Not just an activity, but a lifestyle: How yoga became part of my life
By Kyle Gati
In summer 2012, I introduced yoga into my life. I was 25 years old and looking to try something new. After finding a daily deal for a local yoga studio, I started going to classes once a week or so, but by the New Year, I was practicing often enough to justify a membership at my studio, Village Yoga Chicago in West Town. These days, I cannot get enough! I never thought I’d stick with it this long and enjoy it so much. Previously, I had been a member at a local gym, where I could never get myself to work out more consistently than a few times a month. I was not seeing physical results and nothing was driving me to challenge myself further. At yoga, I find I am always learning from and inspired by others. I feel accomplished when I am able to work into a new pose or simply find that a certain pose has become more physically accessible.
Before I started yoga, my body was out of whack. Sitting for eight hours a day at work and slouching on the couch when I got home were just begging for pain and discomfort. Then, a few years ago, while stretching before a run, I tweaked something in my knee and the pain progressed over a week. The X-rays came back negative, and it was recommended that I have an MRI to see if I needed surgery. I did not want to go down this path and decided to see if I could heal on my own through alternative means.
Two years later, when I discovered yoga, my main goal was simply to rejuvenate my joints and back and alleviate the pain. It worked! My knee pain and irritation completely went away. Now, after practicing yoga, I feel like I have unlocked my body.
Today, I go to practice for my physical and mental callings. In the physical space, I want to increase my flexibility, build core strength, realign my spine, and challenge myself in difficult poses (inversions and arm balances feel great!). Mentally, I attempt to let go of everything in my external world and focus on the rhythm of my breath and my presence on the mat.
Sometimes, people ask me how often I do yoga. As a yogi, I am always doing yoga. Sure, I try to go to practice three to five times a week, but whether it is on or off the mat, I try to remain aware of my physical form. I could be standing at a bus stop, sitting on my couch watching TV, taking my dog for walk, or whatever it might be. I am constantly reminding myself to lengthen my spine, draw my shoulder blades down, and carry my heart forward. After finishing a 60-minute yoga practice, I don’t forget everything I just did. I extend it out into the world. Yoga isn’t just an activity, it’s a lifestyle.
Extending yoga into my life does not mean only in the physical body, but also sustaining a yogic mindset. Before leaving practice, my teacher Alyson D’Souza often encourages us to take what we’ve done on the mat and carry it along with our positive energy into the world. Alyson reminds us to make eye contact with everyone we encounter. Doing so has helped me feel more connected with individuals. It creates acknowledgment, shows gratitude, and helps bring appreciation to every moment in life.
Nobody is perfect, but I do my best to follow this practice. I am usually deskbound for what feels like most of the day, which is the reality for a lot of people. Keeping good posture and doing some basic stretching throughout the day helps. I never pass up an opportunity for a good forward fold.
In one year, yoga has become a significant counterbalance to what I do in the rest of my life—physically and mentally. Whether it’s sitting for long periods, dealing with stress, or doing other physical exercise like biking, surfing, and skateboarding, yoga has put me back in order.