Today I start yoga teacher training.
In about 90 minutes, actually. Eeeeek.
Before I start, I want to take a moment and briefly share a bit about my experiences with yoga over the last 17 years (!) and set my intentions for yoga teacher training (YTT).
I want to capture my feelings while my mind is clear and a clean slate…Before I meet any of the other students and instructors in my program or hear any of the lectures…Before there are any expectations.
I have so much I want to say about what inspired this decision and what practicing yoga has done for my mind, body, and soul—in the last year of my recovery and my life as a whole.
Let’s get to it because this girl has to get to it, like literally.
In short, I used to loathe yoga.
The first time I tried yoga was in 2001 at a small studio near my apartment in Cincinnati’s Clifton Gaslight District.
I don’t really remember why I decided to take a class. Honestly, it was probably because my boyfriend-now-husband mentioned practicing yoga there and I was trying to seem “cool.” 😉
Because yoga certainly wasn’t mainstream in 2001. There were no Lululemon stores, the athleisure wear market didn’t exist nor did social media (honestly, y’all, there weren’t even that many websites!).
During my first class, I was completely intimidated by what I experienced because it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I didn’t understand it on any level (why are they chanting? what do they mean sync your breath to your movement? what language are they speaking? what is supposed to be happening?).
I was also intrigued.
But not so intrigued that I went back to that studio or started practicing. In fact, I didn’t go back to that studio. Ever. And I didn’t get back on a yoga mat until nearly five or six years later after my mom invited me to an “Intro to Yoga” 3-week series at Shine Yoga Studio in Hyde Park Cincinnati.
I was still underwhelmed. There were like two studios in Cincinnati and neither offered many classes (think 3-4/week); I never found anything that worked for my schedule or appealed to me.
My husband, who I mentioned had long been regularly practicing yoga—both via DVDs and at a nearby hot yoga studio—often gently suggested that I try it to calm my busy mind, but I resisted. I mean, I valued keeping my hair as pretty as possible for as long as possible so hot yoga or any exercise that involved the potential for sweat was so not happening.
It wasn’t until we moved to California in 2012 that I connected with yoga.
And cosmically enough, we relocated to California because Tristen accepted a promotion within Gap, Inc. to manage its national loss prevention division at the newly acquired high-end yoga clothing brand Athleta.
The universe is funny, isn’t it?
In California, our apartment was a few blocks away from a YogaWorks studio, where classes were abundant each day. They offered a promotional free week of unlimited yoga for newbies that allowed me to explore different styles and instructors. After that free week, I signed up for an unlimited monthly membership and I attended classes often enough to justify the monthly payment, but nothing more.
Still, that was the first studio where I really began to cultivate a connection to and appreciation for yoga. The instructors were mindful and used a kind and gentle approach to movement and quieting the mind.
I went to classes because I wanted to feel more centered and grounded, more comfortable in my body, but still struggled with following through.
I DID yoga, but I didn’t really PRACTICE yoga. I certainly didn’t LIVE yoga.
Connecting with the body, tuning in, respecting it, resting it, nourishing it were all things I was NOT doing, especially once my ED resurfaced and hijacked my mind, body, and soul.
MY “A-HA” MOMENT
When I was in residential treatment, we practiced gentle yoga as a way to connect to our mistreated, neglected bodies. Yoga was mandatory twice a week because the founder of the treatment center I was at used yoga to heal her own ED, cope with stress and anxiety, and deal with uncertainty 20+ years ago.
And if you’re thinking we were doing Bikram or Vinyasa flow, let me assure you that we were not doing anything close to strenuous. HA.
My “a-ha” moment was when the private instructor noticed me appearing teary eyed after her session and asked me what was wrong. She had discussed “connecting to our bodies” during savasana and I quickly, curtly replied, “I don’t want to do yoga. I don’t want to connect to my body. I hate connecting to my body.”
As soon as I said those words and they echoed in my mind, I felt deeply saddened by my realization that I was living in a body that I never took the time to know.
That’s when I had a deep intuition that my deep resistance to yoga was EXACTLY why I needed to pursue it.
That’s also the moment that I felt unwavering clarity that I wanted to one day, when I was healthy enough, become a yoga teacher. Even though I couldn’t really articulate why, I just knew. I mentioned being interested in YTT a few years before my ED relapse, but it didn’t seem realistic with all my other commitments.
I still can’t exactly articulate WHY I want to do YTT or become a yoga instructor.
I think on some level, I knew that yoga would teach me how to live in my body and less in my head. I think on some level, I saw yoga as a potential practice to help me befriend this human body that carries my soul.
Looking back, it’s funny how prevalent yoga has been in my life. It really makes me believe that yoga has always been part of my destiny (not to be too woo woo) and that it was always lingering in the background of my life until I finally surrendered.
