Back to Yoga

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I like to think of myself as someone who opens my heart to any and all of the changes. Someone who gets excited by it and thrives off of it. I have this image of myself in my mind, but when it comes right down to it, it’s not accurate at all. Any time I experience any real change, I may seem like I’m cool and that I’m going with the flow. But inside, there’s a torrential downpour of anxiety and overwhelm. I need consistency. I need a home base. For the last four years of my life, this home base has been yoga. Yoga was my constant. My comfort. My home. No matter what storms were raging in my life, I always had my yoga mat. I always had that safe space. I created it for myself, and it was wonderful. Unfortunately, I took my safe space for granted. I abandoned my home.

The Catalyst

For two years, I worked in the accounting department at a staffing firm downtown. If you knew me at all, you might not understand why. It just doesn’t add up. Trust me; I’m with you. It wasn’t the plan. It was just something that happened. It was good for awhile. It was safe and secure. My paychecks were great. Health insurance was solid. Future was fairly established. I was able to save up some money and begin to live comfortably. I was following all of society’s encouraged milestones. But inside, I was suffocating. My creative impulses were silenced. My ideas and dreams had no oxygen. I was losing myself in the monotony. This was not the life I had dreamed for myself, and although it seemed just fine on paper, my heart was drowning. I knew I had to do something. I had all of these passions, but I never had a clear idea of what I wanted my life to look like, at least in reference to a career. I’d always been a little lost in that area, unsure of what I wanted, but now I was feeling the pressure. I had to get out and soon. Otherwise, I would spiral down and down until all that was left was darkness and the shadow of dreams never realized. I had some money saved up, and once I built the courage up, too, I knew I had to jump. I had to leap into the unknown. But first, I needed at least an inkling of a plan. And the first thing that came to mind was becoming a yoga instructor. That was it! I loved yoga. I hated the corporate world. Becoming a yoga teacher sounded like a great path for me. It was decided. Now, that I had a solid alternative, I registered for a 200-hour teacher training at Inhale Pittsburgh for the entire month of June, and I put in my notice at my job. I did it. I created change, and I was on my way to making my dreams come true.

The Downfall

The month of June was an exhausting, fun, emotional, anxiety-ridden time for me. I was neck-deep in yoga - philosophy, anatomy, history - and I loved it. I truly was embracing the change this time. I knew I had made the right decision. I was finally where I belonged. Fast forward to July, after my training ended, when I was thrust back into reality. I needed money. And fast. My savings had run thin, and it was time to turn this yoga passion into a rent check. At that time, however, I just didn’t feel ready. Not yet, I told myself. I’ll find some other job first, and then when I feel more settled, I will begin to teach. So, I got a job making juice at a juice bar. Not very lucrative, but definitely not corporate. And bonus: I got free juice. Besides, it was just a stepping stone. Little did I know, it was a very small and quick stepping stone. Just three shifts in, I got a job offer elsewhere - at a wellness studio promoting the yoga program and planning events. There was no free juice, but it was an easy decision. The universe was providing. Magic was happening. My feet had yet to touch the ground since the day I stepped out of my yoga teacher training. Everything was moving quickly. My life looked completely different than it had a few months prior, but I was in a never-ending state of gratitude. I couldn’t believe this was actually my life. I was doing well at my new job, I was feeling very accomplished, I was doing something that I actually felt passionate about. BUT I hadn’t stepped foot on my yoga mat since June. Sure, I was practicing some at my new studio - auditioning new teachers, creating new class concepts - but it was different.

Yoga was no longer my practice, my safe space, my home - it was work. And as time went on, my job became more and more involved and my to-do list just kept growing. I had no energy left for my practice because my whole life had become yoga. And not in the same way as it had during my training, but in a stressful way. I couldn’t practice yoga without thinking about work. And if anyone asked me why I hadn’t begun teaching yet, I didn't really have an answer, except “Not yet. Maybe I’ll teach when I get more settled.” Maybe. The whole concept of teaching lost its entire appeal. Maybe I’m not meant to teach at all. Maybe just not at this time. But either way, I was totally resistant to the idea of teaching yoga, and I still wasn’t practicing. I began to eat foods that didn’t agree with my body. I ceased doing the things that made me happy. I became too exhausted to do anything I loved, so I did nothing. Meanwhile, I still felt as if my life was moving in the right direction. My photography began to pick up and gain momentum. I was writing more (sometimes). I was working a job that was in a field that I was passionate about. And I finally had friends that I met during training that were wonderful and likeminded. So, why was I feeling so run down and exhausted? Why was I not listening to my body or my heart? Why did I abandon the one thing that made me feel like myself: my yoga practice?

The Restoration

The stress and overwhelm kept building and building. The waves kept rising higher until they crested and crashed over me, causing an emotional breakdown and my boyfriend’s tear-soaked shoulder. I couldn’t go on like this. I had to make another change. I needed a routine. I needed boundaries. I needed to reclaim my yoga practice, my safe space. My home. I sat down with my journal and my pen, and I worked through this one of the only ways I know how: I wrote. I wrote about what I wanted my life to be and not to be. I wrote about what makes me happy and what stresses me out. I wrote about the ideas I had about my future. What kind of person I wanted to be. And then I thought about the things I needed to do to make it all happen. It seemed so simple: I needed to do more of the things that make me happy and less of the things that stress me out. I need to take solid steps toward the dreams I have for my future, and I need to eliminate those things that are standing in my way. A plan began to emerge from the ocean tide that had held me under. I began to surface. The next week, I reduced my hours at work. I created boundaries that were necessary. I took control of my life. I decided to put more focus on my photography and my writing, and I committed more time to brainstorming and planning for my future. I created a space for myself to breathe and to return to the core of what I want out of life. I created the freedom and the opportunity to come back home to myself. And then, it happened one foggy October morning. I rolled out my yoga mat. And although I had the knowledge and the experience to free flow, I decided to go back to the beginning. I needed a fresh start. Yoga looked differently now, because I was different. My life was different. I needed to go back to the beginning. I turned on a YouTube video of a yoga class with the first teacher I ever practiced with, and it was there, on my yoga mat, with my first teacher and a tear-streaked face that I found myself again. I came back home.

The Future

These days, I am still feeling resistant to becoming a yoga teacher. Maybe it’s temporary, or maybe it’s just not meant for me. I may not be destined for a life of teaching yoga, but I know one thing for certain: I am destined to a life of practicing yoga, and no matter the changes that occur in my life, my practice will always be there for me, evolving and growing right by my side. Even when I begin to stray, my practice will always be waiting for me, calling me back home. Grounding me, supporting me, loving me.  So, wherever you are with your practice, whether you practice religiously every single day or you haven’t practiced in months, know that your yoga mat is always there. Waiting for you. Throughout all the changes around you and inside of you, she is there. Ready to give you whatever it is that you need. She doesn’t care if you have to go back to the beginning and rebuild your foundation. She doesn’t care if you start with only five minutes a day. She just wants to be with you. Your yoga mat just wants to take your hand and gently guide you inward - back to yourself, your safe space, your home.