Two months ago, I graduated from Yoga Teacher Training. I have had a lot of time since then to explore where yoga fits into my life now. Now that I have stepped out of the bubble of Teacher Training, the reality of “what yoga is” has changed for me. I have done a lot of thinking on how yoga fits into my life spiritually and as a believer in Christ. During one week in training, we had to write a “faith statement” and for me, that is where things began getting blurry. I listened carefully to what my classmates and teacher said, and I stepped away from that night questioning myself. Questioning my faith- my idea of what God was. Not because I suddenly didn’t believe in Him, but because I realized I may be getting myself in over my head. I kept this inquiry between myself and God, for the most part. “Lord, if yoga becomes bigger than my faith in you, show me,” became my prayer.
If you read my blog at all, you know that I don’t really hesitate to share my heart. Sometimes, it takes hours of spilling everything onto the keyboard in front of me, just to get it out there, then deleting and restarting. The writing I did previous to this post, I did not delete. I chose to post something different. I write with a lot of passion. Lately, I’ve been writing with anger and uncertainty. To keep a long story from being any longer, I will get straight to the point. I’ve been watching someone I love dearly destroy herself. I have also been seeing her hailed as an inspiration and hero on social media by those who don’t know what is truly going on. It has brought up a ton of emotions, but what I want to talk about in this post, many may not be in agreement with. The role of social media, particularly Instagram, when it comes to health, fitness, and recovery; has bothered me for quite some time. Social media has allowed us to connect to one another, but it has also allowed anyone to create whatever image of themselves they want. Not only that, but that image can easily be sold to the rest of the world. So, as someone in recovery, ona journey to health, or someone just browsing, how can you be aware of these factors and protect yourself?
Please, please, please remember that you simply cannot believe everything you see on social media. Remember there is a person behind the screen. A human being, who struggles and feels and messes up just like you do. The picture someone paints is not always an accurate representation of what is going on in their life. People LIE- ever consider that? What if that fitness inspiration behind the screen isn’t who they say they are? It is a very real possibility.
Hashtags generate followers. Seriously, try it. The next time you post a picture of food or some sort of physical activity, try using the following hashtags: fitfam, fitspo, fitnessinspiration, healthyliving, fitfood….I could go on. I can pretty much promise you using hashtags like that will get you more followers on a consistent basis. Why do I bring that up? Popularity. The more followers or likes a person has,, the “healthier” and “more right” they must be. If you listen to that guru, your life will change! Following those food recipes and adhering to those fitness routine suggestions will make you “healthier”. Add points if anything is gluten free, paleo, calorie-blasting, full of antioxidants, naturally sweetened, light, or fat-burning. Again, do you know the person behind the screen personally? I say that because I have literally watched people whose health I know is in danger post stuff like that and get a huge, supportive response. Healthy is the goal, right? Fitness is the destination!
Humans are attracted to tragedy. Sadly, I have often found that the more ill a person is, the more followers they have. We are compassionate beings, but we are also imperfect. We get attached to someone we don’t even know, and are compelled to watch their downward spiral. We love watching the drama unfold- it is our nature. It makes me sick to my stomach when I see photos of emaciated girls and women with hundreds and hundreds of “likes”. It shocks me when I see accounts openly showing self harm wounds with hundreds of “likes”. It saddens me to see people’s whose bio’s list their number of suicide attempts with thousands of followers. What do you like about that? What do you get from seeing those things? (Please note, I am NOT in any way saying these people don’t deserve attention, or support, or anything like that. I am simply expressing my concern with the glorification of suffering).
Be careful how you compliment someone you don’t even know. Again, because of the lying thing, but also, because labeling someone matters. Before you label a person as an inspiration, brave, strong, resilient…think about what those words mean. Not everyone who is healthy is strong. Not everyone who is fit is an inspiration. Not everyone who is miserable admits their struggles. What does being brave mean?
That question brings me to my next topic- bravery. It is all up to your interpretation, but I want to share with you mine.
Being brave is not pushing your body until it is broken, then pushing it some more.
Being brave is not avoiding criticism because it might tarnish your image.
Being brave is not hiding behind the lies of what you have created yourself to be on social media.
Being brave is not doing whatever you can to sell yourself to others.
Being brave is not continuing to hurt those who love you most because its easier.
Being brave is asking for help, and getting help.