I mean…Literally, right before I went to treatment, Tristen was recruited by the ultimate yoga apparel company Lululemon, which has been an amazing opportunity for him and also allowed us to relocate back to the South East to be near our families.
When I was back in Sonoma for a few weeks before we moved, I started practicing at Yoga Community after my therapist encouraged me to do lots of yoga. Not in an obsessive, extreme way, obviously. Just lots of yoga to help me connect to my body, wake up to its wisdom, and find community.
Experiencing my “new,” weight restored body in this way through yoga was and is immensely healing. It was hard to see experience my softer body and see my stomach squish and roll, but it also made the changes much easier to tolerate and accept.
FINDING MY HOME STUDIO: ASHEVILLE YOGA CENTER
Since moving to Asheville last April, I’ve cultivated a true practice and passion for it and found community and sanctuary in practicing yoga at Asheville Yoga Center.
In fact, the abundance of yoga studios offering more than 100+ classes a week (seriously there are like four studios like this here!), as well as the more soulful vibe of the city, greatly influenced our decision to move here versus other cities in the South East, where yoga is more about fitness and exercise.
I joined Asheville Yoga Center as soon as we moved in and I immediately felt at home.
I found instructors who I believe truly live yoga (Maeve Hendrix, Michael Johnson, Joe Taft, Kim Puryear, Tucker Shelton, and Tanya Neplioueva are favorites) and practicing with them has expanded my understanding of its vast benefits beyond the physical.
The more I practice, the more I understand that I’m immensely drawn to yoga not for the asanas (physical poses) and their benefits, rather for the stillness and settling of the mind and dropping into the body.
Even though those two things are unbelievably challenging and uncomfortable sometimes because #feelings.
In a year of regular practice at AYC, I’ve learned how to quiet my mind, use my breath to regulate my anxiety, tolerate discomfort, tune in, be present, slow down, and respect my mental and physical edges (and how to expand them). I’ve become more compassionate toward myself and others, cultivated a sense of curiosity instead of contempt for my feelings and emotions, and let go of trying to control everything in my life (OK, that’s still a work in progress). 😉
I’m starting to see my body as a home.
For my YTT, I’m doing a 9-weekend, 6-month program that while still intense (each weekend of training is nearly 20 hours of instruction/practice!), will allow more time for integrating and appreciating what I’m experiencing versus a faster-paced track.
I thought about jumping right into YTT when we moved here, but I realized that urgency was fueled by my need to be busy and attaining to be worthy and successful. My intuition told me that I needed more time to heal my relationship with my body and mind, more time to feel steady in my recovery, more time to BE and not DO, DO, DO.
To prepare for YTT, I decided to take a solo hike at my favorite spot (The NC Arboretum) and think about why I want to do YTT and what my intentions are before I start.
1) Prioritize recovery above everything else.
Meaning, no worrying or planning what I’ll do when I’m done. Not yet anyway. 😉
4) Be vulnerable while maintaining and honoring emotional boundaries; share my story when it feels right.
5) Remember that everything in yoga teacher training is an invitation not a requirement. Explore, be curious, be kind.
6) Share my experiences while honoring and maintaining a sense of sacredness around this very personal pursuit.
7) Treat the instructors as guides, not gurus (i.e. we are all students in this thing called life).
8) Fearlessly stand up for what I believe in and advocate for eating disorder understanding and awareness.
9) Be gentle and kind to myself and others I encounter on this journey. Remember we all want the same thing…To feel loved, accepted, and understood.
10) Practice consistently with an open mind and heart, while allowing space for rest and reflection.
11) Lastly, have fun! Don’t take it too seriously.
Or to put it better, I’ll rely on something one of my favorite Hatha yoga instructors Janna Barkin at YogaWorks once said…
“It’s called yoga PRACTICE not yoga PERFECT.”
And that sentiment is something I’ve taken with me and continue to invoke every time I get on my mat.
I have some ideas about what I hope to do as a yoga teacher (offering classes at ED treatment centers is a big dream) and I’m also going to stay open minded and trust that the right path will unfold in due time.
Easier said than done for someone who craves certainty, but I’m going to take it one (ujjayi) breath at a time.
I expect my relationship to yoga to continue to shift in the same way my relationship to my body, thoughts, feelings, and emotions has shifted—slowly, quietly, profoundly.
Looking forward to sharing more about my experiences in YTT in the months to come.
Thanks for sticking with me through my transitions. Love you guys.
Do you practice yoga? What is your favorite style or pose? Anyone ever done YTT? Share below or send me an email! email@example.com
PS: A very happy birthday to my beloved dad! 🙂