I started my on again, off again, on again love affair with yoga when I was 19. Back then it was just a way to increase flexibility to supplement my training as a D1 university athlete in track and cross-country running. As it happened, that same year I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I blew out the PCL ligament in my right knee. The next year I incurred severe stress fractures in my left foot because I had been overcompensating with my left leg for my right knee injury. My college running days were over.
After a tumultuous couple of years taking prescribed anti depressants, anti psychotics and being engaged in talk therapy, I decided to go off the medication because I thought I felt "okay" again. Looking back I probably wasn't ready. The real truth was that I felt dull on the medication and I wanted out, even though it was helping me to function “normally” in day to life. This is a very common problem for mental illness sufferers.
With the grandiosity of manic states or the depth of depression in bipolar cycles often comes a great capacity for creation and periods of insane productivity. On the medication, I rarely felt emotional enough about anything to write a poem about it. I missed that “spark.”
Of course, I was at much greater risk for another episode without the meds. With some difficult blips along the way, I tried to commit myself to routine and healthful practices for mind and body. I needed to stick with routine to stay healthy, and I needed to heal from the intense periods of self-loathing that depression had exacted on my mind and body. I needed to address the thought patterns that let me get to the point of going through a manic or depressive episode in the first place.
Yoga began to turn into a practice of healing. I was not yet confident enough again to be able to wrap my mind or body around the physical nature of many of the asanas, so I did not even try. In the meantime, I got through school, got a great job and then another even greater job, bought a condo and a car and got married to this great guy, Brooks Black.
With a loving husband and an engaging job, I had some real stability in my life. I began to thrive. I came back to yoga. Not only did I begin to be able to deal with my illness in honest terms, but I also began to connect again to the physical nature of my yoga practice. I noticed that as my body changed, growing stronger and more open, so did my spirit. A burden was lifted and I no longer had to feel the weight of carrying baggage around. I continued finding new strength in my practice as I certified to teach yoga under Dana Baptiste in 2009.
I have been asked by many close to me why I would start teaching yoga. I am no "expert" when it comes to the physical practice of the yoga asanas. I only got into a full wheel for the first time unassisted within the last year.
But that is exactly what I want people to understand. Yoga is not a skinny, bendy person tied up in a pretzel!
Yoga is a personal, beautiful, healing practice and it's not about whether or not one can execute the perfect picture of hanumanasana, now or ever. It's about doing what one does with intention to find one's own best self on any given day, not anyone else's. It's about letting go of judgement and guilt and choosing to live in the present. I want to share this with others because I think it can help them heal and grow like it helped me. No true teacher is ever just a teacher. I am always a student. As I grow my own practice, I am able to help students take their own practices further. And, in turn, each time I teach I learn something new from the students about teaching and practicing yoga.
Now at age 25, as a teacher and practitioner of yoga with an emphasis on yoga for therapy (both of the physical and mental nature, as I believe the two go hand in hand), I hope to share the benefits of yoga and a yogic lifestyle with you. I have tried blogging before on an impersonal level and got stuck because I wasn't sharing my authenticity - I was too broad and unfocused. I hope to change my approach this time around.
I might digress into other topics pertinent to my life in this blog, but remember, according to the Bhagavad Gita, yoga is one’s life’s work. It is the path one is on bringing one closer to the highest expression of one’s unique, amazing self.
So which path I was born to follow? A true rebel at heart, I will carve my own path through the thicket of life and try to savor every step along the burly way.
The journey is the yoga.