Yes, yoga.

I'm a yoga teacher. Yoga has become a very important part of my life. In many ways, it informs my daily decision-making and the work that I do.

The following originally appeared on the Grace & Glory Yoga Blog on January 14, 2016. It's an accurate reflection of my thoughts on yoga because, well, I wrote it.

WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING!? INTEGRATION

by Michael Connolly

“It's 5:00 am in the morning!  I'm tired, sore, and about to get in my car and drive to Philadelphia - on Sunday - to attend yoga teacher training.  Wait..what? I've got several large bottles of water, food for myself and others, like 5 towels, at least 6 t-shirts, books, blocks, a journal, and of course my yoga mat.  I've not only volunteered for this, but also paid to do?! Why am I doing this?  200 hour yoga teacher training? This is so weird. I don’t know if I even want to do this? What the hell am I doing?”

These were my thoughts, a conversation, I was having with myself one morning a few months ago.  This conversation was, and is a culmination, of several conversations with myself that started about a year ago.  Last January at this time I was at the tail end of two year bender in which my diet consisted of Guinness, Jamison, pizza, and chips.  My fitness was all about burning off the liquid calories I consumed hours before.  Going for long runs sweating out whiskey and Doritos seems like a lifetime ago. My annoyingly fit and athletic wife had been suggesting that I take a yoga class for some fitness and a little quiet. I shrugged it off over and over again.  Then a bartender friend of mine was also telling me about the benefits he found in yoga. It seems ironic - there I was sitting at the bar with my goofball friends and the bartender was suggesting I check out Yoga. I finally listened and signed up without too much thought for my first yoga class at Grace and Glory Yoga.  

Let me stop here and spoil this seemingly cliché "yoga journey." Yoga didn't change my life. I didn't "find myself".  I didn't walk out of that first class with thoughts of enlightenment, self-love, creating space, or growing out my man bun. I walked out soaking wet, humbled and smiling. That first yoga class and every class since then kicked my ass. So I went back. A lot.  My wife and friend we’re correct. I loved yoga.

Around that time my dad was entering the final stages of a brutal neurological disorder called Multi System Atrophy that had taken over his and my entire family's life for the past 9 years. So I kept coming back to the studio. There I was, every day on my mat. Remember, I said yoga didn't change my life. It didn't. Nothing "changed." What happened and what is still occurring is what I’ve come to understand as integration.  All I really wanted was a "workout" but I started to hear a conversation going on in my head. The self-inquiry just started to happen on its own. See, I'm a regular guy who loves sports, strip clubs, beers, busting balls, and Adam Sandler movies.  I’m a total knuckle head. However, I also like Buddhism, Taoism, quantum physics, self-help, and healthy eating. I even drive a Prius.  That conversation that I was noticing was between these "guys." Yoga was starting to integrate an athlete who wanted to sweat, a son whose dad was dying, a philosophy loving father and a goofball that held them all together. 

Sure, some guys gave me shit and still do. I think it’s funny. It is funny. I love yoga! What makes me laugh writing and reading these words is that I created a story of who I was. I created those “guys” as different people, and often I would put them at odds with each other.  Beer drinking party Mike didn’t want to exercise.  Philosophy Mike wanted to be alone, Athletic Mike just wanted to compete, and goofball Mike wanted to play video games or watch The Big Lowbowski for like the 50th time. A power yoga class where I didn’t need a “story” provided the space I needed to integrate these “guys.”  I like all of them.  They’re great guys and I realized they need to work together.  Yoga gives those “guys” an invitation to work together and helps me drop those stories for an hour and enjoy breathing and moving through a series of poses. Yoga makes ME complete.  

My dad passed away on March, 9 2015. I miss my dad and wish that none of it happened.  But it did happen. He passed away in from an illness that he got by being exposed to chemicals found in "agent orange" during the Vietnam War. His 9 year, slow decline ended at a Veterans Home under the care of Hospice.  I took my first yoga class in February a month before he died.  That hour that I talked about just breathing and moving through the poses, yeah it felt really good. I needed to stop thinking.  I couldn’t do that with beers, running, reading, video games. Yoga gave me silence.  Within that silence I found integration and movement.  After his death I kept returning to Grace & Glory for more.  The hours of silence began to pile up, an hour or two at a time, every day.  That became my practice and I got better at it.  Slowly I was able to recreate that silence away from the studio because through that practice, I could listen to my breath and observe my everyday movements the same way.  My dad’s breath and movement were taken from him, and I found mine. 

I graduated from yoga teacher training on January 3, 2016 with a group of amazing people, taught by selfless individuals who kicked the door wide open for endless possibilities.  The work, the integration is still happening. I’m no yoga expert, and still struggle with some of the poses.  I can’t pronounce some of the language perfectly, and I forget some of the sequence of poses every now and then. All of it is okay.  What I can do confidently is express my yoga experience up to this point.  Ironically all those "guys" I talked about found something too.  The workout, the silence, the play, the movement, the breathing and conversation are all available for me at Grace and Glory, and they’re available for you too.  I’m ready to ask more questions, be uncomfortable, and fail my way into more successes because I was willing to ask “what the hell am I doing? ”

Interested in incorporating yoga into your consulting plan? Just ask. I'll probably suggest it anyway.

Interested in finding a fun studio with an awesome community? Visit Grace & Glory Yoga in Northfield, NJ and Philadelphia, PA.