My path to yoga – an academic essay by Priscilla Black

“Where there is no inner freedom, there is no life.”

“Where there is no inner freedom, there is no life.”
-Radhanath Swami, The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami

Yoga- In Hinduism, a set of mental and physical exercises aimed at producing spiritual enlightenment. This is a basic definition I found on google. To me, Yoga is something completely different. Yoga aids an individual in obtaining inner freedom to embrace one’s truest self. Your highest self, detaching oneself from the ego so to fully emerge as the spiritual being you are. I firmly believe that we are not these bodies but, these are our vehicles for this life. What we put into our bodies affects the way we feel not only physically but emotionally and mentally.  Why not cherish our flesh vehicles and provide the proper maintenance to keep them running smoothly?
My Journey with wellness and yoga began 2 years ago. I was a social alcoholic, recently divorced and had just moved back to my hometown in Kentucky. I had been back home for about 6 months before I became pregnant. I lost the false sense of direction I had and knew that I needed to make changes. I was smoking about a pack a day and blacking out almost every night. As soon as I became pregnant I lost everything and anyone I thought was a friend. I made a decision to move to Dallas to live with my parents so that I could concentrate on the tiny human growing inside of me. I had no aspirations of keeping the child. I knew that I would give her up for adoption but still I wanted to make sure that I was the healthiest that I could be. I wanted Her to be healthy.
I researched GMO’s and watched numerous documentaries on agriculture and farming. I was shocked and slightly terrified. ‘I have a tiny human growing inside of me. I cannot feed these chemicals to Her.’ The sense of the unknown was unsettling. Where is this food coming from? From who? Who made it? Was it humane? This is what made my decision to become vegetarian.
My yoga and food  journey begins: I had so much excess negative energy. I was angry, pregnant and alone. I was the perfect example of emotionally unstable. I was exhausted.  This negativity produced copious amounts of anxiety. I had read an article about how  She could feel anxiety in the womb, and cringe. I could not bear the thought of this.  I started going to yoga classes at the Dallas Yoga Center to try and relieve some of the tension. I fell in love with yoga. I could breathe to full lung capacity without the suffocating feeling of anxiety. It was pure bliss. The teachers were so thoughtful and kind. I felt at home here. This was where I felt grounded. I did not have the funds to be able to attend these life altering classes after my 10-Day free trial, I just went as often as I could afford. This inspired me to start my home yoga practice.

Yoga became my comfort blanket. I practiced every day and used the calmness that it brought my heart to console my mind. Through all of this, I still had excess energy that needed to be expressed. Like a puss-filled cyst on the back of your neck. You can’t see it but, you can feel it pulsating and needing to be released.  I tried meditation but my mind would freefall  into the darkness of my thoughts. I had to stay positive at all costs. I had to stay emotionally healthy for Her. I needed to be happy because She deserved it. I researched ‘Hindu Temple Dallas’. I had never been one to seek God for help but at this point, I needed it.  Kalachandji’s was the first result. Unbeknownst to me, this is where I would find my happiness.
“Where there is faith, fear cannot exist.”

I decided to attend a Wednesday program. I remember being nervous. Wondering, if anyone could sense my anxious energy. I was told that there was going to be kirtan. “What is Kirtan?” Kirtan is the chanting of the holy names of God. So I chanted. ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna. Krishna Krishna Hare Hare. Hare Rama Hare Rama. Rama Rama Hare Hare.’ Everyone in the room was so happy and blissful. So at peace. This felt right. I could sense that She was happy. After kirtan was a lecture. This lecture was about Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti yoga, like any other form of yoga, is a path to self-realization, to having an experience of oneness with everything. This is what I was longing for. This is what my soul needed. I took notes and listened more intently than I ever have. I learned this lifestyle of non-violence and self-realization and love.  After this night at Kalachandji’s, I never left.

Fast forward to present, I gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl. She is now 1 year and 4 months old and has an amazing beautiful family that loves Her. I have been vegan for 1 year and vegetarian for 1 year prior. I have not been sick in over a year.  I practice yoga every day and love what it has brought to my life. It has brought me stability from within. I have aspirations of becoming a yoga instructor after I become a plant-based chef. I cook every Wednesday for the program at the temple and love it! This is where I found my passion for vegan/vegetarian cooking. I have learned so much but now I want to learn more. I love knowing where my food comes from and how it is made. I make food with love and care because I believe that it is transferred to the food. I want to consume positivity.  Something that is untainted by GMO’s and other chemicals that destroy our bodies.

Through yoga, in whatever form, you attain self-realization. The food you eat feeds your spirit and your physical body. I want to learn more so I may teach others how to love themselves by eating well and being well.