I still remember the first time I took a yoga class. It was February 2007, and my husband had presented me with a gift certificate for classes at a local studio. He had hoped that yoga would release my anxiety over being a new mom and alleviate the constant state of stress that overwhelmed me with every breath. I, too, was excited to try this new way of exercising. My daily workouts had left me feeling physically strong, so I had myself convinced that I would be “great” at yoga. Little did I know that my ego would be knocked down on its knees as soon as I stepped on the mat!
As I huffed and puffed through the poses in that first class, I struggled to understand the foreign guidance to “allow your breath to guide the movement of your body.” Finally, after much shaking and panting to force my hunched over body into triangle pose, the teacher approached me and gently asked, “Where are you trying to get into? Please come down into child’s pose and breathe.” Reluctantly, I listened. As soon as I followed her instructions, I was hit by a wave of peace and a softening in my mind. “What?!” I remember thinking. “I can rest? I’m receiving permission to rest, relax, and breathe?” In that moment, I knew the practice of yoga was going to change my life.
From Gym Fanatic to Yogini
Before picking up a yoga practice, I was a cardio maven and weight lifting rookie. When it came to working out, my personal motto was “the harder, the better.” The more pain, the more gain. The more intense the session, the more results I thought I would receive. Yet, no matter how much time I spent in the gym, nothing was helping me resolve the inner struggles happening in my mind. As time would tell, my exhausting approach was leading me down a pathway to adrenal burnout and an overtaxed nervous system.
After my first experience on the yoga mat, I found myself going to class four to five times a week. Soon, I was putting aside my cardio and weight lifting routine to build the yoga practice which was strengthening both my body and mind. Yes, my ego continued to take a beating while I became more comfortable with each asana and while I learned how to regulate my pranayama. Still, it was worth it to begin to consider how breath acts as the control system of the mind. Something in me knew that yoga could transform my inner world and my outer perception of life—even if I didn’t totally understand it yet.
A Change of Heart
While I was blessed with an upbringing that exposed me to religion, shamanic practices, meditation, and chakras, all these concepts were so esoteric and “woo-woo” that I did not grasp their connection to day-to-day life. Even when sitting in church as a child, I recall wondering what any of the words being said had to do with why I wanted to exercise the moment I felt sadness in my heart.
Then it happened. I was lying in savasana—the last pose of the yoga practice, referred to as “corpse pose,” the death of the practice—and I felt a stirring in my heart. It was that same feeling from childhood of sadness—of wanting to get up and move my body as a distraction from the pain.
Instead of getting up and running out of class, tears start streaming down my cheeks. It was as if someone had finally chipped deep enough into my heart that the well of hurt stored inside began to leak out from my eyes.
I don’t remember what the class was about or what the teacher said. All I know was that it was the first time I can recall feeling safe to cry in a room full of strangers. Lying still on my back, my body not frozen in fear, each tear ran its course out of my body and onto the mat that supported me on the earth. I had built up very strong walls, and yoga had finally succeeded in breaking them down to reveal the light within my heart.
Feeling Whole Again
If you are reading this and getting nervous over the thought of tears streaming down your cheeks in yoga class, please hear me when I say this: it was one of the most beautiful, cleansing moments of my life up to that point.
I felt safely held in the nurturing presence of my teacher, comforted by the support of the earth beneath me, free to finally allow some of this pent-up pain to unburden my heart, and a flickering of joy begin to pulse inside.
No one was asking me why I was crying.
No one was trying to fix me.
No one was telling me to stop crying.
I was given the space to be fully me, tears and all—expressed openly, without judgement, and compassionately held.
I realized in that moment that I was starting to feel whole again.
The Teacher’s Journey
My journey continued to unfold, leading me to yoga teacher training and yoga therapy training. About 2000 hours of training later, I am still in the unfolding process. I learned that the journey is the destination, and the practices and teachings of yoga help to make it much more gentle and joyful!
Over the past 11 years, yoga has helped me heal from PTSD, from the constant need to run from my pain, from the feeling of needing to be perfect and a people pleaser. It has given me a positive, healthy relationship with my body and my mind, a way to discern the messages of my body, and how to use the wisdom that resides within me as an internal compass to daily life.
Yoga helped me remember my inherent wholeness and joy as a birthright.
These ancient teachings gifted me with the understanding of what it means to have faith in something bigger than me that resides within me, to be strong and gentle, to be fierce and compassionate, to be gracious and humble, to be courageous and patient, to be kind and loving… because I can.
I am gifted with the grace to teach yoga teacher training. I am filled with gratitude to be able to guide others in the teachings that helped me learn to love myself again. I teach yoga to help others remember their wholeness, learn to love all the parts of themselves that are hiding in the shadows, and embrace the beauty of life.
You were made to shine and live in the light that resides within your heart.
It is my prayer that you learn to allow that light to guide you home.