I remember the moment that everything changed.
It was day two of a life coaching seminar in New York City I had signed up for after falling into a dangerously deep depression. I had had a major breakthrough during the morning session. A New York City bohemian chic woman had confessed to the group about an attempted rape on her at a young age and how keeping that secret from her family had affected her entire life.
In that moment, the voice and words that had repeated in my head a week earlier when I contemplated suicide popped up again. “You are not good enough.’’ And again I asked, who is that? All at once, I had an answer.
It was me—the five-year-old version of me. She was lonely and scared after a violent breakup between her parents. She lost the attention of the man she loved most in the world and now had to do whatever it took to maintain the love and attention of her mom.
In the past year, I had made a significant number of changes in my life. I had divorced my husband of two years, who is a good person, but not the one for me. A relationship I knew wasn’t going to work in the beginning, but I ignored the red flags because I wanted to “help” him. We succeeded in developing a wonderful friendship, but it wasn’t enough for me. I needed passion, passion in a relationship with someone who had their own passions.
One Saturday after an emotional back and forth with my then husband, I set off to New York for a three hour yoga class with a yoga guru named Dharma Mittra. My favorite yoga teacher had raved about him and I was searching for a school for yoga teacher training so I pushed myself to go.
The moment I walked into the warm and sacred studio space on 23rd and 3rd street, I knew I was home. I felt like I was being held in my mother’s warm arms as a child. I wanted to laugh and I wanted to cry. This is where I would become a yoga teacher. I had finally found my true way to help people and now I had found my teacher.
Practicing with Dharma was challenging physically, mentally and spiritually. What I loved most about him was that although he spoke of God, our purpose in life and living a vegetarian life, he also made fun of himself and appeared humble. I signed up for his training shortly after.
Dharma’s yoga teacher training was more than I could have ever imagined. I connected with a few of the other students in a way I had never connected with anyone before, men and women. I felt like we were a family, we understood each other and loved each other unconditionally.
The training was physically exhausting, mentally challenging and spirit awakening. The physical part was the practice to exhaust the body so that the mind could be more available to quiet itself for meditation and self-contemplation. I experienced so many beautiful moments of bliss on my own and with my new friends.
At the end of the training Dharma said, the true practice of yoga is out there and New York is the best place to practice it. The yoga he taught us was the settling of the mind and brightening of the spirit. And he was right—the hardest part was going out into the real world and maintaining it in yourself so you can effectively share this gift of peace and joy with others.
The next day I went back to work as a full-time senior marketing specialist at Hess Corporation, a major U.S. oil company. I had hated this job for almost four years now and had suffered weekly breakdowns with my disconnect between wanting to be an honest and good person all the time and meeting Hess’ demand for playing the corporate game.
I decided that I would share my newfound peace and joy with others and that would make this job great.
That didn’t work; the happier I was, the more others seemed to be annoyed by me and want to bring me down. As I walked into the building in the morning, I could feel how the energy changed in me and the people around me. Everyone’s shoulders would hunch on the elevator; they would take the deepest sighs, and their heads would drop as they reluctantly walked out onto their floors.
I hoped that bringing yoga would help those who wanted it, but was met with opposition by the CEO who stated that yoga was unsanitary and therefore could not be offered in the building.
To try and maintain my happy feeling for as long as I could, I started looking for yoga work. I thought this would be hard, but my effort matched my results. Within a month, I had 11 classes, a mix of group and private classes in addition to my full-time job.
I loved teaching and meeting new people so much and my energy lasted for a few months, but eventually, my director started noticing my prioritization of yoga. She took away my flex hours, which I had for a year and piled on more work.
Under this pressure, I did what I thought was the practical thing to do; I did what the voice in my head influenced by my mom said: “The economy is very bad, Brenda. You can’t give up your job at Hess, Brenda. You are lucky. Yoga is nice, but it won’t pay the bills.”
So I started giving up my yoga classes and focusing more on my marketing work. This resulted in a promotion at Hess and the beginning of my deepest depression yet.
One Saturday night, I sat on the couch of my apartment and felt so lonely and scared that I cried out loud. “I am not good enough! I am not good enough!” I asked myself why and had no answer. I cried myself to sleep that night hoping the pain would go away, but it only arose ten times stronger.
I called and texted my closest friends and family hoping they could give me the wise words to snap out of it, but no one could. Luckily, the warmth of my mother’s nervous hug helped me get through the day. I broke down every day at work that week and went to see a therapist who made me feel even worse than before I walked into his office.
My friend from training changed everything for me when she recommended the life coaching seminar. It had changed her life and self-confidence and it would for me, too. The seminar helped me realize that my self-doubt stemmed from my childhood abandonment feelings, which are not unusual.
The realizations I had, coupled with my yoga training, finally gave me the strength and conviction to call my dad and ask him if he loved me. All of my life, I thought he didn’t and that he would die and we would have never made amends. My heart beat out of my chest as the phone rang and he picked it up.
“Dad,” I said.
“Yes, Brenda.” He said.
“Do you love me? Why did you break up the family?” I asked, shaking on the steps of a New York City building on a blistering summer afternoon.
“Brenda—I never wanted my family to break up. All I ever wanted was a family since my dad left my mom and I—and of course I love you.”
That moment changed everything. All of a sudden, the world shifted. It felt as if everything became lighter in feeling and color.
All of a sudden, I could be whoever I wanted to be.
I knew I would be a successful yoga teacher or anything else I wanted. I knew I deserved a man who loved and respected me because now the first and number one man in my life loved me. That meant a lot more than words can express.
The next call was to my mom.
“Mom—I want you to know that I love you and that I am quitting Hess to become a full-time yoga teacher.”
“Estas loca!!!” my mom shrieked.
“I understand you are saying this because you love me Mom, but I am still doing it. I love you.”
And I did. I walked away from my six-figure job at Hess and never looked back.
My entire life I knew I wanted to help people and I finally found the main way how—through yoga.
Letting go of the fear and committing to making my dreams come true has allowed me the three most fulfilling and magical years of my life. I now lead my own international retreats, teacher training, and private and group classes. My story and passion for helping others and community has also allowed me to partner with inspiring brands like Lululemon Athletica.
My advice is to slow down, breathe and ask yourself if you are living fully, happily and without regret. Your happiness is the biggest reward possible. When you are happy and healthy, you can truly be there for yourself and others. Isn’t that worth the risk?
When Brenda began practicing yoga in 2005, she was working as a senior marketing executive for a major oil company, a job that left her stressed and unfulfilled. Yoga gave her the clarity to see the life changes necessary to find happiness and the courage to make them a reality. Brenda chronicles her true stories in the past and present of her colorful journey as a yoga student and teacher in the NYC area in her Girl Gone Yoga blog. Her hope is that they inspire you to not just practice yoga, but also live it. As you will see, it can be fun, scary and hilarious.Learn more of Brenda’s tips on yoga living and practice via her web site.
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Assist Ed: Josie Huang/Ed: Bryonie Wise