How Yoga Saved Me, Part III: The Journey Continues

When I started to write this post, I did not intend it to be three posts. I thought I would write a simple blog about how I was sad and yoga helped me be happy again.

However, once I started to write, I found I had more to say than I had thought. Most of what I shared even some of my closest friends and family members did not know before. I’m not sure why I decided now was the moment to do this (#creativequarantine). I don’t know if I wrote it just for myself or because I wanted people to know this about me or if I wanted to maybe help people who are back in Part I or somewhere in Part II in their own lives. If it helps someone, I would be very happy. If my friends learn something about me, I will be glad. I’m not looking for kudos or sympathy or anything. I just wanted these words to be out there in the Universe.

If you want, you can read, Part I: Broken and Part II: Healing. This is the last installment.

PART III: The Journey Continues

When I left England I was in a MUCH better place. I hoped to continue my practice in my next home, but it turned out there was no one teaching yoga or Pilates. I had never taught before and was certainly not certified, but I had been practicing Pilates for 10 years, and as I mentioned before, I’d had incredible instructors, so I felt pretty confident there. I was less confident with yoga, but I just sort of adapted a format similar to the fusion class I was taking in London. This was not the US, so the fears of insurance, liability, etc. were not there. I offered my services to the gym next to my house in exchange for using the gym.

I surprised myself when it turned out people liked my classes, and, it turned out, I LOVED teaching. I decided I really needed to get certified in yoga, so I took a 200-hour distance Hatha certification class. By the next year, I had expanded my teaching and was teaching private sessions to individuals and small groups, corporate groups and continuing at the gym.

I was happy, I was productive, I loved my life. Was yoga the only thing? Of course not, but it was the thing that gave me the tools I think I needed to remember to find joy each day.

I worked with a woman at a Brahma Kumaris center on learning another meditation technique. She was one of those ethereal beings who just emanate calm. Around her I felt her aura of peace and love envelope me. While, as usual, the meditation practice never happened on my own, I enjoyed that time with her and learning more tools to put towards my own practice. I was earnestly trying to develop my own meditation practice.

I dated someone for about six months, and though when it ended, I was pretty devastated, it did not destroy me. He was a kind and good man and for those six months, I basked in the love and positive attention he showered me with. I learned that even as broken as I often feel, I have the capacity to love someone that will treat me well. I finally realized I deserved that.

In the spring of 2016, I spent nine weeks in India. I got my 300-hour certification in Ashtanga yoga at a yoga center in Rishikesh and then traveled the country. I visited temples, I prayed, I meditated, I swam in the Ganges (in the north where it is crystal clear and beautiful), I listened to chanting, I sat in holy spots, I listened to music, I learned to cook Indian dishes, I shopped (a lot!!), I rode on the backs of motorcycles on desert roads, I drank chai and ate food from street vendors, I rode in packed trains and overnight buses, I argued with tuk-tuk drivers, I met gurus…I didn’t get sick once. I ate, prayed and loved all in India, and it was amazing.

I came back to the US and after a relaxing summer spent reconnecting with family; visiting my aging grandmother; developing my own practice; posting videos on line at the behest of my clients I had just left; and taking care of my body and soul, I landed back in DC, and my world sort of fell apart. The job offer I had went away in the hiring freeze. I was out of money with no job, no prospects and no place to live. My aunt and uncle invited me to move in with them till I got on my feet. I spent 6 months with them, 2 months house sitting, 3 months renting a room and 6 months with other friends (yoga clients, of course).

My income at this point was temping in offices and teaching yoga. What had started as a way to heal myself, had suddenly become part of my survival. I was so happy to be teaching yoga rather than waiting tables!

I realized it would be well worth the investment to get certified in Pilates, so I did.

I then got the opportunity to move into an apartment rent free as the building manager and I seized it. The Universe had given me exactly the gift I needed. I had a steady temp job that provided me about 20 hours of work a week, and I was teaching about 10 hours a week. Yoga and Pilates had become about half of my income and I LOVED doing it! I had a lot of 50+ aged clients, and they were so interested in my life and were so helpful as I tried to navigate what was coming next. I had a brutal early Sunday morning class that had almost a cult following. I loved that I could share yoga with such a wide audience, I loved how I felt after teaching a class and I LOVED how much they loved it.

It struck me one day that my life was not ideal: I worked long hours at multiple locations; I was biking everywhere (over 50 miles a week), so that added to my fatigue (and my fitness!); I had little free time and very little expendable income; I made far more per hour teaching than I did in my low-level office temp job; I was paying off graduate school loans and wondering what had been the point; I was single and very unsuccessfully dating on line; I had NO FUCKING CLUE what was coming next for me; and I spent hours looking for jobs, interviewing, working on my resume and feeling very frustrated. I was physically exhausted most of the time.

Yet, despite all of that, I was happy.

I got angry at times. I got defeated at times. I was sad at times, but mostly I was upbeat and positive. Mostly I knew that I would be okay. Mostly I just breathed and listened to my own voice as I encouraged my students:

“Try not to judge yourself.”
“Where you are in your journey is exactly where you should be.”
“Exhale and release that which is no longer serving you.”
“Be kind to yourself.”
“Spread joy and light and positivity.”

And it mostly worked. I realized that while forces outside of myself will always impact me, my inner strength is what matters most. My spirit has the strength to withstand most things that are hurled at it if I nurture it. (Sidebar: The Star Wars movies are FULL of references to yoga!)

The journey continues. I have a full-time job now, so my financial stresses are over (for now), but my job is stressful. I’m not biking and I’m not teaching as much, so my physical fitness level has decreased. I realized after being away from my practice for about three months that I needed it, so I found a studio to take classes at twice a week, and I’m teaching at work once a week. I need to always find a way to practice. Of course, I’m not 100% happy every day, but most days, I am. I don’t meditate as much as I should, and, case in point, I can still be too hard on myself at times. I haven’t had a long-term relationship recently, but I am optimistic that I will. I am so full of love and light and I hope to find someone who will accept that which I have to give and have the capacity to share his love and light back to me.

Yoga saved me when I was in a very dark place; yoga sustained me when I was unemployed and it became half of my income; and yoga continues to challenge me and to bring me joy. I hope to continue on this journey until my body absolutely cannot anymore.

I hope to never fall into such a place of despair again,
but if I do, I will just need to remind myself to breathe.

This story does not have an end. It continues every day that I wake up with a smile and greet the day with joy and every day that I wake up and don’t want to get out of bed at all. I am beautiful, I am flawed, I am strong, and I can find strength in myself either way.

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