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Discovering Yoga on Wall Street

When I was 22, I started my career on Wall Street at Goldman Sachs.  I was an Equities financial analyst.  It seems like a fancy title, one that alot of people coveted during that time, but I was really just an over-glorified secretary.  My tasks were fairly menial and I didn’t have to think much.  In the farthest part of my mind, I always felt like I was wasting my time.  Even though I didn’t like my job, I stayed because it was considered prestigious.  It paid alot of money.  I was good at keeping up a facade of “being important,” and wore nice clothes from Jones NY and Banana Republic.

For the first time in my life, I experienced intense stress.  My body revolted with severe neck, back and shoulder pain.  It was so bad, I had trouble sleeping at night.  I had no idea what was going on.  I was too young then to know to “listen to my body.”  But I had heard of an exercise called yoga, so I thought it would be a good thing to try out.

During that time, I belonged to a gym called Bally’s Total Fitness.  I saw a yoga class on the schedule and peaked in.  Everyone was contorted in these strange positions I’d never seen before.  It gave me a kind of creepy chill, but I wanted to try it at the same time.  I didn’t know what to think about yoga.  I wondered if it was some kind of cultish practice.

It took a while before I decided to take a yoga class.  It was a strange and surreal feeling.  I remember my teacher clearly, a woman of Asian Indian descent, and feeling that she was some kind of special being.  I liked being near her.  When she touched me, my body tingled.   I had never experienced anything like that.

But as we went deeper into the practices, I discovered I was not as limber and flexible as I thought I’d be.  This seemingly simple exercise was deceptively hard!  Even though I had been a dancer, nothing would be prepare me for this kind of movement.  I was straining and trying, huffing and puffing.  Shame and embarrassment began to bubble up and permeate through me.  Exasperated, I realized I wasn’t good enough to do yoga.

I decided that I hated yoga.

But there was a distinct memory I had about the yoga teacher I would never forget.  At the end of class, when everyone gathered around her, she said “people have emotional responses to yoga.  They hold emotions in their body and when their body opens, people sometimes cry and sob because they release their old feelings they haven’t felt before in a long time.”  She then went onto talk about “taking on other people’s energy, so I go to my guru.  He puts his finger on my forehead..”  she pointed to the center of her forehead and goes, “my body shakes, convulses and sweats until all the energy releases out of me.”

I listened to her wide-eyed and dumbfounded.  It all sounded strangely bizarre but then something about it seemed true.  I left feeling both turned off and attracted to the whole experience.  It would not be until 2 years later that I would want to try yoga again.

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