A year of reflection-Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Namaste and and thanks for taking the time to read this. As I write this, my 200 Hour Teacher Training Certificate sits overhead, with the date July 31, 2016, written on it and signed by my mentors and teachers. Really? A year ago already? Seems completely impossible that time has flown by at the pace it has. Even more strange, is that I ACTUALLY teach yoga to other people…like, a LOT of people! I am so fortunate to be able to be a part of the amazing community at my local studio, Asheville Community Yoga, where not only do I practice and have taken classes for the last two and a half years, but have now also have taught at for 11 months. When I first stepped into this studio, I had just separated from my ex-husband of 11 years, which was a very toxic relationship that lasted so many years longer than it should have. I had worked on establishing a 3 acre mini farm, complete with a  2200 square foot organic garden, that I had spent 9 years amending soil, building beds, maintaining a greenhouse and established blueberry and asparagus beds, on top of the annual garden beds. I had two dogs, chickens, and ducks. When all of this ended, shortly after my older dog and souls companion Love, died, my ex and I re-bonded over her loss and once the initial and eventuating waves of grief started to pass, we agreed our time together needed to end. I moved out. What the hell now?? I was living in a condo close to downtown, house sitting it for people who lived in New Orleans. So grateful for my new life, but I had no earthly idea what to do with myself. I started drinking tequila, at first as a retaliatory move, as my ex was an alcoholic and I chose to try and set a good example at home by not drinking. ( major failed attempt, but my heart was in the right place.) I started to drink a bit just to “catch up on not partying” for 11 years. I started going out and drinking more and more, not that I ever REALLY drank THAT much, but I found myself almost relying on tequila to sleep. I was feeling anxious and nervous. I was TOTALLY alone for the first time EVER in my life. No one around, no roommates, and worse, no dog by my side. Our remaining dog, Reba, came with me at first, but she is a country girl and condo living in the city did not suit her. She was always at the door whining and begging to get in the car, and he missed her too. A very hard descion to bring her to the only home she ever knew, came just 5 days after moving out. No chickens or ducks to feed, nothing but me and my thoughts.

Just three days after moving out, one of my best friends, Lisa took me to ACY to take a class together. I have been practicing since 1998, but almost always with a DVD. I went to several studios in town between 2006-2009 , taking a class here or there, but never with consistency, with a good friend, Chenin who was not only my friend and massage therapist, but an amazing yoga teacher. The day Lisa and I went to class, I felt this HUGE shift in my heart. I had found MY studio. I was welcomed by the most authentic smile and “we’re glad you’re here”.  I had never really experienced that sort of welcoming to a studio before. Sure, you get the “Namaste and Welcome”, but I don’t mean the welcoming that comes with a verbal expression. I mean that when she said that to me, she MEANT it from the heart. As I stepped onto my mat every day after that, and I mean EVERY day-sometimes two classes a day-a few times, three classes a day- my heart began to heal. I cried so many times on my mat-sometimes, I had no earthly idea why, the tears just came. I felt release like no other way I have let go before. Sometimes, I straight out sobbed-head on the mat and a towel underneath, so no one could see, and just let it go. I cried for losing my sweet Love. I cried for losing my Reba. My dreams, my idea of self sufficiency and living as much off the land as I was able to create. (my dream since I read The Little House on the Prairie  books as a little girl.) I cried for failing at marriage, for the second time. (NOT that I wasn’t happy or relieved, because I was immensely! Just upset at the idea of “failing” at it.)  I cried because I felt like I had no home, or family. I was lost, and had no idea what or who I was to transform into next. And, sometimes I laughed-hysterically-at something a teacher said, because I felt he was talking right to me. Pulling me out of my shit and reminding me that I was human. I knew he was talking in general to a room of 30-60 people, but in my heart, he was talking to me. The shift began.

I took so many classes because I didn’t know what else to do. I almost felt down right uncomfortable in my own body, and space. Sometimes I would go to a class, then go for a mountain bike ride, maybe another class or hike, come home have a dance party-just to get all the anxiousness out of my bones-sometimes the tequila would creep in and then I could relax. But, I knew this was not how I wanted to treat these new feelings creeping in.  And yet, it was the thing that took the edge off so I could sleep-which wasn’t exactly happening a lot during these first few months of my new single and free life.

