My Top 5 Yoga Joys of 2015

With only a few days left in 2015, I wanted to write a post recapping my yoga practice this year. I had all kinds of great titles in mind for a post, like “5 Ways to Recommit to Your Yoga Practice in 2016,” or “5 Yoga New Years Resolutions for 2016.” As I sat down to write, titles like that felt contrived and unauthentic. I decided to do what I usually do when blogging, which is simply to first choose the photos that speak to me the most, and then write from there. As I reviewed this group of photos, I realized that they all captured moments of sheer happiness upon discovering something… something that I already knew but had perhaps forgotten about.

Yoga is definitely about getting back to the basics. All of life’s distractions cause us to forget to celebrate the most fundamental things we love about life. Here are the top 5 joys in life I rediscovered in 2015, thanks to my yoga practice. Thanks to this renewed awareness, I’ll be sure to celebrate these passions more in 2016.

1. NATURE

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Shane and I lived in his car for almost a year after we graduated from college in 2008. Our entire life revolved around hiking and camping in national parks and wilderness areas. We had such a small footprint and were devoted to a “leave no trace” lifestyle. Ever since committing to full time work, our time spent in nature has waned. We went on this hike in the Tamalpais watershed earlier this year. I think this photo was end of May. Just a few minutes walking on trails instantly chills me out!

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It’s important to take time not only to get close to the soil and plants along the trail, but also to revel in nature’s wonders during a quiet yoga session. This spectacular sunset is at Land’s End on the Pacific Ocean near my neighborhood. It’s a madhouse on weekends, but pick a random weekday evening, and you’ll be the only person with the entire Pacific to yourself!

2. ANIMALS

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I’m currently writing from San Antonio, Texas, where we’re visiting Shane’s cousin Mike. His dogs Molly and Sneakers sweetly insist on participating in my yoga practice each morning. Molly stretched out comfortably alongside my mat as I practiced; meanwhile, little 8-month-old Sneakers bounced around underneath my stomach while I was in down dog and ran circles around my ankles in Vira 2. In fact, he is such a ricocheting pinball that I haven’t been able to snap a photo of him!

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I went to shower after my practice, and when I came back, Miss Molly had taken over my mat. I’ve noticed dogs love yoga mats. They think that’s where they’re supposed to lie down, maybe because humans have trained them so strictly to lie down in designated spots. I know the time isn’t right (right now), but I look forward to a time, hopefully in the near future, when I can have a lifestyle that would support having dogs again.

3. REFLECTION

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I’m an only child and thrive off of plenty of alone time. I think back on my childhood, and I had one best friend, which was wonderful, but other than that I was journaling all the time, reading stacks of books, and writing my own children’s adventure series. I had “meditation” down to a t. Naturally as I got older, society seemed to more highly value time spent socializing intensely with others, and if you weren’t at a party or a lunch, you were missing out! I’m glad that over the past year or so, yoga has helped me to re-embrace time spent on my own.

I have a very rudimentary meditation practice, and it is already working wonders. I reconnect with my breath, and I do arm circles up overhead and then down into the chest to namaste hands five times or so. I think of all the people in my life who I love, I think of all my students, I think of pets I’ve had, I think over all the healthy food I have access to, and I think of everything I’m grateful for. After ten minutes or so, the seated meditation fluidly evolves into my asana practice, and it’s intensely slow, deliberate, restorative, calming, and balancing. I stand up and walk away from my mat at home with huge clarity and evenness. At that time of day I’m usually heading towards the kitchen to make a healthy dinner. I recommend this routine!

4. TEACHING

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This past summer I was enrolled in a professional development program for my Spanish teaching. It was a pretty grueling schedule. Sessions would go until late at night, and then we would have hours of reading, annotating, and group work due the next day.

Our only free time during the program was every afternoon from 4pm until dinner time. I casually mentioned that I would be practicing yoga in the middle of the quad, and people started to turn up, awaiting instruction. I did my best, and it dawned on me then that I needed to do a yoga teacher certification program to better serve people who wanted to learn yoga. Fast forward six months later, and I’ve finished my 200-hour yoga teacher certification program with Yoga Works!

In addition to teaching Spanish, I would love to teach yoga to kids (and colleagues at school, and all adults) of all ages. I think back on how my stressful middle school and high school years could have been different if I had known yoga at a younger age.

5. EMBRACE THE MOMENT

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We’re all taking ourselves way too seriously. I was touring the Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate Park with my parents the day before Thanksgiving, and I felt the urge to pop an ardha chandrasana, and so I did. There were so many people around, and I just did not care. In fact, after my mom took a few shots of me, a teenage girl came up to the same spot and struck a tree pose.

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In August I was at Stinson Beach relishing my last few moments of summer vacation before going back to work. I was sitting on my beach blanket reading Conde Nast Traveler and all of my other favorite summer titles, and out of nowhere I felt the urge to do some yoga postures! I started doing my thing, and then a girl walked up with her mom and asked if I wanted my photo taken. We all need to embrace spontaneity a bit more. We’re all so self-conscious, and life passes us by. Embrace the moment, because we learn in yoga that all we have is the present moment. We have no control over the past or the future. All we have is the now.

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Celebrating these joys supports my ultimate love, which is the life I’ve built together with Shane. I think Shane proposed to me this year, because yoga has helped me to bring it down a notch. My personality is still the same, but I don’t get as worked up over things, which must make me more pleasant to be around! I’m prone to intensity, perfection, going over-the-top-with-details, worrying, and stressing, and yoga helps with all of this. Just remembering to breathe is so basic but makes such a huge difference. Go figure.

In what ways can a yoga practice enrich your life in 2016? The more I get back to the basics, the better life gets.

Namaste and Happy 2016!

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5 Comments on “My Top 5 Yoga Joys of 2015”

  1. Lisa December 30, 2015 at 07:48 #

    Super post Marisa! I enjoyed it!

  2. Katie December 30, 2015 at 07:51 #

    Marisa, you are amazing and an inspiration to me! I’m reading after finishing a long run, which I just realized is my form of meditation! 🙂 Congrats on finishing your yoga teacher training, what an impressive accomplishment. See you next week! Xxoo

    • Marisa LaValette December 30, 2015 at 07:52 #

      Thanks Katie! Yes, your running is definitely your meditation. It is inspiring how you never miss a day!
      Enjoy the last few days. Xoxo

  3. Bulldog Travels December 30, 2015 at 16:12 #

    Lovely to revisit your year! And what a wonderful 2016 it will be for you. Happy New Year!

  4. Marisa LaValette December 30, 2015 at 16:14 #

    Happy New Year Jenny! Can’t wait to follow all of your travel and photography adventures as well! Your pictures are always so beautiful.

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