Being brave is staying in what is scary and uncomfortable, because your life depends on it.
Being brave is showing people there are times when you don’t have your shit together. Many times, if we’re really being honest!
Being brave is listening to the people who love and support you even though they know your story and your true colors.
Being brave is being humble, and making changes to better yourself.
Being brave is giving yourself grace, but also not living like you are invincible.
Being brave is living your truth and being vulnerable. Because you’re human, and people need to be reminded that its ok to be human and messy.
According to ANAD (Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), at least 30 million people of all ages and genders in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. And, every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder; they have the highest mortality rate of ANY mental illness. Just 1/3 of those suffering will receive treatment.
If you’re someone in recovery, or not in recovery, realize that the way you show yourself to others makes a difference. If you can lose 15 pounds cleansing, can’t that 13 year old girl too? If you don’t listen to medical advice, and you say you’re healthy, then who should? If you can run marathons with fractures, can’t that young aspiring athlete push themselves a little further? If you label foods as good and bad, and people look up to you, then shouldn’t they restrict their diets too?
Educate yourself. Check yourself. You can’t believe everything you see on the internet, and you can’t spend all your time consumed by how it says to be “healthy.” There is more to life- it’s that simple. You are enough, just as you are. You do YOU. What is healthy, or unhealthy, for someone may not always apply to you. Health and happiness are not a “one size fits all” kind of deal.
“I asked for truth + was given silence.
I asked for truth + was stripped clean from my image.
I asked for truth + all I believed had meaning broke within me + outside of me.
I asked for truth.
I did not realize I was asking to be emptied.”
Yoga Teacher Training was something I decided to do for myself, and myself only. Coming into Pathfinders, I had a vague “WHY” and made up some stuff about how yoga had helped me so much, and I wanted to share that with others through teaching. That wasn’t completely untrue, but I felt like I should have a why. People told me I should have a why and know what I wanted to accomplish once I was certified. One of the many lessons I have learned in teacher training is that doing things because “I should” is never fruitful.
I drove to the studio the first night of training feeling like I was going to throw up from nerves and anxiety. I almost quit after that night. I almost quit the second week. I almost quit five weeks in. Honestly, I stayed partly because of the financial commitment I had already made. Also, I stayed because I believed Linda when she told me :something magic happens in that studio.
“Truth” or “Satya” has been my go-to word for two years, as I started my yoga journey and got serious about my recovery. I wanted truth in my life- to speak truth, to believe what was true about myself, to find out who I really was, to share my truth, and to speak truth to others. I didn’t know what genuine truth was, having lived a lot of my life checking boxes, doing things “I should”, and avoiding emotions and shame. Yoga Teacher Training brought all of those things to light, and more.
Finding Truth, or Satya , is not a peaceful process. It is destructive in a way that is healthy- the opposite of the way I had done things for so many years. Finding truth has involved me being silent, and being present in what is uncomfortable. It has shattered my concept of what really, truly living life is; because that has not meant to shrink myself and hide my story. Seeking truth has made me share my own truth, and not apologize for doing so. It has helped me find my voice and be a stand not just for others, but finally for myself as well. Finding truth has helped me accept myself in a way that muscling through everything and “sucking it up” never did. It has meant being still. It has meant looking at WHY I really choose to do things, because ONLY I am 100% responsible for the life I create.
Yoga Teacher Training has brought me joy. I am the happiest, most confident version of myself that I can remember being. This Yoga Teacher Training has had God’s hands all over it from the very beginning. When I walked into Pathfinders, met Misti, took a class, and felt the magic, I committed to 200 hours of training on the spot, because I heard God in the space.
“This is it,” I heard. “THIS is the place you will heal.”
So I jumped in, not even knowing what that meant.
Healing has come in so many forms. It has come in tears and internal temper tantrums in the studio as I am being pushed to my edge mentally and emotionally. Healing has come to me in seeing that my mat is simply a mirror. How I do my yoga is how I do my life. Every bit of it. That would have sounded like crazy yoga woo-woo sorcery to me even just a year ago. Yoga has taught me to be intentional with my life. Healing has also come in the form of love and friendship with my tribe members. I continue to learn so much from each of the beautiful women I share the studio space with. Each of them means the world to me in a way I can’t explain. That’s scary for me, because vulnerability and attachment make me nervous. But man, have those ladies taught me that it’s worth it.
