How Yoga Changed My Life

Name: Nicole DeAvilla
Location: Marin County, California, USA
Occupation: Yoga Teacher & Bestselling Author of The 2 Minute Yoga Solution

My first introduction to yoga was a Yoga for Dancers Workshop while I was in college at UCSC. The instructor gave us stick figure illustrations of the routine. Then one of those unexplainable things happened: I began practicing the sequence, every day. I had never set out with the intention of practicing yoga regularly, let alone every day. It just happened. Depending on how much time I had, I would spend anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours practicing. I did this for at least a year.

Later, after I had graduated from college, I found myself living in San Francisco. At this time, I was not practicing yoga nor dancing and I found myself in a lot of pain and going into a downward negative spiral. After learning that I had practiced yoga in college, a colleague of mine named Cheryl (her name is now Nayaswami Lila and she went on to be an assistant and cook for Nayaswami Kriyananda.) suggested I try yoga classes at a place called Ananda.

Ananda San Francisco was offering a teacher training course and something inside of me just told me that I had to take the course, that it would be my lifesaver out of the pain. I had no intention of teaching yoga, however something was strongly telling me that it was what I needed to do for my own healing.

I was the youngest person in the class and with my dance background I was physically able to master the asanas more easily than most of the others. However, I very quickly learned that my deficiency was elsewhere. It so happened that this group was very advanced in yoga lifestyle, philosophy and meditation – probably more than the usual yoga teacher training group.

I allowed myself to be open-minded about all that I was learning; it was new and very different to me. I decided that rather than judging everything during the course, I would experiment and try all of their suggestions. Gurus and miracles, meditation, karma and reincarnation were all new concepts to me and I had to work hard at opening my mind to these esoteric ideas.

I had back pain up and down my spine and at times radiating down my arms and legs. Interestingly, practicing even some of the more advanced yoga postures helped me to feel better. However, sitting still for meditation was the most painful thing I could do – excruciatingly painful.

Among the many nuggets of wisdom taught by my teachers, Dhyana, Ram and Pranabha, was that if a person meditates on the eyes of a true guru or saint that they will be blessed – even if they are only meditating on a photograph. One afternoon I desperately wanted to meditate. Having experienced little tastes of meditation in class, I knew I wanted more of its nectar. But every time I tried, I ended up meditating on a worsening pain.

On this day I thought that if I meditated on the eyes of a saint or guru that perhaps I would be blessed to be able to sit and meditate. The only problem was that I didn’t think I had any pictures of a saint or guru. Then I realized that I had a copy of Nayswami Kriyananda’s book, The Path. His photo was on the cover. “He’s a saintly man.” I thought to myself. “I will look into his eyes.”

I set myself up for meditation, I placed the book in front of me, and I prayed and looked deeply into Swami’s eyes. I began by alternating looking into his eyes with closing mine and visualizing them as I practiced the techniques that I was learning. It took tremendous willpower to keep the focus as I sat. As it usually did, the back pain was creeping up on me. I kept willing myself to stay focused on the eyes and as I did I asked for help. After a time, something happened that I can only describe as a miracle: I no longer felt any pain whatsoever. I had transcended the pain and gone deeper into meditation than I ever had before.

When I came out of the meditation, however, my back pain was not cured. It was still there but that momentary experience of being pain free made a believer out of me. Curing the back pain altogether is another miracle story for another time.

I went on to finish the three-month Yoga Teacher Training program. Though I had not intended to be a yoga teacher, the very next day after I graduated with my yoga teaching certificate in hand, I was teaching a yoga class. Nearly 30 years later, I am still teaching yoga and loving every second!

Nicole DeAvilla lives in Marin County, California with her husband and two teenage children. In addition to living, researching, writing and teaching about yoga and yoga lifestyle, she enjoys hiking, being creative and spending time with friends and family. Having been inspired by her own mentors and having felt the support of a yoga community in her own growth, she wants to give others the same opportunities. She is passionate about making yoga accessible to all people and providing support for them through The 2 Minute Yoga Solution book, community and events and The 2 Minute Yoga Club. Find Nicole on Facebook: and Tweeting at: @NicoleDeAvilla. Join Nicole for Twitter Chats #Yoga4Moms, #Yoga2DStress, #4YogaTeachers and #YogaSFBay.

Edited by Jeannie Page.

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