While many friends and loved ones celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday, I saved my excitement for today, February 15. One year ago today I am embarked on a journey I had been considering for years. It was one year ago exactly that I took up my Yoga practice!
It wasn’t my first go round with Yoga. I was introduced to Yoga at the age of 10, then again at 16, and again in my early 20s when I spent several months practicing regularly in 2016. I was starting to enter the Yoga community in Louisville, KY where I lived at the time, but my life took a big turn and I moved to Cincinnati. I entered a marriage and motherhood soon after the move and became caught up in the routine of parenting. I lost a regular movement practice in my life.
But the more I learned about myself, the more I felt called to pursue a Yoga teacher training. Not knowing where it would take me, I signed up last year and took my first class on February 15. What a journey it has been! Now Yoga is a lifestyle as well as a career. I teach classes and private sessions and maintain a regular personal practice. I witness myself growing physically, mentally, but most importantly, spiritually every time I hit the mat. My practice frees me from stagnant emotions and allows me to focus on my own well being and growth instead. Yoga Asana, or the physical postures part of Yoga which is what happens in most classrooms in the West, is strengthening my body and allowing mobility in astounding ways. I have reversed years of chronic pain and performed postures I thought were beyond my reach. But most importantly, I feel happy! I feel far more aware of and accepting myself than I could have dreamed a year ago today.
Part of the reason I knew it was time for me to do a Yoga teacher training was because I was diligently working to address my Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). I have been experiencing this condition since childhood, and it was debilitating for many years. I was stuck in horrific, emotional and behavioral patterns that did not lineup with who I wanted to be in the world, but I didn’t know how to work through emotional distress. It took me many years of therapy to finally find someone who could help me, and she gave me a book called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. I found myself in the pages of that book. I have never been so fully understood by anyone, yet this inanimate object described me to a T. The book also offers information about healing modalities that help people with trauma and yoga was included. Since I already had a lost love for Yoga and my desire to do a teacher training was bubbling just below the surface, I decided to finally go ahead and do it.
My teacher training was intense. It was an Ashtanga 200 level training at It’s Yoga in Cincinnati. The owner and lead teacher training instructor, Indu Bhardwaj, is a half Indian, half Russian, former ballerina and gymnast, who trained under Pattabhi Jois and Sri Swami Satchidananda (both of whom are Indian and helped bring Yoga to the West directly from their respective Yogic lineages). Indu is the mother of an Olympic medalist and is 72 on the day that I write this. She is known for her precision, and those who train under her often go on to become highly successful Yogis.
The 6 month training I underwent included a great deal of anatomy and philosophy, and many hours on the mat under a scrutinizing eye. Those who had been through the program and other continuing education in Yoga let me know that the program was equivalent to a 500 hour level of instruction rather than the 200 I’d signed up for. And my body knows it to be true! Since training at It's Yoga, I have also completed an additional 50 hours of training in Yin Yoga at Mint Yoga Studio in Ft. Thomas, KY.
Now, 1 year into my Yoga journey I can gratefully say that I am going to continue down this Yogic path. I hope my practice and teaching inspires others to do the same! For those interested in the physical aspects of Yoga, my practice could surely be a motivation. I’m able to perform many advanced postures, even with my relatively short time practicing. I know how to move in alignment with strength and fluidity. But for those interested in the more internal process, that a yoga practice moves one through, my story should surely resonate.
There are many paths to healing. Yoga will not be the path for each soul in this lifetime. But for many who wish to find a firmer sense of grounding and peace through Yoga, I am joining the many voices of those who practice in inviting you to the mat. With dedication, Yoga will help free the mind, body and spirit of those who practice sincerely. I am a testament to that each time I take a deep breath rather than scream when I’m feeling overwhelmed, each time I notice I am filled with aggressive energy and hit the mat instead of a wall, each time I detach from a negative thinking pattern and instead focus on the present moment. And the biggest thing I do is something that Liz a year ago today was sure that she could manage; practice consistency.
There are many moments when I want to hide from the world and slip into old depressive self-deprecating patterns. Moments when the weight of the world and my personal trauma seem so heavy that I can hardly stand. But even on those days when I don’t want to practice, I often do and I benefit every time. Each time I work through a negative emotional state in Yoga, I am strengthening that healthy response pattern. Peace is within reach if I simply begin with raising my arms to the sky, and looking towards my fingertips, pointing the way to the Heavens.