Yoga in East Nashville. After moving from Boston, MA to Nashville in 2017, she was in search of a yoga studio that felt reminiscent of her experience in other cities: a space offering a variety of vinyasa-style classes that embraces and honors the deep and rich history of yoga, while educating its practitioners on the language (Sanskrit), the history and the philosophy of the practice. With this in mind, she conceived of Hola Yoga, a place of relaxation and solace where students gain a profound understanding of their bodies and find moments of mindfulness in their daily lives.
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