May 31, 2012

A Yoga Teacher’s Fallen Bridge Pose Called Life. ~ Ashley DiMeglio

I was young and I was really didn’t take any interest in yoga. The first time I had been brought to a yoga class was at a local gym and it was the first class that I attended alongside my mother.

I had seen my mother do yoga when I was younger and heard about her doing yoga at a local library. I also had seen on TV. It was a fitness channel showing a woman doing yoga outside in the hills of CA. But, I never imagined my life would change from it. Yoga was always seen as a pretzel person thing to do. Maybe an acrobat? A dancer? Not a girl from a small town hidden in a valley of trees. Wasn’t yoga for city people? And what was all this meditation reaching enlightenment stuff?

I was a young adult going into my woman hood looking for something, but not knowing what that something was. Little did I know, this weird yoga practice would become my life and my dream. I was a shy kid, always staying in my room while my two older brothers had parties and people to hang out with. I stuck to my dolls and my stuffed animals while reading stories to them. I was always seen as the calm and little girl that kept quietly to herself. In high school I was seen as the quiet girl still that sat in the corner ignoring the other kids.

I really only had a few selected friends that I hung out with, but I was never lonely. I always had a way about me that I would entertain myself, but I  also loved being in others company, especially if I could help people.

After High School Graduation in 1998 I started community college and I told myself, “I’m going to be someone,” no matter what that was my plan.

My plan was to help people discover their potential. In doing this, I was looking towards a job where I could build my communication skills. I ended up in retail for six years after college and then finding my way into the corporate world after. All along the way I was discovering yoga and that I wanted to be a yoga teacher no matter what I had to go through to do it. And here is where my life begins. You can make it as a yoga teacher––I am proof of that.

My mom brought me to the first yoga class I ever rolled a yoga mat out. I was a kid and an inexperienced yoga student. I sat watched all the women and men in tight pants and wondered if I would be that flexible? And it scared me but it was thrilling at the same time. When the former ballet dancer yoga teacher laid eyes on me I immediately shrugged my shoulders, hid, and frowned.

I was dealing with growing changes in my body and the constant battle of being the best or trying to be to get noticed. My first triangle pose caused me to sweat bullets. I was trying my hardest not to look like I was doing the pose wrong. And just as I was about to give up on my pose, gracefully, my new yoga teacher came over adjusted me. I could say it felt awesome, but who’s kidding here, I hated the struggle and my ego couldn’t take it.

I cringed, gritted my teeth and laughed at myself. Why did all the people around me make this look so easy? I was destined to find this out later in my journey but as I was confronted with it I never understood how they were so good at it.  I really hated that pigeon pose thing. You know that one pose that you are instructed into and are like “what?” What is this pose and how in the heck am I supposed to put my knee where?

My mom had no hard time getting into them because she was a yogi for years and her practice was beautiful, but I sure had issues with yoga. It was a smack to my ego and I hated yoga.

After that class I swore I would never do yoga again. But, for some odd reason, I wanted to get better at it. I waited a few years and then started going to early morning yoga classes and eventually was getting up before the sun rise to get to the next yoga class. I didn’t know why I was going, but maybe I wanted to prove to myself that I could do these poses and I could be stretched into a pretzel too.

I had to get that pose called pigeon right––I wanted to not feel pain in it. I wanted to be that woman or man in front where all the back row students look at and think,“ wow I wish I could do that.” This was my ego talking and I wanted to know this yoga practice was loved by my mom and grandmother.

This is where my yoga practice began and my struggles with my ego.

As my life’s journey begun after college and after retail, I started thinking about really doing yoga. Not just going to classes and being a student, but being a teacher of yoga. It all happened in my cubicle at a marketing corporate company. I was a senior payroll clerk. I sat in my small decorated cubicle displaying my boyfriend and me in Florida and always with a smile on our faces crunching numbers. I was always thinking, “is this what life is supposed to be?”

