May 5, 2013

From White Picket Fence to Gypsy Yogini. ~ Dana Damara

Photo: Photo Dean

I woke up in a terrible sweat and felt like I was suffocating. Literally suffocating.

This wasn’t the first time I had had this dream. It was so real. I looked over at my husband, he hadn’t moved. He was sleeping so sound and so deep.

This night marked the first of 6 months of insomnia, gut wrenching emptiness, uncontrollable sobbing, consistent anxiety, numbness, nausea and an overwhelming sense of fear.

I had it good. I was in a four-bedroom home with a white picket fence, nestled at the end of the cul de sac, equipped with a two-car garage and large backyard. I made my own schedule and I had the resources to get what I needed and more. I was able to enjoy leisure time with my daughters pretty much every day. There was a vast green belt behind our house and our yard was decorated with handmade garden boxes, flowering trees, berry bushes and shrubs we all had planted. Daily play-dates with neighbor kids, forts built with blankets and furniture, popsicles, private school for my children, camping trips, Disneyland—you name it, we did it.

My life was a creation of my own thoughts and it was humming along. That is, before I woke up from societal expectations and family patterns. From the outside, I had all the security and stability a girl could ask for. But the recurring dream of suffocating told me that my soul wanted something completely different and I had to start listening intently.

For three years, I struggled with my mind telling me to stay, and every bone in my body telling me to leave. I was afraid of being judged, of being poor, of ending up alone, of making the wrong choice. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to care for my children on my own.

So many fears and old beliefs came up for me, so I turned to yoga and that became my prayer.

It was my yoga practice that first shook me from my imperfectly perfect life. I came to my mat when my oldest was only 6 months old because I thought I wanted to lose weight. I had pain in my hips and low-back, my neck hurt and my left shoulder would freeze up constantly.

Oddly, the pain wreaking havoc on my body had nothing to do with injury or muscle overuse. And my tears in Pigeon Pose had nothing to do with tight hips. I did yoga, got massages, went to chiropractors, got acupuncture and nothing would alleviate the deep pain I felt all the time.

The reality was that this inescapable pain was the truth that lived dormant inside of me and it wanted to escape: This wasn’t the life I wanted. I would step off my mat, feeling alive and realigned after a vigorous yoga practice. And then I would go home to my husband and children feeling tight, anxious and angry.

This life, no matter how much “security” it offered me, was not right. I knew I had to make a move. I had to unravel all the patterns. It was time to set new patterns, but I was unsure of what that looked like exactly.I had to do it without blame, anger or resentment but instead with love, compassion and deep gratitude. And I had to jump into a new life with my eyes closed, not really knowing what it was going to look like.

How did it feel to pull the plug on my own dream? To declare a “time-out” in my life? What did it feel like to rummage through wedding photos, baby pictures, legal documents, items that were “ours?” How was it to give away or sell all of my belongings and move to California, totally unsure of what was ahead of me?

It felt very selfish. I felt every chakra fire up—fear, guilt, shame, grief, lies, illusion and attachment—all of them screaming at me! Leaving my children at my ex-husband’s house was and still is the hardest thing I have had to do in my life to date. It was one helluva blurry-eyed drive from Portland to San Francisco.

How did it feel to leave the life I thought I wanted? Scary as hell. How was I going to make it on my own as a yoga instructor in San Francisco? Every sabotaging voice that had plagued me for years was incessantly speaking so loudly I couldn’t hear my own heartbeat some days.

But truth be told, all of that, now in the past, has been liberating as hell.

Photo: Lotus Carroll

It’s offered me time to grow into myself—the new me. It’s offered me space to discern and align with what I want to be, do and contribute. But most of all, it’s made space for healing. Deep, deep healing.

Relationships are healing—relationships with my ex husband, my father, my mother, my children and myself. Layers of lost love and hurt continue to fall away, but the dander is admittedly a bit itchy at times. As each layer sheds, I see myself more clearly, life comes rushing at me and my heart sings in gratitude for it all, every second, every argument, every tender hug.

Living from that place of inner wisdom can be daunting. It requires deep faith, strong self-love, friends who see you for who you are becoming and a daily practice of listening and believing.

The truth is that we are all here to create and heal relationships—relationships with our family of origin, with our soul-mates, our twin flames, friends and mainly with ourselves. Our inner wisdom guides us to deep healing and an expansion so vast, that our limited minds can’t even fathom its infinite potential.

True healing brings about self-love and an empowerment to use your voice and share your purpose with the world.Trust that sound coming from your heart—it’s your soul on a megaphone. It will carry you to your next level in life, no matter how scary it may seem.

How to start? Well, this isn’t a bona-fide check list, but it worked (and still works) for me.

Step 1 

Step on your mat. Just get on it and treat it like a sacred space because it is.

Step 2

Move and breathe, even if you don’t know what you are doing. Start linking your breath with your movements.

Step 3

Let go and have fun. Be okay with falling. Laugh at yourself.

Step 4

Try a pose that’s really scary for you: Your ability to get into a pose you never thought you could will liberate you off your mat, too.

Step 5

Sit in silence every, single day. I mean it! Silence is where the answers lie. I know it’s hard but you must do this. Period.

Step 6

Believe: If you thought it into existence and you did steps one through five, believe it into truth.

Step 7

Allow the universe to deliver. Sit back and “chill-lax” (that’s what my daughters say); it’s all on its way, in its own time.

Expect this to be a lifelong journey for yourself. So after you go through the seven steps, repeat, repeat, repeat and then repeat.


Dana Damara has embraced yoga as a lifestyle both on and off the mat. She radiates that power of soulfulness and spiritual awakening in everything she does. An author, yoga instructor, community connector, and mother of two young girls, Dana embodies a balance of strength and grace, encouraging others to find that sweet spot within themselves.

She creates a flow that strengthens the body, opens the heart and quiets the mind. Her inspiration to dive deeper into the practice came when she began studying the subtle body. This knowledge not only shifted her yoga teaching but also changed her own life: igniting her purpose to educate others about the power of yoga and how to take their practice to a more potent level.

Dana leads yoga classes, workshops, retreats and teacher trainings grounded in following our own inner wisdom and is based out of San Francisco, California. You can find her on her website, danadamara.com, or on Facebook.


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~ Assistant Ed: Thandiwe Ogbonna

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