The more classes I took, the more the anxiety started to fade. ( I just want to touch on anxiety for a brief second: I have never experienced anxiety or depression before now. In fact, the first bout of anxiety or “panic attack” happened during a massage, literally on the table. I had no idea what was happening and it was terrifying. I couldn’t breathe, I got dizzy, my heart was racing, thought I was going to pass out. My sweet friend Heather reassured me of what was going on and didn’t leave me until it passed. She had been working my low back and hips, where emotions are stored and apparently I had a lot going on. These went on for several months-more on that in a minute-but damn, do I feel for and have a better understanding of what people go through with anxiety. It can be down right debilitating, and extremely scary. In a way, I am almost grateful to have experienced it, because I think it will make me a better teacher in the end.) All this time, taking classes, going through the motions of getting the divorce, dividing up assets, trying to be friends with my ex, which only added to all the stress, my mind was wandering to the place of “I just need to get out of here for a while to be by myself”.  So, I started planning a trip to Nova Scotia, solo, in my 1973 VW Bus, Joplin. I used to travel a lot by myself, but it had been almost 12 years since I had done that. Hence, the anxiety. A solo trip for a woman may do that anyway, but throw in the fact you are driving a 44 year old vehicle, prone to mechanical issues, and not having a mechanic. Which I also have done a lot, but got used to having a mechanic travel with me. The anxiety of the thoughts of “Can I still do this?” and “What will I do if something happens?” kept me awake. I got on my mat, even more.

So, fast forward: I went on the trip, one year to the day that Love died, and nothing happened-well, except, that EVERY thing happened! The anxiety vanished, for good. Oddly enough, this anxiety came to a screeching halt the day I spread some of her ashes at the very top of the Province, overlooking the ocean. My heart started really healing. New possibilities flooded my brain. The lightbulb started to brighten in my mind: “Why don’t I take the teacher training and just dive deeper into my practice?” I had no intentions of teaching others, but more for me and when I traveled. The thought just hung out for a month or so, really reflecting on it. The trip totally changed me, reminding me of impermanence and that nothing ever stays the same. I was growing, changing, becoming who I wanted to be again, and trying to follow my heart instead of my head, for once.

A couple weeks after I returned from my adventures, which side note- if you have never been to Nova Scotia, get your booty there! It is breathtakingly beautiful and serene and the people are the nicest I have ever met!- I came home and walked into the studio and was once again home. Asheville Community Yoga is a non-profit donation based studio, where teachers donate their skills and time and students pay what they can, if they can, on a sliding scale. True Karma Yoga-Service for Others. The studio was expanding, doubling their size and in order to raise money, they held a 24 hour Yogathon. I was so in! Long story short, (too late for that at this point!,) I did 20 out of the 24 hours because I had a concert ticket and went to the show and came back, with even more donations from friends trying to buy me a drink at the show, but drinks and yoga all night wasn’t gonna work, so they gave me their money for the cause instead. Holy doors blown wide open for me!! I remember the exact moment during the middle of the night, in the wee hours, where the descion was made-I WANT TO TAKE THE TRAINING!!

I came to the studio two days later, after catching up on sleep and recovering from the Yogathon, only to be greeted by Michael, the teacher who influenced so much of my healing path up to this point, with “How are you feeling?”  I said “Amazing! I think next time we should do 48 hours!” He said” Great, I’ll teach the first 24, you teach the other 24 hours.” I smiled and said, “Well, actually I think I am going to do the Teacher Training now. ” He smiled and said, ” I know. That’s your path.”

