My Truth About Yoga and My Faith

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.

Reflection: Yoga Teacher Training

“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.”
-Sarah Blondin

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.

 

Why I’m Not Sorry (and why you shouldn’t always be either)

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.

Yoga Teacher Training Wisdom

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.”

My tribe and doing what I love!

Connection

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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.

Flip your perspective.

Flip your perspective.

 

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

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.

http://www.liveawakeproject.com/#!show-reel/c1tmc

The Work Begins

As I made the drive to the studio for my first night of Yoga Teacher Training, this is what was running through my head: “I feel like I’m going to puke. Like, first-day-of-school-puke.”

As I made the drive home from my first night of YTT, this is what was going through my head: “What. Have. I. Done.”

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect back on last week, this is what is going through my head: “God has me exactly where I need to be.”

Twenty weeks of ten hours a week of yoga immersion. That’s not counting the time spent outside the studio practicing, reading assigned books, studying asanas and pieces of the practice, and trying my darnedest to meditate. What have I done?

I have been brave. I have taken a huge leap into a world of uncomfortable, soul-searching, hard work. And my life is going to change because of it.

“What is your default role in life?” Asked our teacher, the first night. The other yogis and I paused and thought. I’m learning that in these moments I have two choices: say the easy thing or say the hard thing. And because MY default role in life is avoiding being uncomfortable, I sure as heck want to say what would be easier.

But easier cheapens. It diminishes the experience. It doesn’t allow me to grow. Without growth, there is no change; and without change, my world and I stay the same. There isn’t any passion in settling for a life that never changes- because unchanging equals stuck. For me at least.

“My default role in life is avoiding being uncomfortable.” I said.
Ever been through Yoga Teacher Training? If you have, you know what that statement will entail for me the next twenty weeks.
“Running,” another girl said.
“Wounded.”
“Being the victim.”
“Anger.”
“Being OK.”

And so the work begins.

This yoga stuff is about un-learning. It is about committing to find my way AWAY from that default role in life that keeps me stuck. It comforts me, sure. But when I avoid being uncomfortable, I don’t EMBRACE. Not just the “bad” but the “good” too. There is no such thing as selective numbing of your feelings and experiences. You simply cannot numb pain without also numbing joy. We humans like to think we work that way, but we do not.

For me, the work in YTT starts with what seems very, very basic and simple. So much so that it’s hard not to judge myself for it. My work starts with looking in the mirror. The full length mirror that takes up the entire wall of the front of the studio. Looking in the mirror at myself- into my own eyes, at my own body. It makes me uncomfortable to see myself and especially to see my body. My body that has been through SO much, and changed so much the past two years. It’s easy for me to make eye contact with myself in the mirror and degrade myself. “Disgusting. Stupid. A burden. Too loud. Too quiet. Too big. Fake.”

Negative self talk- it’s comfortable. It’s natural; it’s my known. The work comes with looking in my own eyes and just BEING. Being silent. Being still. Being accepting. I am who I am, and my body is at a weight it is happy with. My insides and outsides don’t match, but I can teach them to. I can un-learn the things I’ve told myself for so long.

Embracing. I committed to myself and the group to embrace- the opposite of avoiding. They committed too- to staying, to feeling, to being victorious. It’s going to look different for each of us, but that process is part of what will make us yoga teachers. So when we walk into a room to teach class, we aren’t worrying about what everyone thinks, judging ourselves, distracting ourselves, minimizing ourselves, or running from ourselves. The world needs more genuine. The world needs more honesty. Because those are things that are real. Not our perfectly filtered Instagram lives, our generic “I’m fine,” or our masks.

“Tear off the mask. Your face is glorious,” says my favorite Rumi quote.

Yoga Teacher Training. Two-hundred hours. Shit just got real.

The power of a blank canvas.

The power of a blank canvas.