Yoga will be a part of my life for the rest of my life, because it is not just about yoga. The goal isn’t fancy poses, a fit body, or finding my inner peace. This practice has opened up new possibilities everywhere in my life. God has given me the unlikely platform of teaching yoga and writing to do for others what I so desperately needed most of my life- belief that I am enough without being too much. Belief in full recovery and life in color.
This post is about why I’m not sorry. That’s right, NOT sorry. The last few weeks in Yoga Teacher Training, we implemented a rule called “No Apologizing” or #sorrynotsorry. As a society, we are constantly apologizing for things. Constantly. Some things we do are worth an apology, but some things are not. Ever have that awkward moment in a grocery store with someone where you both try to go around each other but go the same way and almost collide? I’m sorry, we tell strangers. Speak too loudly at a meeting? I’m sorry, you tell your co-workers. Tell the truth and hurt someone’s feelings? I’m sorry, you say. Running late to meet a friend for coffee? I’m sorry, you exclaim when you arrive. Drop something in front of someone? Forget something? Didn’t finish cooking dinner because you almost cut the tip of your finger off? (Wait, that’s just me). See where I’m going with this? Have you ever noticed how many times a day we are apologizing to others? I’m not saying being sorry is bad, or wrong. But, think about it this way.
“I’m sorry” makes it about you. Yes, you may feel bad, but what about turning that around to thank someone? Instead of “I’m sorry I’m late” try “Thank you for waiting for me” or “I really appreciate your patience.” Because the thing is, deep down, you’re probably NOT actually sorry you’re late. You’re probably not actually sorry you almost bumped into that other shopper at the grocery store- it’s not like you decided to go to the grocery store with the goal of taking people out in every isle. You’re not sorry you’re late- you didn’t plan to be. You’re not sorry you’re sick- you just can’t help that your body doesn’t feel good. You’re not sorry you spoke your truth- if your truth is the facts. You’re not sorry you stood up for what you believed in- it means something matters to you. You’re not sorry you got excited and took up most of the time at a meeting with your ideas- you wanted to share and make things better.
Try it next time you find yourself going to apologize for something. Maybe, you really are sorry. Or, maybe you don’t have a reason to be. Owning your shit can be powerful, one way or the other. So here’s mine.
I’m not sorry I didn’t do a “good enough” job at keeping in touch with the my (ex) friend after she moved to London- I did the best at could at one of the worst times in my life. I’m not sorry I didn’t do yoga teacher training where I was “supposed” to- I followed my heart, and it’s been freaking amazing. I’m not sorry for speaking my truth- I stand for something. I’m not sorry for being sensitive- it is a gift. I’m not sorry for not coming to meet your new baby yet- I’ve had a lot on my plate. I’m not sorry for cancelling my dietician appointments- I want a break. I’m not sorry I don’t see my husband enough to right now- I wish I did, but it doesn’t for a second mean I love and value him any less. I am incredibly lucky to be married to someone who supports me dreams, even if that’s meant going days without seeing each other. We both know its not forever. I’m not sorry I’m so stubborn sometimes when it doesn’t serve me- I am learning. I’m not sorry I didn’t text or call you back- I forgot. I’m not sorry I’m emotional- I’m human. I am not sorry for my flaws, or my mistakes when I didn’t know better.
Do not apologize for being yourself.
Replace the sorries with gratitude.
Thank you for making me aware I unintentionally hurt your feelings.
I appreciate your opinion, even though we don’t agree.
I’m thankful for the time I do get to spend with my husband, and am excited to be around more soon.
Thank you for showing me you care, even if I don’t agree with how it was presented to me.
I wish our conversation wouldn’t have went poorly, but it did, so how can we both move forward?
Thank you for continuing to reach out to me even when I don’t respond.
I appreciate you being patient and waiting for me when I’m late.
Gratitude is different than making excuses. Excuses make it about you too, just as much as “I’m sorry” does. Try it on. See if it feels different! I can say it’s helped me feel more connected to people, and more genuine. Us lil humans just want to be cared about, and band-aiding something with a thoughtless “I’m sorry” just doesn’t do the trick.
