January 19, 2013

The Co-dependent Yoga Teacher. ~ Shawnee Thornton

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You can only be saved if you want to be saved.

Having grown up in a family where there was alcohol and drug addiction, I am no stranger to a life of co-dependent relationships and behavior patterns. I have always gravitated toward putting myself in the role of the “fixer,” the one who will make everything and everyone better. I have learned through many disappointing relationships that you cannot “fix” another person. Although this is something I have come to understand, it is not an easy pattern to break.

I had to do a lot of self-analyzing to identify and break these patterns in my relationships. I have come a long way, and am now able to experience truly healthy relationships with healthy boundaries.

When I was a young girl, I truly believed that I could save my father from self-destruction, and my mother from pain and heartache. When I was not able to do this, I felt a great sense of failure and even ownership and self-blame. I carried these feelings with me, and perhaps subconsciously made it my goal in life to save someone else if I couldn’t save my dad.

Years and several co-dependent relationships later, I reached the ultimate conclusion that you can only be saved if you want to be saved, and you are the only one who can do it. No one else can do it for you.

I am a teacher by nature. I have taught special education for years so it was only natural that when I delved deeper into yoga, it became my passion not only to practice yoga but to teach yoga as well.

I have noticed, when I am teaching, I become very in tune to my students’ breath, their facial expressions, and the subtle changes in their physical energy. I have caught myself on several occasions wanting to “rescue” my students from a pose, wondering if I should pull back to make it easier on them, internalizing their struggle on their mat.

Being a yoga teacher has inadvertently become a lesson for me in my co-dependent reactions and responses to other people’s struggles.

It has, I believe, also been a tremendous gift, an offering. A way for me to be more in tune to my own thought patterns and responses. A way for me to change a cycle in my life that no longer serves a purpose.

When this comes up for me, I remind myself that I am simply a guide. I am here to create a space for others to be in tune with their own needs, to change their own patterns. To save themselves if need be. When I am able to offer this space with no attachment to the outcome, no responsibility for what others ultimately choose, I can truly enjoy the process. It is amazing how liberating it can feel when you let go of that sense of control, the feeling of responsibility for others’ happiness. Who knew yoga could teach so many lessons?


Shawnee Thornton is a special education teacher of 13 years, as well as a yoga instructor in San Diego, CA. She has been excited to fuse her love for yoga with her love for teaching, and has been teaching yoga to her students with autism and special needs. She is currently completing her 300-hour training with YogaWorks.  She has a love for art, music and life. She has a beautiful 11-year-old daughter, two adorable pups and is about to marry the love of her life.



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Assistant Editor: Thandiwe Ogbonna

Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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