Changing Directions: Emily Star Writes on the Yogic Path

Yoga NoMa is super pleased to annouce "The Practice," Yoga NoMa's occasional publication of writings around the great practice called yoga. In this first installment, Stellar Teacher Emily Star writes about Changing Directions, and how the yogic journey, like life, doesn't always follow a linear path.

Earlier this month, I was out hiking the Seneca Creek Lake Loop up in Gaithersburg, Md. It’s a quiet 3-4 miles around a lake, with just enough people on the trail to feel like I won’t get murdered, and not so many that it feels crowded.
I realized, as I was getting out of my car, that I always walk the loop by making a left out of the parking lot. I thought that I’d try going the other way, just to see things differently. When I was barely a quarter of a mile in, I saw a frog with stunning markings. I’ve seen turtles, lots of birds, and lizards on the trail before, but I found this frog completely captivating. I rarely take photos, but after a few minutes of marveling, I got up close and snapped a few pictures, and a bit further down the trail, I took in the lake from a vantage point that I don’t think I had paused at before.
It got me thinking - what do we miss when we always do the same things the same way? Even if nothing bad comes of it, what are we missing out on? Are there other places in my life where I could be taking different routes? Or perhaps old, forgotten routes?
In the context of Vinyasa yoga, I know that some practitioners (myself 100% included) can get used to doing a particular pose or transition a particular way – especially if it’s an ‘advanced’ version – and then never go back and re-explore once-familiar territory. When we get stuck in habits like this, maybe we’ll get physically stronger. But will we remain curious? Excited about the way we move? Or will we be wrapping ourselves up in the same movement patterns without investigating all the other kramas (stages) of a pose, and how we feel in them? Can we let go of needing to move "forward"?

The relationships between how I move on my mat, and the actions I take off it, are always right there below the sticky, grippy surface. I hope that as I shift into fall, I can find the openness to enjoy the unexpected twists and turns on my yoga mat, as well as the patience to examine the first shoots of my practice: the simplest postures, the "easier" options, a soft focus on the exhale.

Emily teaches mixed level Weekend Yoga on Sundays at 10 a.m., and Yoga for Beginners and Re-beginners on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. 

Find more about the beautiful bright Spirit that is Emily at