Got this sweet tat at work from one of my patients. Sometimes, there are the little things that remind me that my job is worth the heart and soul I put into it- that all PICU nurses I know put into their jobs. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t hate my job. It is not terribly sad and depressing; although I have been through times where that has been the case. I love being a nurse- most of the time. I would be lying if I said I loved, or even liked, all the extra jobs that go along with it. No one tells you this stuff in school- that you won’t just be a nurse, but you’ll also often function as a therapist, social worker, babysitter, emotional punching bag, and waitress…emphasis on the waitress.
Every nurse I know appreciates the little things- like this sweet tat. It’s special, because the child that drew it on me is a miracle. The child is a reminder of the little things. Of an entire unit of healthcare professionals working tirelessly around the clock to care for her, and her coming out better. Not necessarily the same, but better, despite every odd.
There is a moment that hits you when you’re taking care of someone’s kid, and the possibility that they die, despite everyone’s best efforts, hits you. Like really hits you. It’s sort of an unspoken rule that as an ICU nurse, you numb that. You turn those feelings off- the attachment, the empathy, the reality- because you have a job to do. And so, we all go about our jobs. Often times, I feel like a robot. There’s a saying: “There’s no crying in the PICU,” and although it’s kind of a joke- it’s not.
Over the years, I have learned to strip away that armor. Carefully and cautiously, and a tiny tiny bit at a time. I sometimes wonder to myself who made that unspoken rule. The unspoken rule that the nurse has to conceal their emotions; that I’m weak if I cry; that I am to be the unshaken rock in the storm. Don’t get me wrong, that absolutely serves a purpose. It is part of my job, and no matter what my emotions are, my priority is always, always patient and family care. That often means being just that- the rock. So we go about our jobs, carefully tucking away the trauma and heartbreak we see.
Handing a mother her dying baby.
Giving the last doses of medication before life support is withdrawn- on someone’s child.
Asking parents which funeral home they prefer.
Standing there as a family is told their child’s condition has a 100% mortality rate, and staying when the doctor walks out.
Having parents ask me in desperation, “What would YOU do if you were me,” which to this day remains the hardest question I have ever been asked.
Holding hands with my co-workers while a chaplain baptizes a child who is going to die.
Bathing a child and doing handprints on them before wrapping the body in a shroud, which is really just a fancy word for body bag.
Taking someone’s sweet, innocent light of their life to the hospital morgue, and leaving them there.
Going home that night, grieving, but unable to even comprehend what the child’s family is feeling. My sadness pales in comparison.
Coming back to work the next day and seeing the empty room of a patient who died the day before.
This work we do- it wounds us. Maybe I am too empathetic, too soft, too sensitive. Maybe my heart isn’t strong enough, because it’s been broken time and time again by these kids. I suck it up- we all do. I am ok- this is my job. This is what I am good at. This is what I know how to do. This is what I have been called to do, and I wouldn’t take a single one of those moments back. No matter how hard they are, it is a privilege to walk along side a child and family during their journey- wether it be through death or through recovery. The tattoo my sweet patient drew on my arm today reminds me of hope. It reminds me that despite all the dark, there is light. It reminds me that there are absolutely miracles; because this child I am laughing and playing with wasn’t supposed to have a chance. It reminds me that although I have seen death and destruction, I have also seen God’s incredible grace and mercy in a way that only a PICU nurse can.
I get to see God every day in my kids. Even on the days that are less than ideal- when doctors are yelling at me, when my patient bites me, & when I get off work 2 hours late because shit hits the fan. The beauty is there- so often only in the little things. Like sassy girls whose favorite color is pink, and weren’t supposed to walk again, getting excited when you paint her nails. Like the teenager who you said goodbye to, who comes back and visits, telling the nurses they are like family to him for saving his life. Like the little girl whose mom sends you an invitation to her birthday party every year- you took care of her baby for nine months, and now she is turning five. Like the family that stops by the unit to leave the nurses chocolate for Christmas, and their kid is glowing with health- a year ago you admitted him when he was grey and almost pulseless. Like the family that hugs you and thanks you, even though you were the one who gave their dying child their last dose of pain medication before life support is removed. It’s not right- but it is beautiful in only a way a nurse can learn to see.
Two Novembers ago, I stepped into a space that changed my life and started on a journey I didn’t ever think I would be on. This is when I started my yoga journey, but it has become about so much more than that. In the New Year, I will be stepping out of that particular yoga space, but not before sharing with you what I have learned there.