Are we really supposed to be caged in an office, crunching numbers? Are we supposed to be coming to work in the dark morning light, only to see sun light when we stand up to look out the window from a small cubicle and then leave at 5 p.m. to the dark cold wintery night?

I had loans, credit card bills and car insurance to pay––I needed this job. But, what was my problem? I had met my boyfriend at that time at work. My grandmother worked in the same place and so did my brother at one time. I felt that this was amazing to have all the best people in my life around me. My brother hated his job at this company and was always calling me on the phone to pick him up outside. He would sneak out and slip through the warehouse, so he could leave early.

My brother was soon let go and as he was he stood up said, “Thank you so much,” shook his bosses hand and with a giant smile, walked out finishing his career at the company as the guy that was so happy he was fired.

I always respected how he was able to move forward from his jobs if they weren’t for him. If life for me was only that easy. How did he do this and how do I get to be happy?  I hated knowing that some people thought they were better than others.

This was the corporate world and I was a part of it. I eventually was given raises and slowly made my way up the ladder, where there was a small short road ahead for me. I applied for human resources jobs within the company, only to learn my bosses would have to know I was applying. How does that make sense? Now they know I’m not happy, so here we go.

Every Friday it was like clockwork, being called into the little conference room was a regular thing now––almost like it was a second job. Constant meetings and reviews for things that in my opinion were ridiculous, like not putting the right paper into the copy machine.

Then one day sitting there at my cubicle thinking––I love yoga. It can’t be hard to be a teacher––on the contrary.

How would I make money? How would I live? And did my current relationship have a ring in the future? Would I be able to afford the training? It was then and there that I discovered I could at least try to research how to become a yoga teacher. As I was driving home, I felt I needed to discuss this with my boyfriend at the time. We got along so well, I felt I could tell him anything. He was nowhere to be seen, so I went down to ask advice from his father that I respected and loved so very much.

He was always so kind to me and to this day, I appreciate every bit of help he provided for me. To my surprise, his father said to me, “I believe in you and I will loan you the money to get your training, but you will have to pay me back.” And that I did every last cent. I worked overtime at my horrible corporate job grinding my teeth as I went past 5 p.m.––the whole time all I thought, “was there is a meaning for all of this?” We must get through the bad to get to the good. I found a beautiful studio to train in that overlooked the Hudson.

The studio was a quaint beautiful studio in Nyack, NY. My trainers were amazing and taught me so much, that I to this day can hear their voices tell me about my bridge pose, “relax your seat chest rising towards the ceiling.” I feel that their teachings were a guide to a wonderful life that was ahead of me as a yoga teacher. I met a group of people that at first, I was worried wouldn’t like me. As the days and long hours of yoga training went on, we all became close friends and I still hear from them. I believe that the people you meet along your paths in life are there for a reason. To learn from and to bring you a sense of happiness to yourself.

I started yoga training in the the town of Nyack, NY, where a man by the name of Bernard started his own yoga retreat and Ashram in the 1900’s. I felt that this town was the Mecca of yoga. I was in the town where it all started. The town that would change my life down the road. I trained after work and on the weekends and I felt like I had made the best decision of my life. I was happy. I felt that I was on top of the world as people at my job would ask, “what are you doing this weekend?” And as they heard that I was in yoga training, the ooohh’s and ahhh’s started and the group looked at me as if I was a famous ballet dancer or martial artist. I was seen as the ultimate yogi, as if I were an Olympic sport of something.

I graduated with my 200hr yoga teaching certificate in May of 2006.

I should had seen where my relationship with my boyfriend was going at my graduation for my 200hrs.  He was asked in front of my yoga class graduates what he could say about me that others wouldn’t know and he replied, “ She’s very expensive.” Everyone laughed, but I was mortified and hurt. I was never one to harp on money or even care if I was rich.

My brother decided during my graduation ceremony that a beer sounds good and disappeared downtown to get one. I was actually not hurt by that. I, in fact, felt guilty in putting my family through the weirdness of a yoga graduation. The sitting in silence part was nerve racking for me at my graduation. We did this to show our loved ones and friends some yoga techniques.

