by Emilie Milkulla
New beginnings at Yoga Tree
My first encounter with Yoga Tree was in 2009. I was visiting my parents over summer, when it’s just too hot to be in Dubai. I had a long distance relationship with Yoga, either practicing fairly regularly or not at all. Seeking to reconnect with my practice I asked the Pilates studio where I trained to give me a recommendation.
I could say my story ends here, but my relationship with Yoga Tree wasn’t love at first sight. I stopped by the Castro studio, asked a couple of questions, purchased an intro package and signed up for my very first class with Mark Morford on a Tuesday morning. I remember it like it was yesterday because I thought I was going to keel over. First, it was hotter than I was used to; second, his class was strenuous and required much focus to get through – I don’t remember ever holding Chair Pose that long! The class ended with some chanting and while everyone else seemed at ease and blissful, I felt I did not know why I was there. Feeling ambivalent about the experience, I didn’t return to use my two remaining classes.
I came back in 2010 and gave Yoga Tree another shot, mostly because I knew I hadn’t given the place a fair chance the first time around. I had been practicing Yoga on a much more regular basis that year and while Mark’s class was still just as hard and just as hot, I was in a place in my practice where I could truly enjoy it. I stayed 10 weeks in SF that summer and attended Mark’s class every Tuesday and Thursday. I became noticeably stronger – those long Chair Pose holds did pay off – and more dedicated to my practice. And most of all I had fun; I wanted to be there.
I returned every summer for the next two years and joined a teacher training back in Dubai. In September 2013, I moved to San Francisco. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would further my education with Yoga Tree. For the last year I’ve had the chance to study with wonderful teachers and have been afforded opportunities unavailable to me back in the Middle East.
That said, this first year has been tough, filled with uncertainty and difficulty in putting down roots. I many times entertained the idea of going back to Dubai, ready to pull the plug on an experience that didn’t feel like an adventure but rather like a burden.
As my second year in SF starts, and things begin to fall into place, I realize I have been impatient and judgmental. When I look back with an open heart I see that I did meet wonderful people in my trainings and made connections that are ushering in new friendships. I was part of a nine-month Therapeutic Yoga training that was truly healing for me. One weekend a month, I found refuge in a place where my ‘stuff’ didn’t exist and where I could rely on the cocoon of the warm-hearted, generous people who made up our group. I attended Yoga retreats and experienced Wanderlust for the very first time. There was indeed so much light this first year, but sometimes it’s easier to bury yourself in the shadows instead.
When I have the chance, I still go to Mark’s classes, because they’re just as fun as five years ago, but also because they remind me of my stuttering beginnings and of how far I’ve come in my Yoga journey.
As someone who moved from place to place every few years since childhood, I never understood why people placed so much importance on community. But now I know. My Yoga Tree community, on and off the mat, has given me an ingredient that’s been missing in my life in San Francisco – a sense of belonging.
Check out my schedule at www.yogatreesf.com