And that is just what happened. I signed up, paid the deposit, and waited the four months until training started. In the meantime, I was on my mat more and more. I started REALLY trying to meditate. As frustrating as that can be! The weird energy and vibrations of not sitting still were still inside me, so I decided to occupy my time with the marvels of online dating! Holy shit, what is that all about anyway? What a weird time consumer! I thought I would do it for a week-you know, see what was out there and why not get a free ego booster at the same time? There are some strange ass people out there! I had never really dated, since I spent a collective 16 years out of 22 years, in relationships, and dating is so not for me! However, oddly enough, I did meet Kevin online. Of course, I wasn’t looking for a relationship because training started in a month, and I was just bored and entertaining myself, to a degree. We met at a local brewery, just as friends as he has a son and I was specific about no kids. We discussed this online that friends are necessary in life too, and honestly I was ready for some male energy back in my life. I have four brothers and always had a big circle of guy friends, and was missing that, so we met. Well, dammit, I walked in and made eye contact with him and he had this smile come across his face, and I knew this was not going to be just a friend. Even though I reiterated at the end of our one beer together, “Just friends. I don’t do kids, sorry but thanks for understanding.” Let me tell you, this man is persistent! He agreed to that, but relentlessly pursed me, asking me to events and hiking etc for a month. I was truly busy that December with traveling and working, but none the less we hung out about a month later, and have been inseparable since.

He was right by my side the day training started. He was by my side through the whole thing. And holy shit, does he deserve some credit!! I had NO IDEA what was going to happen in training. I feel like someone grabbed me by the ankles and turned me upside down and started spinning me in circles. The emotions came to the top, years of stuffing them down and telling myself I was fine and over this and that-but oh no, here they came! So much stuff came up and I was ready to deal with it.  My poor, sweet Kevin took the brunt of a lot of it. I broke up with him a couple times, and tried to keep him away as I dealt with it. But, I told you he is persistent! He was right there the whole time. Supporting me every step of the way, and still is. We had a three month breakup right after training ended, because I was so caught up in my new path and had decided during the final month of training that I did indeed want to teach, and that was my focus. My drinking had started to subside as I dove deeper and deeper. But, his didn’t, and why should it? This was my path and not his. I tried to tell him just that-My path was simply leading me somewhere else, and his path was different. I taught for four months and then took off for a month to travel though Nepal, India, and Bali with one of my best friends, Lauren, who was also in my training. Being gone for a month to study Yoga and Meditation only strengthened my love for my path -and my love for Kevin. We talked everyday, though messaging and sometimes a video call. He was changing too. It was pretty intense. I awoke one morning at 3am in a hut on the beach in Goa, India, to a picture text from Kevin-holding a rose quartz heart I gave him when we broke up earlier in the year, and a White AA chip. I rushed to the beach and called him. He explained that he was ready to make serious changes in his path, and had taken the major first step! I was in shock. I was also so impressed and amazed and inspired by his courage to make major changes in his life. And he is making changes. Taking better care of his own health, eating better and practicing yoga and meditation, as well as his biggest love, hiking and foraging for wild mushrooms and other edibles from nature.

So, here we are, together-walking our own paths that now are a lot more parallel, than criss crossing each other. Not sure how that happened, but I am so incredibly grateful to have a true partner who supports me and encourages me. It is beyond AMAZING to be on the other side of the mat-looking out at the sea of beautiful lights and faces, shining right back at me. Walking their own paths, and sometimes crying or laughing on the mat. I GET it. I have been there. Sometimes, I still have tears. No judgement or criticism-just release. It fills my soul to see people looking at me, listening to my words, and following my guidance through their practice. Words really can’t describe what it feels like to be a small part of someones yogic journey. It is truly a passion I have craved to have for my whole life. To be truly passionate about something is amazing and exhilarating, but to be able to share what I have learned about connection with your own inner divine self, and your breath and feeling into your own body, is such a beautiful and fulfilling feeling. I can’t imagine how many people I have been fortunate to share with to this date, but I have tracked my hours teaching. As of right now, I have 197 hours that I have actually taught as a Certified Yoga Instructor! I can’t wrap my head around that, feels literally like yesterday. I still get nervous. I actually like that I do! It’s humbling. I get so excited to see people coming back over and over, or recognizing me out in public as “their yoga teacher”. WHICH is a little weird..I’m a yoga teacher yes, but the whole “you’re my yoga teacher” thing is a little strange, but the recognition is nice and hearing that they like my classes or whatever they resonate with that brings them to the studio and allows me to bring my yoga to them, is so empowering and beyond encouraging to continue walking this path. The ups and downs, the twists and turns, the bumps and the smooth road, are all worth this work. AND it is work. And FINALLY work isn’t an ugly four letter word!



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