Cheryl Van Sciver is the co-owner of Balanced Planet Yoga. She teaches all-levels at the studio but has a special place in her heart for beginner classes. We asked her to answer the following 5 questions about her yoga practice:
- What are some of the challenges you have experienced in your yoga practice and how did you work through them?
I have definitely had my share of issues with the physical practice of yoga. Allowing my ego to get the best of me or pushing myself way too hard in my pursuit of a pose. This resulted in some seemingly unnecessary injuries. I say seemingly because it was at times when I had to modify my practice or confront the actual “why” behind the need to push myself past my edge that I was able to gain a lot of ground in other aspects of the practice that involved dealing with the patterns of my thinking. As my teacher Cameron Shayne says , “What you do on the mat, you do off the mat.” Ultimately, doing the internal work that my practice reveals has been my greatest challenge. Moreover, I had to accept that just as the physical practice has no end, there will be no final gold-star, I figured it all out end to my yoga journey. The practice truly is life-long, and I am grateful for coming to know this as truth.
- What is your favorite posture and why?
My favorite posture – oh my goodness this is so hard! There are the obvious ones for me – being able to handstand and backbend at 50 is pretty amazing. However, my favorite yoga pose is probably chataranga. On the surface, it’s easy to just gloss over it and say, well that’s just a push up, but there is a lot going on in this pose. It is probably the first posture that I realized how strong I could make myself physically. Chataranga taught me that I can do hard things on and off the mat. I can remember in the beginning of my practice having to modify to my knees or having to skip some of them as I built up strength and endurance (and by the way, I still need to skip them some days!). What I dig about chataranga more today is that this is a whole body pose that requires awareness between the mind and the body. So much to adjust, engage, and breathing is so required! It is a lot like life right? When everything is working together, things go more smoothly and are easier to lift!
- Do you have a favorite book on yoga? What’s it about?
I really enjoy reading Stephen Cope’s books. The Wisdom of Yoga and the Quest for True Self are very good and worth the investment of your time. We work with the Wisdom of Yoga in yoga teacher training. Both of these books try to show how yoga is very relevant and a powerful tool in navigating a busy life filled with responsibilities, messy relationships, and other modern day dilemmmas. In Wisdom of Yoga, Cope helps to unlock the meaning of the yoga sutras in a way that is just a lot easier to grasp than some of the translations out there, while in Quest for True Self, he talks a lot about the physical practice as a way to find your way back to yourself. I just downloaded his book Soul Friends, which is a look at relationships and how they are springboards for further growth.
- Do you remember your first yoga class? What drew you to try yoga?
Oh, I sure do. My sister Jennifer invited me to meet her for a class. I was at a big transition point in my life. That nagging feeling that there was something more, 30 pounds heavier, and my anxiety was through the roof. Add in the beginnings of hormonal changes towards menopause, and I was literally ready to medicate myself. But there I was mat rolled out next to my sister in 110 degree heat with, I don’t know, 100% humidity (it felt like it might actually rain in the room). People around me seemed quite unfazed by the tropical atmosphere as they methodically moved from pose to pose with such grace. I could barely stand on one foot. I thought at one point I was either going to vomit or pass out, but I didn’t. I grabbed onto something that night that I wouldn’t be able to articulate for some time. Anytime we are faced with a situation like that, where we are new and not very good at the activity, we have a choice. You get to choose to be defeated or inspired. I left that first practice very inspired and determined to find out more.
- What’s your favorite quote and why?
I am a quote freak. My Instagram account is usually filled with them. One of the quotes that I use a lot to motivate myself – “No mud, no lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh. It reminds me to be grateful for the hard stuff and it reminds me that the hard stuff can always turn into something beautiful. It is why I have a lotus tattooed on the inside of my wrist. Because I have known difficulty, because things aren’t always easy or simple, I can also know joy. Without the contrast, how would I, or any of us, know the difference?