I have learned that there is such a thing as sacred space. A space where I could go and drop all else, no matter what was going on in my life. Walking through the doors of the studio always lifted a weight off my shoulders. For the next hour, I didn’t have to do or be or think about anything, except my breath. Sounds crazy but when you suffer from anxiety and have an A.D.D. brain, it’s pretty dang comforting.
The sacred space made sense when nothing else did. When death and suicide struck, I came to my mat with anger and disbelief and tried to leave it in the space. Maybe just a little bit less of the pain would go home with me then.
The morning I discovered loss, I went to practice, grief-stricken, and cried my way through savasana, knowing I was in a safe place.
When abandonment visited, I threw my confusion and hurt onto my mat and into my practice, instead of into my life and at my body.
The times I felt life was hard and overwhelming and senseless, I went to that sacred space to remember to slow down, and be patient.
When I watched dear friends suffer, I wrote their name on a post-it before class, stuck it under my mat, and dedicated my practice to them. Maybe I could send them a little magic from the sacred space.
When I too, was tired of fighting, I got on my mat to remind me why I wanted to stay healthy.
My mat, a little yellow rectangle in a big rectangle room, became the space where I learned to breathe again. Yoga gave me the ability to sit and just be with myself. To drop my judgments, shame, and doubt- and just BE. I only get one me. Through recovery I’ve learned you can’t get away from yourself. On my mat, in that yoga studio studio, is where I finally accepted that. And then I finally began to live.
I learned that on my mat, I could go and meet God and the way I perceived Him to be. I learned that this yoga thing is actually a little piece of heaven, because yoga means union, and when you share this practice from a place of love, it is almost Holy.
“All is coming,” I wrote on my worn, dirty mat a year ago, and truly BELIEVED it.
All is coming.
Self acceptance. Maybe self love. Dreams. Life in color. The unconditional love of God in all the shattered places, if one is brave enough to bring their heart to their mat. Vulnerability.
I learned there are no broken people. That nothing is wrong with me. That nothing is wrong with others, and we all just want to be heard and understood.
The truest version of myself. The most light filled version of myself. The self that I can believe is enough, exactly as I am.
Remember when I said I was going to write a blog post for every week of Yoga Teacher Training?
Well, I haven’t. I think we are on week 9 or 10…where has time gone?!
Life has been busy. It’s been a huge adjustment for me to have more of a set schedule than I’ve had in years. Training is Tuesday and Thursday nights, so I rarely work during the week. I try to keep a consistent schedule of working Sunday and Monday right now. Yes, that leaves me with waaaay more “free time” than I’m used to. However, this Yoga Teacher Training is a little bit like being in school- but like, FUN school! I have homework and reading and practicing, and although it can be intimidating at times, the work is also very soul-filling. So, I wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned over the past several weeks, because this process has been life-changing.
“Your mat is a mirror. How you do yoga is how you do life.”
This comes from one of my favorite teachers, and it may sound a little woo-woo, but it’s been a heck of a truth bomb for me. Yoga has taught me self-awareness. I’ve spent years and years abusing my body. I’ve learned that on my mat, accepting myself has to happen BEFORE change happens. On my mat, I meet myself exactly where I am. I am not broken, there is nothing to be fixed, there is nothing wrong with me. I am present. This helps me be present in my life. No more “fake listening” to people. No more investing in relationships that are toxic. No more saying YES when I should be saying NO. On my mat I listen, find compassion, and am grateful for my physical body. In life, I see these things becoming core beliefs. I don’t wish my body away anymore. And when I’m not caught up in that song and dance, things in life open up.
Yoga is the journey.
I started doing yoga because my treatment team had banned me from running, the gym, and the Bikram yoga practice. It’s not a fluke that I stepped into a studio and fell in love with this practice. My recovery journey was flipped upside down when I started practicing, and it has led me all the way to Yoga Teacher Training. The journey never ends.
Yoga means union.
The message of yoga is that we are one. We are all connected. Be nice to people. Be kind. Everyone has a story. I’ll say it again- BE NICE. BE KIND. If we are one, it’s not all about you. Give credit where credit is due. Lift others up, because it lifts you up too.
Contentment/happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Perfection simply does not exist, but balance does. We are human, and we all have our shit. Your problems are not more important than anyone else’s, and theirs are not more important than yours. What is possible when you are aligned?
Being a yoga teacher is not about ME.
