"I WANT YOU TO OPERATE FROM A SOURCE INSIDE OF YOURSELF TODAY. MAYBE IT'S FORGIVENESS, COMPASSION, DETERMINATION. MAYBE YOU ARE FORGIVING OTHERS, MAYBE YOURSELF. IT MIGHT BE SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. WHATEVER IT IS, OPERATE FROM THAT AS WE FLOW IN CLASS TODAY."
During a class of Breathe and Flow Yoga with Sharli the other morning, we started by sitting on our mats and listening to those wise words. She prepared us for what we were about to do for the next hour. She simply told us to check into our minds and relay that into our actions during the hour we had in the studio. Before we even noticed our breath, we noticed our thoughts.
Sharli Kiner, owner and an instructor of Limber Tree, created the studio's foundation on just that: mentality. The mind. What we can accomplish, explore, understand, and create with what is inside of us. Yoga stems from the mind and the spirit. It acts as the narrator of the story of what our bodies can do. We tell it to move, this way and that, and we are then able to push through the boundaries we put in place for ourselves. At Limber Tree, it all starts with the minds that walk through the door. Every individual has a different story, a different body, and a different soul that is unique. The personal journey that we all are on in yoga is completely different from the person next to us. Sharli has been on her journey for over ten years and is still learning, discovering, and mastering every single day.
Sharli began practicing yoga at the YMCA as a trial run to get in a workout, to deal with some physical pain, and to connect with her own mind. Yoga quickly turned into something that would change her life from there on out as she learned more about herself.
"I started yoga as a way to cope with some sciatic nerve pain and like anyone else, I was dealing with other challenges. Before I found out that yoga was going to be way I managed things, I turned to substances that created an imbalance in my life. I was using these things as a way to hide. I didn't want to explore why because it was a scary place to go. I was in a haze and I realized that the choices I was making weren't serving me. They were blocking a need to grow in my body and mind. Yoga helped me to maneuver out of those tendencies and into a place where I could continuously grow."
Her instructor at the YMCA was an inspiration to Sharli. She carried herself with the calmness and grace that she radiated. Sharli wanted to match that inner harmony within her own mind. Though the actual movement of yoga was something that she loved, the peace that her instructor taught was what stood out to her the most. As Sharli's practice became a more vital part of her life, she began to understand the benefits of yoga and how it would help her and others. The gym, however, didn't hold that "rolling out the mat" feeling that Sharli enjoyed most. The place that she imagined didn't exist in Billings, Montana quite yet.
"The YMCA did an amazing job with their yoga. They got me really into it and helped me a ton. I just knew that the energy I was looking for didn't exist at the gym. I love energetic spaces. I think practicing in a place of peace is really important." She smiled. "So I created this! It's a space where people can freely experience yoga."
Sharli took advantage of the idea that Billings needed a peaceful space where the mind could be free from the distractions of a gym and the concepts of a workout. The focus of Limber Tree was tied to the mind, the body, and the spirit. She wanted to combine them into one being during our practice. Yoga allows us to understand all three and become aware of each one. Once we start to learn our bodies and who we are as a complete being, we start to become more aware of our movements. When we move we can tune into the capabilities we have and the way we are built inside and out. We can tap into ourselves and see what we can do rather than honing in on just the body.
"Nothing is more important than the other. I think of it as a trinity: mind, body, and spirit. It all connects with one another but some only focus on the physical part of it. The ego gets in the way of the growth of the mind which can hinder the physical growth in the end. It's all intertwined. However, I think the physical benefit is just a bonus. It really does start with the mind."
We tend to put our mind second to our bodies when it comes to an activity. That's because anything that involves movement obviously involves our bodies. The word 'yoga' is said and we often picture someone in a pose. Of course, we use our minds for most everything we do. Yoga just gives us the time and place to give everything about ourselves what it needs with an emphasis on balancing 'the trinity'. Without the mind, we don't know our bodies. That can hold us back when we don't challenge ourselves enough but we might cross a line that we didn't know was even there. If we aren't acquainted with all aspects of ourselves, how are we supposed to know what we can and can't do? More often than not, the mind is what we focus on the least. Sharli learned this when she pushed herself a little too far during her practice.
"I injured myself. I pushed my body too far. Why was I wanting so much to get into these poses that weren't good for my body? Well, I figured out I wanted to impress people. Once I figured that out, I needed to know why I felt the need to do that. It all just leads to figuring out who you are physically and on the inside."
The power that our thoughts have over us is dramatic. In yoga, when we step onto our mats with a clouded mind, we can't seem to find balance or focus. A handstand will seem impossible if our thoughts tell us that it is out of reach. The same goes for our bodies. If we aren't aware of the parameters of what our bodies can accomplish than we can end up not reaching our full potential or in Sharli's case, injuring ourselves.
"It wasn't about the things I was doing with my body. It was about learning my body more than anything else. It was a good thing that I injured myself. It didn't feel good at the time but it allowed me to learn more."
This is what Limber Tree is made of. The practice of yoga allows us to delve deeper into ourselves so we can push, calm our body and mind, breathe, feel the burn, release, grab on, be amazed and excited, absorb what we feel, undergo discomfort, play. All of it. Limber Tree was created for people to learn and start a journey unique to themselves starting with the mind.
"EVERY SINGLE TIME I TEACH A CLASS I'M REMINDED WHY I CREATED THIS PLACE AND WHY IT NEEDS TO BE HERE. IF I CAN JUST CHANGE ONE PERSON'S DAY THEN IT'S WORTH IT. IF LIMBER TREE CAN BETTER SOMEONE FROM THE INSIDE IT WILL CHANGE HOW THEY PERCEIVE EVERYTHING ELSE ON THE OUTSIDE."