I was proud of myself though and appreciated the fact they came to cheer me on. I knew my brother and I was just happy he came to cheer me on. The graduations for yoga sometimes seem like a cap and gown affair, but mainly a time to reflect on all your hard work and studying. But, little did I know that all I had learned was just the beginning.

I needed to get myself out there to teach and as a beginner teacher. It’s quite hard when you’re not used to teaching and you aren’t really sure what kind of style of yoga you prefer. Or better yet, the demos you have to do are nerve racking in front of yoga studios that are looking for teachers. You think, “oh I have this certificate to teach but, what do I do now? Where do I start?”  I was frantically emailing and calling gyms and studios, but always was told to come in and fill out an application. I thought I had these yoga jobs in the bag, apparently there was more to it. I felt like I needed to know teachers to get a teaching job anywhere.

But, I did everything myself. I didn’t know any yoga teachers, so I decided why not just try and get the word out that I am a teacher and maybe I will land some yoga jobs. As a person that went through this, I tell new students that if they teach a free community class for their training, that I will write a referral for them or even talk to a studio I know of. I know how tough it is to get a teacher job. I see this as my karma, my act of selfless action.

If all is right in the world then good vibes will come back. I don’t just do these things for recognition, I do them to genuinely help fellow yoga teachers.

I recall the first class I ever taught. It was slow and my relaxing yoga CD played in the background. I was so nervous and I wrote down all my postures on a piece of paper. I screwed up so many times, but the students never realized––they just went with it. And how would they know if I screwed up? After the class we had to give out surveys and suggestions that people believed would make us better teachers.

The critiques they gave were ego crushing. I thought to myself at times this is just a hobby and a side thing, so what if the people don’t like me, at least I’m trying.

My life was wonderful despite my nine to five job, Monday through Friday. I was stuck in a cubicle and felt that everyone favored certain employees over others. At one time I was so ahead of my game that I felt that this would be my  job for life.

I never wanted to show people I had feelings, my especially coworkers and bosses. I was brought into conference rooms as usual, every Friday afternoon, for an overview of my work progress. The company started downsizing. I had an ego that I was the best trainer in my building and that maybe someday the big boss would promote me to her sidekick. Despite all my staying after work and contributing to my job, that never happened. I needed something more just like everyone yearns for that next big thing. Maybe working towards enlightenment was my thing? No matter what I was going to try to find my nitch in this world.

I volunteered at a local Ashram in 2006, thinking my extra credits for doing this would bring me closer to yoga somehow.

I felt like I found my calling as a side job of a yoga teacher. I went there to meet the guru only to find out he had passed a year ago. His disciples were still there and I meditated and chanted with them. Instead of finding enlightenment, I learned about myself. At this time my relationship with my boyfriend was just ‘okay.’ I was still trying to find out what I was meant to do or be.

I would go to the Ashram during the week and weekends volunteering all my extra time there––checking people into their ashram dorms and registering them for night time Kirtan, workshops and yoga classes. I met wonderful and unique people. I also met people I felt a strong dislike for. At times, I felt like I was psychic––how could I feel such hatred for someone I’ve never even met? I taught a yoga class for them realizing that this student would be in the corner doing her own yoga practice and not paying attention to the guided class.

This angered me. My ego looked at this as, “oh she’s trying to do all those fancy postures in the corner so that she can show off.” Was she though? Maybe, but I continued the class and to my surprise she stopped me outside the cottage where the class was and told me it was an amazing class. You really can’t judge people until you get to talk with them and know them. I misjudged what she was thinking. This was the start to my yoga lessons in life as a teacher.

I think I actually might have had an encounter with some of these people somewhere else in my life and maybe they had a big impact on my life somehow. They say that my great  grandmother had some psychic in her––maybe my intuition is high from that or maybe just the fact that I’ve opened my heart up and exposed a lot to others. All my life I have had these kinds of conscious gut feelings that things were wrong or good. I try to ignore these feelings sometimes because it freaks me out. As this one woman in the Ashram would come and ask me questions, she would anger me for no reason at all. The only thing she did was look at me. I saw her a couple times, years later, at yoga events and still had the same feeling.

