I used to work as the Outreach Coordinator for an art museum. It was a perfect job for someone who wanted to make a career in the art world. But instead of devoting myself entirely to my great job, I manipulated my work schedule any way possible so that I could get to my favorite yoga classes. If you think people are bendy in yoga, you should have seen the pretzel I twisted myself into just to make it to class. After a particularly stressful day of hoping that my museum bosses didn’t notice the touch of yoga-practice sweat on my brow, I reached a type of career enlightenment: maybe I should change careers and make yoga a part of it.

Yoga has taught me more about myself than I ever could have imagined the first time I stepped on a mat. I have learned to be patient with others – and with myself. When I struggle for years with a pose that I desperately want to achieve, I have learned to take a step back and enjoy the journey of each pose that leads up to it; each hamstring and shoulder opener can be as meaningful as the handstand hops for which they prepare you. I have learned to be attentive and to listen to what speaks softly and subtly rather than to the screams. Sometimes the true moments of bliss in my daily practice are when I sense a tiny muscle I have never felt before and know the pleasure of understanding my body just a little bit more, not the slow, steady burn of chair pose.

I have learned about failure- how to regroup and keep going. Each pose is like a microcosm for the greater, more drawn out challenges in life. You struggle and breathe and reach and focus. Sometimes you experience the burst of joy that comes with the full length and breadth of a challenge and sometimes you fall on your butt – all within the span of a 5-breath hold. In my practice I have failed so badly and completely that I sustained injuries that have lasted for years. But I am grateful to my failures and to my injuries, because by regrouping and re-learning to move, I have discovered the subtleties of my practice.

The personal wisdom and guidance that yoga has offered me would be useful in any profession, but I think that it will be a particular beacon of truth for me as I embark on the long road towards becoming a physician. Yoga has taught me respect for the body that I hope to pass on to my patients. I have learned that true health doesn’t come just from sweating and eating kale- although those things don’t hurt – but through being attentive to what is lacking and fulfilling those needs. Most importantly, though, I think that I have learned to listen to my body as an integrated unit, and I hope to repurpose that careful skill to listen to my patients. For, as I have learned through my practice, the body cannot be healed without healing the mind alongside it.  Without yoga I would still be silently resigned to a great job in an art museum that left me completely unfulfilled, rather than embarking on the challenging but invigorating road towards becoming a physician. Yoga has been the light guiding my career, and I know that I will continue to draw great inspiration from practice as I grow into the doctor I now know I am meant to be.

Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart, to Andrew and Trella Dolgin, Kelly Corcoran, and the Yogis Heart board and foundation for offering me this opportunity to expand my practice. I hope to pay it forward to the universe a hundredfold.

 

~Elizabeth Lemoine