Yoga Story: Stefanie Johnson
What first brought you to yoga?
During my freshman year of college at Cal Poly Pomona, my roommate, Jaqui, got me to sign up for a Pilates class at our school, so it was actually Pilates that got me started on my path to yoga. At that time, even though I was only 18 years old, I had severe back pain and was regularly seeing a chiropractor. However, through the course of the term, I went from pain and limited motion to fully being able to move comfortably again. I knew I wanted to keep practicing, yet over the following years, practice fell to the back-burner as I finished my studies. During that time, I would do yoga or Pilates here and there through my gym memberships, which were not as satisfying.
Then when my boyfriend Eric and I moved to Normal Heights in 2010, I first saw Pilgrimage. It did take about two years of living here for me to finally check it out. I was always drawn to the studio but lacked the time; it was my the back and added neck pain that finally brought me in to Pilgrimage in 2012, but I have gained so much more than pain relief during my time with the studio.
What do you love most about yoga?
There are so many aspects of yoga that I love! One thing I love is the dualities that seem to be contrasts but are actually complementary. For instance, physically, I love that it grants me both relief and strength; it also relaxes and energizes; it works the body and raises the heart rate, but it also brings calmness and peace even in difficult poses. Overall, it just makes me feel so good in so many ways.
What is your favorite pose and why?
I have always loved standing balancing poses because of the strength, flexibility, and focus they require, but lately, I have really been enjoying wide-legged forward bends. I enjoy the reverse of circulation, and it helps me clear my head! I also really love standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) after a sun salutation; it is great to pause, breathe, and focus on being.
It is easy to stay motivated with a great studio like Pilgrimage—my fellow students, the teachers, staff, and the ambiance of the studio is so wonderful. It is easy to want to come in for classes!
I also love to see my personal improvement and being able to do things that I could not do in the past, no matter how little. I stay motivated by learning and practicing new poses. I especially love when the instructors encourage us to play, explore, and try and remind us that it is called practice and not perfection. 🙂
Feel free to share anything else if you like.
My yoga journey at Pilgrimage has given me so much, but one aspect of my life that it enhanced that I did not foresee is in my job as a college instructor. It has helped me refine my art in the classroom by reminding me to be patient, accepting, and loving of my students and has reminded me to find joy and delight in the present moment of the classroom. Even from a palpable sense, I have done stretching and breathing techniques that I have learned as a yoga student with my own students to help calm their nerves before exams! Yoga has also given me the perspective that we are all teachers and students and to keep an open and beginner’s mind to things.
Finally, as many of my fellow students express, both in person and on Pilgrimage Weekly, I am so grateful for this studio; it has a great sense of community. I have grown so much personally, and I am so thankful for Pilgrimage that has helped me in my personal practice. What started as a physical motivation has given me so much more, especially with patience, calmness, gratitude, and love.