I continued a year later working on the weekends volunteering my time in return for yoga classes and Sanskrit studies. I worked all weekends when I wasn’t teaching in the gym and spent my time checking people into their rooms at the Ashram. I now lived  five minutes from the Ashram with my boyfriend, so I never had to live there.

I started realizing here that some people weren’t coming to experience yoga, they were coming to say they stayed in an Ashram or say they took a sort of spa vacation. Some even where there because the city was just too much for them and they needed a country setting. Nevertheless I loved my time spent there.

One day, sitting at the front desk, I saw my mom pull up in her cute sports car up to the Ashram’s entrance.  I was living off the grounds with my boyfriend for months now and my mother was curious to see the Ashram. She came into the reservation office and was upset to see where I was.  Before she came into the office she met a man that told her where I was and my mother wondered how he knew she was looking for me. We didn’t look alike and she brushed it off and came into the room yelling “you need to get out of this place I don’t like it Ashley!”

Despite my mom telling me to leave the Ashram, I continued working for the Ashram––handing out sheets for beds and telling people where the Ashram’s rooms and cottages where on the grounds. I met a wonderful woman that sat where the guru used to sit and she talked about topics that hit home. I learned about how to be good to myself. What I needed as a yogi was to make myself happy and that my life, no matter, what is perfect. But, what was this word perfect? It sure wasn’t a word I knew of. I felt like I was different and maybe a little crazy. But, I always think if you’re not a little crazy then you’re not normal. But what’s normal? There is no normal in this world. Normal is only a word to those that think their world is the only world that exists. Normal had no meaning in my life.

After being  in the Meditation temple I decided it was time…time to move on from this Ashram. It was a year that I had been at the Ashram and from this day forward I may never return who knows. This was one part of my yoga journey that was incredible to the building of my yoga blocks.

My inner Ashley was brought to life here and I will never forget it.

Then it happened––my life came to a crashing holt and my world stopped. My home that I lived in with my dog, was crushed to pieces  The house was owned by my  boyfriend. I came home to him putting my clothes into bags and him telling me to get out and pack my things. He told me that this relationship was over and that he no longer loved me.

I knew we were fighting and he loved to go out and party with his friends, but this never was an outcome I saw coming. His eyes showed a then humbled spirit turn into a man I did not know any longer. It turned out that he had found someone else. I didn’t learn this until after the breakup. One night following the breakup I found out that the yoga space I rented was going to be closing.

I was crushed and had to live in my car at a local shopping center’s parking lot for a few days until I had the guts to call my mom and ask her if I could come home.

I had to move all my new life into my mom’s––I felt defeated and ruined. My life was over and would never be the same. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A major blessing in disguise. It took me days to rebuild my ability to come out of my bed. I can truthfully say what got me out of bed was the love of my yoga class at my local gym.

I met a woman that had cancer and she swore that my yoga classes helped her. This kept me moving forward. There is something to yoga that helps people. It’s a selflessness act and a beautiful awakening of wellness to others. I wanted a part of helping others so that I could down the road mend my torn to bits achy heart. I was single and it was scary. I was never single for too long anytime in my life. I think I always just felt that my calling was to be with a man at all times.

I would travel to Nyack, NY and sit at the river’s edge and dream––then see I was alone. I had no one to love me. Yes I has family, but I missed the love I felt for another. I miss the love that I saw in his eyes. It was as if I tried a hard wheel or bridge pose and my bridge came crashing down. It was so scary I would constantly cry. I would drive to places not knowing where I was going but always drive back to my mom’s with puffy red eyes from crying.

I dated and started seeing other men to fill my void, but only learning that they too also cheated and destroyed my heart. I kicked up my heels and became a partier and always felt guilty. My mother would yell at me from coming home at all hours and sometimes not even coming home. I needed a change again––this was not good my life started spiraling to a terrible fate ahead of me.

