By Kamrin Baker
When you go to Build-A-Bear Workshop to, well, build a bear, you are instructed to pick a fabric heart halfway through stuffing your new friend. The employee then directs you to do a little ritual to essentially bless the heart with all the love you’ve got for your stuffed animal. This is the part where parents usually roll their eyes and boyfriends blush when they make a puppy plush for their valentine. I should know, my sixth birthday party was at Build-A-Bear, and I was a champ at typing up those birth certificates.
“Rub it on your cheek so your friend knows how to smile.”
“Do a little dance so your friend knows how to celebrate.”
“Rub it on your tummy so your friend likes all the tasty foods.”
“Give it a kiss so your friend knows how to love.”
“Hold it in your hands and make a wish for your friend.”
I can never remember my wishes, but I remember how it felt to go through the procedure of recognizing and sharing an essence and an energy from my own being—as trivial as it may have been. It taught me mindfulness, intention and altruism.
Now something of an adult, the only other time I’ve ever felt that kind of generosity and grace is when I do yoga. This time, though, the little fabric heart is my own solid, beating soul.
Bring your hands to your heart and set an intention for this practice.
Take a deep breath in and release. Lots of love in, lots of love out.
Move into plank and hold yourself strong.
Downward dog to catch a wave and find what feels good.
I’ve been practicing yoga for a little over a year and a half, and while I have taken a few classes—mostly through UNO’s campus recreation program or Yoga Rocks the Park in Midtown Crossing— my true yogic journey has stemmed from at-home practices guided by the YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene.
Adriene Mishler (and her dog Benji) leads free weekly practices on her channel. Every January for about three years, she has conducted a 30-day yoga challenge, which brings us here. After practicing with Adriene’s videos for months, I knew I wanted to set some real goals and add some discipline to my routine, so I endeavored to begin the 30-day journey as my 2018 New Year’s resolution.
It seemed like a sign because this year’s journey (titled “True”) began on Jan. 2, my 20th birthday. As the month veers closer and closer to conclusion, I am proud to know that I have practiced yoga and made a time and space for myself every single day.
In fact, the tradition of yoga has been around for what is believed to be about 5,000 years. Beginning in northern India, yoga transformed from scriptures and mantras into actionable techniques that were refined and changed over time. It feels like all these forces and moments throughout history have led me—and millions of others—into a place where it’s possible to connect mind, body and spirit without even leaving my room.
Adriene’s channel and goal of making yoga and activity accessible to all kinds of people has liberated me from the mindset that exercise has to be forced, painful or heavy. Using a single mat, a 30-minute video and my own bones and muscles has become enough for me. I haven’t shed 15 pounds and I don’t have six-pack abs, but I feel like the best version of me.
Her clean studio with plants and a pup makes my dorm room somehow seem cleaner and more organized. Her attitude makes mine more malleable. Her directions are not pushy and usually make me laugh.
Some people have the preconceived notion that yoga is a more “hippy dippy” approach to physical activity, or that “it’s just stretching,” but squeezing the most out of every practice has shaped me into a much happier, healthier and mindful person. And honestly, Adriene won’t let you quit without at least having had you feel something “yummy.”
I can feel the difference in my posture and breath after every session, and my mental health has benefitted dramatically from the added mindful meditation that comes right before breakfast every day. I am better because my body has shown me what I’ve been capable of all along.
I’ve been dabbling with the overarching concept of belief lately. I’m in an intro to world religions course and within the dialogue and discourse of the United States in the last two years, I’ve learned to find my beliefs and stand my ground within them, funneling them into protest and action while vocalizing them into conversation and change. There are beliefs that identify an all-knowing being and there are beliefs about policy and legislation, but the beliefs that I’ve come to classify as my favorite are the ones that enliven my self.
In the 2017 Wonder Woman film, the goddess herself says that mankind doesn’t deserve her hard work and salvation. Instead of giving into the demise of man-made war, however, her character arc’s mantra is “It’s not about deserve; it’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”
I believe in the goddess within, the power and vulnerability that act as one.
I believe in balance; hard days and easy ones. Good and bad.
I believe in deep breathing.
I believe in taking time for my own wellness.
I believe in painting my toenails to match my yoga mat.
I believe in myself.
And I, too, believe in love.
And my wish for my new friend—my 2018 me—is 11 more months of belief and intention, no matter how long I have to warm up my heart in my hands.