When I teach, I am there for the people in front of me. I am there to hold space for them and give them what they need. I am not there to “get it right”. Teaching yoga allows me to just be.
“You can teach a monkey to call yoga poses.”
You cannot teach a monkey how to connect. You cannot teach a monkey how to share. It’s not just about calling the poses right…teaching yoga is about connecting with my students through breath, compassion, vulnerability, and my personality.
Run towards fear.
Fear has something to teach me. Facing fears allows me to grow. Avoiding fear creates limits.
I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Baron Baptiste, creator of Baptiste Power Vinyasa style yoga. “This is what the process of yoga does. It wrings you from the inside out. It brings up everything that’s in there- the fears, doubts, frustrations, toxins, strengths, beliefs, potential- and exposes it either to be released or to be used for growth. It challenges physically, emotionally, and spiritually and gives you the opportunity to experience every part of yourself on a whole new level. It all starts in your body, on your mat.”
I was 12 when I figured out I could throw away my lunches at school so I didn’t have to eat. I was 14 when I figured out I could make myself throw up after eating so I didn’t feel like I had food in my stomach. I was 15 when I told my Bible Study leader what I was doing. Until I was 25, I never again told anyone about my disordered eating and exercise habits. Starving myself and getting “rid” of food by purging or exercising excessively was empowering- as long as I did that, I had some control of what I felt like in my body, and an effective coping mechanism. My Bible Study leader told me that what I was doing wasn’t good, and that she wanted me to call her every evening and tell her that I hadn’t been using those behaviors. I was 15 when I figured out that lying to her over the phone, and occasionally face to face, wasn’t hard.
Not too long ago, I got a friend request on Facebook from my former Bible Study leader. I absentmindedly accepted, and later that day messaged her on Facebook, simply saying “Hi S!” She wrote me back. “Hello sweet friend,” it read. “I think about you all the time. Hope you are doing well…God loves you and so do I!”
A thousand emotions flooded me. Ones from my 15 year old self who had confided in someone she trusted, unsure of what she was looking for. Ones from my 20 year old self, after being caught by a family member throwing up in a restaurant bathroom, wondering why she hadn’t stopped all those years ago when someone told her to. Ones from my 22 year old self as I stopped eating during the day to justify having drinks with friends later, but forget the memories. Ones from my 24 year old self as she ran on greenways for hours and pounded away at the gym, searching for something she would never find. Ones as a 26 year old in rehab, realizing that she had spent over half her life living to die. Ones from my 28 year old self when I wrote her a letter I knew I would never send, telling her I wish things would have been different. That I wish she would have told someone, instead of trusting a hurting, insecure teenage girl to stop going down the dark hole that had ahold of her. That I would have hated her at the time; but looking back now, I would have given anything to have started the recovery process sooner. And even now, as my 30 year old self sits here, part of me paralyzed with fear that I will spend the rest of my life with pieces of myself entrenched in my eating disorder.
They say that hindsight is 20/20. That it’s easy for me to sit here and write that I wish someone had “made” me get help. Whose to say I would have listened? Whose to say it would have made a difference? What would my family have done? And if I didn’t take the path I did, what would my life look like now? I married an amazing man and I love him more than I thought was possible to love someone. I have the best friends anyone could ask for. They are my family. I’m going to be a yoga teacher. I have a great relationship with my parents because of all that we’ve been through.
I say all this because I have a message for you. Maybe you are someone who is struggling- not necessarily with an eating disorder. Depression. Anxiety. Bullying. Suicidal thoughts. Hopelessness. Shame. An addiction. An invisible illness. Maybe you are a family member who knows someone, but is afraid to say something. Maybe you are a friend who is concerned. Maybe you are the actual sufferer.
My message to you is this…please don’t waste any more time.
Be a stand for the person you love; for yourself. We always, always think we have time. Do it now. Be brave now. Say it now. Help them help themselves. In the end, I promise you the only regret you will have is the time you let go by watching someone destroy themselves. An eating disorder has a function- a really good, effective one actually. Depression has a function. Anxiety has a function. An addiction has a function. And suicidal thoughts can become actions. But whatever function a mental illness has, will not serve someone long term. Eventually it will stop working. It will take and take without a person realizing what they have lost.
I hear a lot of people say that they wouldn’t trade their experience with a mental illness (specifically an eating disorder) because it’s made them who they are, and they are proud of that person. Honestly, I’m not there yet. I wish I could smile and say that I love the person I’ve fought to become. That I am grateful for what I’ve gone through because it has led me to where I am now.
