It is ironic that the title of this first post is a hashtag given that I have a lot of mixed emotions around social media. However, there are many positives that come from our plunge into online communities and I will get to that. To begin though, let me dive into what I mean when I say LETS BE REAL.
I am relatively new to teaching yoga, but ancient when it comes to practicing it. I want to be honest about where I am in my own journey so that you know exactly what you get when you come and take a class with me. My experience with yoga started over 20-years ago when I was in college, looking for another way to amp up my fitness routine. Skimming through a women’s magazine, I came across a chart about different styles of yoga that characterized each one with words like gentle, energizing and athletic. When I saw the words – ‘athletic’, ‘power’ and ‘sweat’ correlated with Ashtanga yoga, it piqued my curiosity. That 20-something version of me would never have wanted to waste precious time doing something that didn’t make me stronger, faster or fitter so the idea of doing anything gentle or meditative was never an option.
I was lucky enough to find one studio close to my apartment that offered an Ashtanga class. Keep in mind that in those days, yoga studios were fewer and far between, so it was truly good fortune for me when I got up the nerve to try the class and ended up having a phenomenal teacher, Sharif Roberts. With a small class size, Sharif was able to take the time to break down the Ashtanga series and in the years that I studied with him, I went from being completely inflexible to doing headstands and poses with my legs behind my head. I also felt stronger, faster and more powerful – all the things that had been promised. But more importantly, what happened unexpectedly shortly after learning the series was that I found myself “getting lost” in the flow. I found complete joy in doing yoga, detaching from the stress in my day-to-day living. I realized that there were parts of my mind and body I had never really paid attention to. All of a sudden, I was aware of all of this and feeling a deeper connection to who I was and how I moved through the world.
As blissful as that may sound, career pursuits, life changes and family, all took priority over my yoga practice in the years that followed. And then came cancer.
In my early 30’s, 18 months after the birth of my second child and just two years after losing my mom far too soon to cancer, I was diagnosed with it, out-of-the-blue. This is a much longer story than I will not go into here, but I faced my own mortality head-on for two years … and won. The blessing of amazing doctors, miracles of modern medicine, family, friends and an extended support system helped me heal, recover and thrive. But I also believe deeply that the mind-body practices I learned through yoga, meditation and visualization were critical in helping me go from the brink of death to being home with my boys and off to race my first triathlon in less than a year.
Cancer dealt me one more blow, just for kicks, on my 5-year anniversary of remission from the first cancer. Again, another story for another day. But that was a final straw for me. That was the wakeup call to say, you may have gone back to living “normally” before, but twice now, before I made it to 41, I’ve had to face the fact that my life could be taken from me at any time. That makes you stop in your tracks and ask, what kind of life do I really want to live? What do I want to do that I’m not doing? What is stopping me? That’s when I signed up for yoga teacher training.
If you’ve bothered to read this far, you may be coming to understand that I take very seriously the fact that life is short and it is our responsibility to ourselves to make the time here be as precious as possible. I also believe that the most important imprint we leave on the world is our interactions with each other. When we leave this world, as Maya Angelou said, “… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I live by this each and every day.
What all of this has to do with #LetsBeReal is that I am a yoga teacher for no other reason than I want to teach my students how to tap into and harness the strength and light that each of us has inside that we too often dim. I spent far too may years making myself small, being fearful or lacking confidence to take steps in directions that led to unknown places and uncertain outcomes. Becoming a yoga teacher is a huge leap into that unknowing space but one I am excited to take.
In the short time I have decided to officially teach, it is fair to say I have probably spent as many hours worrying about the size of my classes or if people will like what I have to say as I have spent feeling inspired to keep going and excited by the reaction on my students’ faces when they suddenly come fully into a pose that wasn’t accessible to them before. I know most teachers won’t express these doubts out loud, but I want to be real. You won’t find me on Instagram or Facebook sharing images of me doing advanced poses because, a) I still struggle with flexibility! and b) I would rather inspire you by showing you what I’ve helped someone else learn to do or share something that inspires me. I respect so many of the amazing yoga teachers and students out there, but it seems there are as many yoga studios as there are Starbucks and a million more who are on social media. I try not judge any of these people or places and there are many whom I adore, admire and am grateful to learn from. We are all coming to yoga and sharing it for different reasons. When you decide to start a yoga practice, you should choose to work with teachers that feel like the right fit for you. I was lucky enough to find that fit and it helped shaped the path I am on now.
Should you choose to take a class with me, I want you to know that this is a space that you will not be judged. This is a space where you can come as you are, sharp edges, inflexibility, shyness, fear, anxiety, anger, peace, joy and love and let it all out on your mat. You are as much my teacher as I am yours when you are in my class. I am honored and humbled by each student that shows up to take time during their day to practice with me. My goal for my students each week is that they will leave the mat a little lighter than when they started, unburdened by one less stress, fear, ache or pain and instead holding a little more confidence, strength, balance and self-love. This applies to my new yogis, my yogis with years of experience, my kid yogis, my cancer warriors and my yogi athletes who may come to appreciate the softer side of yoga. If you ever have questions about me or my classes, please reach out. I look forward to having you on this journey with me. See you on your mat!