I started practicing yoga during a very dark time in my life. I was recovering from the ending of a relationship that poured salt into every deep wound I had (abandonment issues, doubt about whether I was lovable at my core, the trigger of being cheated on over and over again, feeling I had to be perfect to earn love, I could go on). I didn’t wander into a class with the intent to heal, I simply wanted something that would challenge me physically, the way ballet had for twelve years of my life. In fact, I walked into my first class feeling pretty certain yoga wasn’t going to be “hard enough” for me; I thought it was stretching on the floor, and going to a forest with your guitar after class. I “accidentally on purpose” walked into an advanced class with my youth and my confidence. I’d been doing ballet for so long, flexibility wasn’t an issue, so I figured it was in the bag, and I promptly had my a$$ handed to me. I was humbled in every way imaginable. Yoga was nothing like what I’d envisioned.
What hooked me at first was the absolute physical challenge. I had all this flexibility, but no strength. I’d been carrying tension in my shoulders my whole life. Down dog? Agony. Chaturanga? Impossible. How the f%ck were these people doing this stuff? So I kept going back, and I noticed all the people who were doing all these things were also breathing in a very conscious way. They were focused. They seemed to be in a deep state of listening and responding, and not to the teacher, to themselves. It took me awhile to put all this together, of course, but over time, I realized it had nothing to do with flexibility in your body. I thought that was gonna get me a free ticket to the front of the line. I began to understand that yoga has to do with flexibility in your mind.
I started having the experience of breathing and feeling, and not thinking and judging, just for moments at a time, at first, but even that was amazing. Awe-inspiring. Liberating. As in, “I get a break from the relentless critic living in my head? This freaking rocks.” I started to observe my internal dialogue which was loud and shaming. If I fell out of a pose, I’d feel my whole body flush, and worry that other people might be laughing at me or judging me harshly. I experienced the world as an unsafe place, so why would it be different here? It didn’t occur to me that people were focused on their own practice and couldn’t care less, or that the environment might be safe and full of compassion.
Awareness is the first step toward change. You live with that inner voice all day, every day. It’s the most familiar thing in the world to you, so if that voice beats the crap out of you, berates you when you make mistakes, torments you when things aren’t going the way you’d hoped, tears you down when you’re already on your knees to begin with, you probably just accept that as, “the way things are.” I did. It never occurred to me to question whether that voice knew what it was talking about, or that there was any alternative, but little by little, the deeper aspects of the practice seeped in. I started to think about what it would be like to have some compassion for myself, and I decided my yoga mat would be a place where I was kind to myself, where I fed a loving voice. The truth is, whatever you feed will grow and strengthen, but without awareness, you may be feeding all kinds of things that weaken you, like ideas you have about yourself that simply aren’t true, or tendencies that aren’t serving you, or a way of being that brings you no peace or joy. You can only make a choice if you realize there’s a choice to make.
Underneath all the white noise and “shoulds”, I started to hear this small but powerful voice that was full of truth. I don’t mean “the” truth, I mean, what was true for me, because I’d reached adulthood with no clear idea of what made me happy or what lit me up, or what I was doing here. Prior to that, I’d made decisions based on what I thought I should want, or on what other people wanted me to want, and it had landed me in a world of pain. Suddenly I felt like the lights went on in an abandoned house, and someone stoked a fire and swept the floors, and flung the curtains and the windows open for the first time in a long time, so the light could get in, and that voice went running through the house yelling, “Yes!! Finally!”
Now I’m not going to tell you it was all awesome and light and shiny from there, because that was just the beginning, just the glimpse of how life could be. That kind, loving voice grew stronger, and it was also synced up with my intuition, but this was a whole new way to consider life. There was resistance. There was depression. There was the realization that a lot of the “old way” wasn’t going to work, and the “new way” wasn’t entirely clear to me yet. It took me a few years and all the courage, will, determination and dedication I could muster to keep following that yes. There were times I wanted to close the windows and the curtains and crawl under the covers and give up and go back to being numb, but I think once that yes grabs you, it’s got you.
Rebellion is normal. It’s counter-intuitive and scary to intentionally crash your own hard-drive. People you’ve known forever may look at you like you’re absolutely nuts. You may lose some friendships along the way, but I have to say, I don’t think there’s much point in doing life any other way. I’m pretty positive we’re here to love. I believe we’re made of energy, and the energy we’re made of is love, and the more we open to that, the more we embrace what we are, the more life flows. Everything I write about every single day comes out of twenty-plus years of yoga practice. It’s a tool, a science, an art, a philosophy of traveling inward so you can connect to your true nature and everyone and everything around you in an authentic and beautiful way. I teach because this practice transformed my life. There is nothing that feels better to me than sharing those tools. I think the combination of contemplation and physical practice, where you flood your system with new information and resources, is incredibly powerful.
Sending you love,