But I can’t say that.
It’s shameful to admit.
Because you can’t live in the past. I know I am 100% responsible for the life I create. There is no one to point fingers at, to blame, to look to and say they could have changed me. But I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if at 15, someone would have stood up against the darkness that was swallowing me.
I am endlessly grateful for the people I have in my life now.
Everyday I am in awe of God’s plan.
I am so glad it is better than mine.
I don’t believe that the good things in life diminish the bad things. And the bad things don’t ruin the good things. That’s just life; we are just human, and we are broken; but at the same time broken is beautiful.
And it is human to wonder.
To second guess what my have been.
So give someone that gift. Or give it to yourself.
Love is not just words but actions.
Be a stand.
You don’t ever know what it could mean.
When I first met with the woman who is leading my Yoga Teacher Training (Misti- remember that name, you might hear it a lot), two things she said stuck out to me. “This is more than fancy yoga poses. I could teach a monkey to stand up and call poses, but the real work comes with connecting.”
People ask me “Why is Teacher Training hard?Aren’t you just learning how to teach yoga?” True…but the thing is, you have to start with yourself. It’s more than memorizing a sequence and all the names of the poses and the flow. Sure, it is about that, but not solely.
Yoga is about connecting. Connecting means sharing- my stories, my feelings, my struggles, my celebrations, my fears, and, and exposing myself. It means being PRESENT in my body, and aware of how I feel both physically and emotionally. That is how I will connect with my students.
My eating disorder started when I was a young teenager. I grew up learning how to disconnect myself from my body. I coped with unpleasant emotions with restriction, purging, compulsive over-exercise, dieting, etc. At this point, more of my life has been spent actively in my eating disorder than out of it. That’s a scary confession. It makes me a little ashamed. It feels pretty dang shitty.
When someone walks into a room, they bring their energy with them. If you’ve never taken a yoga class, you might not notice that, but it’s true. People bring a “vibe” with them. It’s why you meet some people and immediately feel their joy. It’s why you meet some people and get a funny feeling- their energy is telling you something. If this is sounding “yoga woo-woo” to you stay with me; I have a point.
When I am in front of people, particularly in a yoga studio, and I am the one they are focused on, I bring a few different types of energy, but the dominating one I PERSONALLY CAN FEEL is disconnection. It makes perfect sense- I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life hating my body. Trying to change it. Trying to shrink myself. Using behaviors to cope with feelings. Going inside myself when things got stressful, sad, or hard. Pair that with the perfectionist part of me that has the need to “do this RIGHT” and hopefully you can imagine my discomfort. Everyone is looking at me. They are watching me. I can’t imagine what they are thinking if I’m already ashamed of myself. UGH. Instead of relaxing, I do what I was taught to do growing up playing competitive sports: TRY HARDER. Suck it up. And then criticize my lack of confidence.
Misti reminds me to come back to my “WHY.” Why I want to teach yoga. I can sit there and give my “WHY” a pretty description, but it comes down to one thing: connection.
I believe God gave me yoga to put me on the path of healing. And through healing, connect. I have a story- we all do. But I wonder- how many of us go through life and never tell our story? If I don’t connect with the people around me, my story stays inside. And what better way to connect with people than through a yoga practice that has changed my life? I believe in it. I believe this practice works. I believe all of our pain and sorrow has a purpose. And so I have to connect- which means I answer the hard questions and say the hard things. Because at the end of the day…being a yoga teacher is not about me. It is about the people I teach. If I can come from a place where I am genuinely in touch with my body and my mind, I believe I can help others. I’m not totally sure what that looks like. But I’m finding out its has to do with a lot of soul-searching, self-compassion, and leaning into the unknown.
Yoga asks, “what is possible?” Yoga is the journey. Yoga means UNION. The message of yoga is “we are one.” Is it making a little more sense now why training isn’t just about learning yoga poses and calling them in front of a room full of people? The self-work is difficult. It looks like holding myself accountable to the group of girls I am with. We are HUMAN. We don’t like to be bombarded with the things that we avoid. But genuine connection and relationships don’t come from things we don’t say. They come from placing out the pieces of ourselves we would rather keep secret…because when we do that, maybe someone can say “Me too.”
