As I sat cross-legged on a chair opposite my manager in the yoga studio’s lobby, I listened intently to all the feedback coming from her mouth. She had just taken my class in order to graduate me from teaching level 1 classes to level 2 and sign off on the 30-class internship new instructors have to complete before they’re promoted to instructor. Everything was fine–the class, the eye contact with students, the cues. No complaints on all things I was genuinely nervous about. But as we started to focus on how to end class, she brought up something that punched me in my gut.
Make it personal. Talk about your “why” and what brings you to your mat. Share that story with your students.
Hold on. Was that not apparent? Had I–the great advocate of the practice, mala-wearing, Om-chanting, divine lotus-sitter of the mat–forgotten to mention that?
Sh*t… I completely left out the most important reason, the answer to why I come to my mat. I was grateful for the call-out. A reminder on why I started practicing in the first place sent me back a few years as I jotted notes while riding the CTA. It wasn’t that I had lost my why, but a great friend once told me that teaching yoga so often can keep you from your own mat, that it can cloud the very reason you started practicing yoga in the first place (Thanks for this, Charlotte.)
So I feverishly scrolled through my board of quotes on Pinterest trying to find one that would resonate with my spirit and prompt a post. This is what I came up with:
I am blooming from the wound where I once bled.
If you’ve followed this blog, you probably know I am living with depression and anxiety. You might also know about my past relationships and how, like most yogis, I came to the yoga studio for the first time after a long-term relationship blew up in my face. But what you might not know is that yoga has been–and continues to be–an evolution of self. It is a discipline, a mirror reflecting all I try to hide from. The depth of which yoga affects me is profound. I would even go as far to say that it borders euphoria.
When people ask me how I’m doing so well or how I don’t even look like I have depression (side note: WTF does that even mean?!), you’d think my most obvious answer would be medication. And that’s half true. The other half is comprised of exercise, therapy, self care, and learning how to love myself all over again sans boyfriend. For so many years, I found myself in my partner. Whatever was missing computed to being single. So, I’d go out and find myself a man and think, “Sure, this is fine.”
But it wasn’t and after hours of therapy, all of the wounds started re-opening. Losing my dad at 14-years old. Living in a small apartment with my mom deciding on whether we could afford both the electric and water bills. Feeling like I’d never had a “normal” college experience working two jobs and going to school full time. Struggling with FOMO before it actually became an acronym and wondering why every relationship I was in began with all of the promise of forever and ended with me wondering if all of it was a lie. At 26, weren’t you supposed to have your life figured out?
Every event that shot me down left unseen holes in my flesh. Exposed. Vulnerable. Exhausted. Sick of feeling the eyes of people whispering “Poor her” to each other as I blindly navigated an extremely rugged terrain. It was rough and I won’t lie by telling you it was anything but a struggle. When you put all of the experiences together and mix it with mental illness, it’s magnified by one-hundred. You aren’t sure if what you’re processing is normal or if it it’d be better to swallow a whole bottle of clonazepam just to stop hurting. This tunnel ate up the light and I’d convinced myself it’d only get darker.
I will always be indebted to my friend, Beth, who pulled me from the rubble, handed me a yoga mat, and said, “We’re going to breathe it out.” The instructor who taught my first class I ever attended walked into the room, took her place at the front, and as we moved into setting our intention she talked about the heaviness we all feel, the breaking of the heart, that glassy film shielding our eyes from seeing what it is truly beautiful. Within those first 3 minutes of class, tears rolled down my cheeks as I squeezed my palms tighter and focused on the message. I knew in those minutes I would be OK. I would fight my way to feeling better. I had to choose between sink or swim and damn it, I wasn’t about to drown no matter what.
The reality is, I needed to find my “why” in moving forward. I needed to find things that moved me, excited me, made me feel purposeful. I wanted to explore, peel back the layers of identity I’d associated with when I was in a relationship and discover who I was at my core. In the end, it led me to a yoga teacher certification, improv classes at Second City, a love of flying in planes, and the quality time I needed to send with myself building up the woman I eventually want to become. It also led me to a love I deserve–a true partner who is kind, supportive, blatantly sarcastic, and a eater of all good food.
So, the lesson…what is to be learned from our weakest and darkest moments? What can be said of those times we wish we could forget?
My answer? Do not try and erase your past. What makes us into the people we become is the power to persevere, to keep trudging along no matter how long it takes. Most importantly, do not apologize for how you feel. Never feel sorry for having depression, a broken heart, baggage to carry. Some are just better at hiding it, but in the end it always catches up to us.
I am so glad to have revisited my “why” in this post. Sometimes, I think I get caught up in looking like a yogi or comparing myself to friends on social media that I forget how important my personal journey toward happiness is mine alone and does not need comparison. Sometimes I forget to look down at all the unseen scars where wounds used to be and show gratitude for the struggles that have led me to this exact place in time. And if your “why” is still buried beneath a pile of rubble, take a step toward listening to your heart and following its advice. You never know when you might stumble upon your answer.