I became addicted to working out. Sometimes going on three gym trips a day everyday, taking diet pills and never eating, was my health plan. I lost a lot of weight and I came to the conclusion that this had to stop––I needed to become healthy in a better way.

I decided that yoga helped find a journey  for me years ago when I was young. Why not train again and further my studies? When I was in yoga training, my life seemed to have a goal, a meaning and studying yoga would keep me on track.  I started my 500 hour yoga training in hopes it would help me forget my life’s problems. I went every chance I could.

I was single and doing yoga and for my journey in this part in my life I was happy again really happy.

I met men with money, men with houses and men with stability issues––you name it I dated him. Then my prince charming arrived. My man in shining armor. The love of my life and my Italian Guido. The first question ever asked when I was single was, “what kind of guy are you looking for?” My answer, “an Italian with muscles.” Yes, I know superficial, but we all have our type we see in a partner.

Danny saw me at the gym I was teaching yoga at and would always arrive at the gym early every time I taught. He would position himself on a treadmill in front of the group class door. Needless to say, I never saw him. I was never the kind of person caring about stares or impressing people. Danny had no luck and decided to contact me on MySpace. I went out with him on a blind date with a lala sense of attitude and a flighty mind not expecting anything.

I had no clue what to expect and I had no clue what he really looked like. Where the pictures on MySpace real? Old?  As I entered the restaurant my eyes met his and he said, “I can’t believe this is really you.” He was such a starrer at the gym. He always imagined talking to me and now he was. We started dating and seeing each other almost every day and I truly felt I have met my soul mate. He soon asked me to move in and I did. We lived in West Nyack, NY in a small basement apartment.

It was February of 2008 and I was home. I had the week off and back to South Jersey  from my grandma’s funeral. I also watched the news.  As I was listening to the weather, a breaking story was on. Fire in a warehouse. It was the place that I worked at. I even saw the files being wheeled out from the smoke. I started yelling, “what?? What??” I called my boss and was told I had no job. How does something like this happen in one’s life? Was this for real? This stuff only happens in the movies. Why me? I fell into a depression and worried how I am going to pay for bills. But was this was another blessing in disguise? It sure was. I started doing my yoga more and teaching. Eventually I started teaching yoga full time and I really felt as if I had found my true calling. I still feel this way.

Danny and I were married on April 25th 2010.  What a wonderful wedding it was. I had invited family, friends, and fellow yogi friends. One friend actually printed out an “ohm” sign as I walked down the aisle to put me at ease. It helped and I smiled down the aisle looking at my handsome groom.

I was asked several times during the reception to do a crow pose in my dress. I was tempted, very tempted, but man that would be in my pictures forever. A crow pose and my underwear propped up in the air, how wonderful.

I had found the man of my dreams and a man that I hope to have children down the road with. After the wedding I started getting involved in helping animals in need and organizing yoga events to help fund animals. I went around to different yoga studios in Upstate NY holding special and helpful events that benefited the wildlife affected by the Gulf Oil spill, animal rescues, and also animal shelters.

Live, love and be loved. All of the rest that we endure is yet another journey.

Editor: Lindsay Friedman


Ashley DiMeglio is a certified 500hr E-RYT yoga teacher. She is an ambassador for Manduka. Her vast portfolio includes various certifications and studies within Hatha, Vinyasa ,Ashtanga, Restorative,Tibetan, & other yoga teachings. Her personal experience has brought her to realize that if you lead with the breath the heart will follow. Ashley did yoga with her mom at an early age. Ashley’s grandmother dabbled in yoga in the early 1970’s and 1980’s with a guru. She has lead outside yoga events in Upstate NY; Assisted in Yoga Festivals, Organized and Creates yoga events to raise money for Animal Shelters and Animal Rescue Groups, American Cancer Society, Underprivedged Children, 9/11 Families. Organized and Created “Do Yoga help Wild Life affected by Gulf Oil Spill that raised money for the cleanup of Wild Life affected from the gulf oil spill.  She makes yoga an experience and a journey of discovery.


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