My yoga tribe is a stand for me. We keep each other in integrity, and that doesn’t just apply to admitting we did or didn’t do our reading. It means that when we get together, for those 10 hours every week, we are real with each other. Sometimes that means dragging your butt into the studio on fumes. Sometimes it looks like telling Misti that I pretty much hate her, because she’s making me stand up in front of the group for waaaaaay longer than I’m comfortable. My tribe is teaching me to connect. And trust. And that is what’s going to make me a good yoga teacher. When I teach a class, I’ll be able to bring my “WHY” and my story, because I’m learning to to not disconnect myself from it. The story of how God has used this practice to help save my life- and all the junk that goes along with it. There is beauty in the breaking, and I’m all in.
I’m into week three of Yoga Teacher Training and this shit is like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s challenging, fun, uncomfortable, rewarding, scary, and amazing all at the same time. I didn’t have the time to write a post about week two, but I wanted to share a meditation we did with all of you. Meditation is a struggle for me, but during this one, I was almost able to BE STILL the whole time! And, I’ve listened to it about 17 times since then. It’s a long read, but so worth it. I’ve included a link of where you can also listen to the audio version of this meditation. Which you should- because these words are ones we ALL need to hear.
Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me
by Sarah Blondin
I wish someone had told me when I first began my journey into a life of my own that where I needed to begin was sitting on the floor, with my eyes closed. I wish someone had told me that my first step, the first step anyone must take is inward.
I wish someone had told me when I felt I had nothing to offer the world that all I needed to do, was sit down and breathe. That all I needed to do was learn the practice of opening to and discovering the true Self, sitting inside of me, quietly, and that from there the rest would come easier.
I wish someone had told me that my true value and worth would be found not in attaining or gaining but in meeting this Self. That finding my way to her would bring me gold and riches that no worldly things could buy.
I wish someone had told me when I was lost and desperate for direction and support that I was really longing to meet myself. That nothing else would soothe me until I first came to touch my own inner temple of divinity.
I wish someone had told me when I was swimming in a sea of lonely thoughts, and diving into dark pits that I was being called into the dark underbelly for great reason, that I was being called into the very center of myself as to come closer to my root and bottomless source of light.
I wish someone had told me when I began to run, divert, distract, over consume, point fingers, over work, fight, create drama, choose everything other than love, that I was running away from my own magnificence. That I was running from it because I didn’t believe it was something I possessed. Because I didn’t believe in my own ability to give myself all I needed.
I wish someone had told me I was the only one who could give myself what I asked from and wanted from another. That all I would ever want, all I would ever need, all I would ever desire, all I would chase and scour the earth for was waiting deep in the valley of my chest. That, that was where I needed to start. That there in the quiet of myself was where I would find my eternal river of wealth and value and that all I needed to get there was the breath in my chest and the patience and willingness to understand that I was, and will always be, the answer I am searching for.
I wish someone had told me that from going within I would find housed within me was a tremendous light, my truest version of Self, a self free of suffering and story, my own personal guidance system and a wellspring of wealth, wisdom and knowing. That if I committed to going inward I would in fact be guided to my greatest life and most joyful existence.
I wish someone had told me that from going within I would meet the only person who could give me the love I longed for, the only person who could carry me through my darkest nights, the only person who could heal the hurt inside me through unconditional love, the only person who could truly love me and that, that person was my highest self. The self who knew of my greatness, my capacity, my truth, my limitlessness. That there behind all the tremendous noise my mind created, behind all my resistance to the quiet was all I had been looking outside of myself for.
We are stitched together from stardust, we are balls of light. We are limitless beings with all the wisdom we are in need of. It is in us from the moment we are conceived. Somewhere along the line we got distracted from these truths and are working to re-align with them.
Where ever life leads you, whatever you must face, know deep inside the marrow your bones lives your earth. Your home. You cannot ever loose it, it can never leave you. No matter where you run to, no matter what rabbit hole you fall down, you always have you.
I want to take a moment to tell you, you are here in this moment reading this because your highest truth, your soul is always pulling you ever so gently into your own light. I want to tell you no matter where you journey, no matter what the landscape appears to be, you are being held, you are being loved, you are exactly where you need to be.
I want to tell you, you are already enough. That there are no holes to be filled, no cracks to be plastered. You are already enough and everything you need is within you, rising on your breath and on your hearts beat.