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October 25, 2021

Dear Yoga: I Found my way Back to You.

Five years ago this month, I started my yoga teacher training.

I was so nervous. I remember that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach each morning as I commuted to class. Come on, I would say to myself, you know you want to do this, kind of my version of a pep talk.

Unfortunately, the doubts come rushing in. Will I be good enough—can I teach?

My yoga journey started in 2004. I was devastated after I had a miscarriage at 22 weeks of pregnancy. It was only five months after I had gotten married. This pregnancy was a honeymoon baby. We were so excited, newly married, and now a baby on the way—wow—nothing like getting everything I wanted. Or so I thought.

It took some months to recover emotionally and physically. I needed to wait for my body to heal before starting running again and decided to pick up a yoga mat. I saw a Rodney Yee video—”A.M. and P.M. Yoga For Beginners”—in a bookstore. I needed something to get me moving again. My doctors told me that it had to be low impact. I thought, why not? This one DVD started my path to yoga teacher training.

Who knew one decision could change a path for someone?

That first morning, as I rolled out my yoga mat in my living room in front of my TV and started that DVD, I felt this rush of peace come over me. Sitting on that mat where I could barely sit in Sukhasana (easy pose) and feeling the tightness in my hips, I knew this was the place I would find happiness. Every morning that mat became a place to wake my body and feel my breath.

In the beginning, I was horrible at it. The most basic poses were challenging, and it was hard to follow my breath to each pose, but I kept at it, built a nice video collection (this was 2004, after all), and continued to practice daily.

All the teachers are correct when they say that we can find out things about ourselves we didn’t even know existed by just rolling out our mat. Yoga can teach us to be okay with stillness and surrender to our body and mind in that present moment.

Have you ever tried to practice a balance pose, and as soon as you think about—say, your grocery list—you immediately lose balance and fall out of the pose?

Staying present can be hard to practice, but yoga with a daily trip to your mat can give you the tools to be in the here and now.

I eventually got the courage, and I decided to walk into an actual yoga studio. I was terrified! Am I even good enough to be in class? Will everyone be watching me? Why so many doubts?

By the way, no one is watching you!

Everyone in class is only there for their practice and to be on their mat. I wish we didn’t allow the fear of what others would say or think to keep us from feeling confident.

Starting something new can be scary. That class got me hooked, and I kept going back for more. The cueing became essential, and the subtle changes the teacher would make were eye-opening—it would open the pose, and the breath moved so freely.

I devoured all things yoga. I took seminars, learned about the different types—Hatha, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Vinyasa—I landed on Hatha and Iyengar as my favorites and took to understanding those philosophies. I enjoyed the slower movements and the use of props to help bring my body into a state of bliss.

Through the years, my teachers taught me so much. They would teach me it’s okay not to have perfect balance one day. Even if the day before, I was able to do a headstand away from the wall.

Being on your yoga mat can be a place of solace, and it gives you time to be and see what comes up.

After the new year in 2016, one of my teachers suggested that I think about teacher training. I practiced with her for over five years, and she saw firsthand how my practice blossomed. She said I would be a perfect teacher. October 3, 2016, I walked into my first teacher training four-week intensive class to become a 200-hour certified teacher.

I showed up with fear, excitement, and doubts galore.

It was the best four weeks of my life!

I was going to become a yoga teacher.

In November 2016, my husband got a cough, and all the doctors told us that he had pneumonia—most likely due to his traveling for work. The doctors prescribed medicine to treat him, and we went on with life. But the cough never got better. Eventually, he was diagnosed with cancer, and within three months, he was gone. I put yoga teaching to the side. My world had blown up, and now I was a lone parent in the depths of grief.

The mat always called my name, but my body rejected it every time I got on it. Sitting still was impossible, and being in the quiet room was deafening, not a place of solace anymore.

The bliss was gone! As I mentioned above, yoga teaches you to be present, and the last thing I wanted was to be present to that all-consuming grief.

My brain needed loud; my brain needed fast movement. I started running again and would have my music so loud to drown out those voices in my head. Of course, going at a pace that is not sustainable, you ultimately risk injury. Which, of course, happened, and I got sidelined.

I tried yoga again by going back to my teacher and class this time. I felt like a squirmy toddler in a high chair who wanted out. I never made it to the end of class—I walked out.

Grief is an interesting emotion, I have written about grief being a friend to sit with you, but in the initial acute stages—it’s not! My mind started to associate yoga with my husband’s death, and ultimately, I walked away from it completely.

From time to time, my heart would lead me back to my mat; each time, my mind would say, this isn’t for us anymore. Once again, the yoga mat would sit in the corner and collect dust.

Our never-ending thoughts keep coming at us all day; it takes work to train them differently. There is a lot of advice out there on how to get back to the things we love. Most of them we all know but either don’t trust they will work, or we say, Nah—that’s not for me!

I read a quote from Rod Stryker: “The idea that yoga changes you into someone better than the person you were before is something of a misconception. We’re not transforming into something we aspire to—we are transforming into the very thing that we are innate: our best Self.”

This quote broke me wide open. It shows me that I don’t need to look at my yoga mat to transform me into the person I was walking into that teacher training, to be my best, happiest self. My yoga mat does that for me. My daily practice no longer needs to be a 90-minute class building up to a peak pose; it can just be me with my mat and seeing where my body and breath take me.

As I sit here on my mat in Sukhasana with my hips tight, feeling happy, I am reminded that we all can return to that one place, go back to that hobby we gave up because life got in the way.

We can go back to the beginning.

Whatever that “thing” is for you—remember it can allow you to become who I think we all want to be—your best Self.

~

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