Hello, Again.

img_20190527_131951_492527947541356276226.jpgHello, Again. I’m saying hello to you, dear reader, as well as to myself. The self that isn’t just surviving and moving from fire to fire anymore. The self that has the space to do things that fall into the ‘want’ category instead of just the ‘must/should’ category. The self that is reemerging stronger and more vivid than before the dark times of this past year.

School has blessedly ended for me for the next seven months. Dad’s health has begun to not only stabilize, but improve. The cancer is shrinking thanks to the amazing medical miracle that is immunotherapy. Work has calmed down a smidge since we’ve hired a new person. I can actually breathe deeply again for the first time in truthfully a year. I saw in my Facebook memories that just this day last year I received my 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training certificate, so it feels fitting to be coming back to my mat and myself now.

Life has been so intense and crazy for the last year and I haven’t had a chance to pause. Adding therapy and yoga on a consistent basis wasn’t doable. I didn’t have the space for it. Trying to make the room and the time to fit those in was going to add too much stress to an already stress-filled plate. As I said in a previous post, you have to make the space for self-care, but the type of self-care can change over time. The self-care can’t add any weight to your already gravity-filled inner and outer world. Self-care during these rough times needs to be nourishing and easeful. It needs to support your mental health without adding complexity. I love yoga and it is so important to my life, but I simply couldn’t make the space for it. Part of it was the fact that yoga opens us up to being vulnerable, and I didn’t even have the space for that vulnerability. Being vulnerable was too risky for me. Opening the door to vulnerability could have released the floodgates of emotion that I couldn’t handle at the time. Part of it was simply time management, and part of it was sheer exhaustion. Even setting up my mat and picking out a class to follow or coming up with my own felt like too much. Things were simply too dark, too exhausting, too damn much, for a really long time.

Then this weekend I finally returned to my mat. It felt so good. I was excited about being there again. I wanted to try new poses, focus on my teaching, feel the movement in my body and through my breath. Without strain, I moved through a practice for over 40 minutes, just going with my own inner flow, doing what felt good, stretching into the muscles that needed some attention. There was joy in rediscovering this part of myself when I had the space to let it expand within me. It wasn’t just going through the motions. It was pure happiness. I felt alive in a way I haven’t in some time. I had gone to Bikram earlier in the week and had enjoyed the sweat and the camaraderie of a studio class, but it didn’t generate the great emotional connection I felt when doing my Vinyasa practice. It’s hard to describe the feeling except to say that it felt like coming home after being gone for a long time to find a home full of light and wildflowers.


The Princess demanding her lovins.

Of course, being the catmom that I am, I had some company on my mat. Bentley visited during child’s pose and demanded her lovins. When you have the space, you can pause your practice to give hugs to your adorable cat and see that as part of the practice. Even The Hubs commented on how clearly my passion and excitement for yoga had returned, how he enjoyed my commentary on the poses and how they would work in my teaching, etc. It was nice to feel awake again and to enjoy simply being alive again. Traveling through dark times can force us into survival mode – and that’s ok! – but we can’t stay there forever or it starts to take pieces of us.

I have struggled with the way my body looks and feels since putting on a bunch of weight from stress and poor eating choices over the last year or so. It has weighed on my mind and made it hard to get out of my own way mentally. Being back on the mat connected me back to my body and helped me come back to the understanding that this physical body may not look and feel my best, but it is pretty fucking awesome all the same. It allows me to do so many cool things and to work through this amazing physical practice. Really, regardless of what that fucking number says on the scale, I need to be more consciously grateful of this body of mine. I celebrated a bit of this by dyeing my hair purple- and I love it! It’s a pretty great sign of the person I feel that I have been becoming over time. I’m starting to feel like a motherfucking butterfly, and I’m ready for it! This vivid version of the person I am is both new and old and refreshed, all at the same time. It’s Me 2.0. A model that has come out the other side of testing and QA/QC and is shining brightly with new confidence and a better mindset than before. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be glitches, that sometimes I’ll still need reboot or a virus removed, but that’s ok. We’re all human and no one is perfect- hard lessons I’ve learned over the last year and then some.

Hello, again. It’s time.


Accepting it all

I had to write an assignment for school recently that ended up being about my journey to yoga. The assignment was to write about some aspect of your identity and before I knew it, I had words on the page. Enjoy.


Me and my kindred, short-armed spirit animal.

I am not a traditional yogi. I’m not lithe and graceful. I’m not a beautiful blond in a handstand, flat stomach and perfect hair, glowing with peace and happiness for my one million Instagram followers. I don’t go running on the weekends and only wear Lululemon. I’m short and stumpy and cannot get my foot behind my head. I came to yoga in my late 20s and early 30s when anxiety was taking over my life and my therapist recommended a local class to help manage it. I came to yoga because I needed it to breathe. I eventually decided to teach yoga because I realized that there needed to be more plump, inflexible yogis out there to show people that the whole point of yoga is NOT to look like some uber-flexible 22 year old, but the point is to gain mobility, a sense of self, a break from the everyday rush of things, and maybe some spiritual grounding in a practice that reminds you that life is exactly that – a practice.

I always thought of myself as a confident person, but debilitating anxiety and terrible, unsupportive (borderline malicious) bosses throughout my 20s chipped away at my self-esteem. By the time my grandmother died, a moment unlike any I had ever experienced before, I was a complete mess. I was drowning in failure and to numb out the frenetic stress and anxiety I was drinking wine every night like it was water. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus. I was at one of the lowest points of my life. Then one day, after I revealed my inner monologue of anxiety and sense of failure to my family, I finally dragged myself to therapy. I loved my fruit-loop of a therapist. She had these two adorable dogs she brought to her office every day, a wolfhound and a whippet. They somehow understood their job and were forces of kindness at every session, snuggling with me while I struggled to understand how anyone could breathe without feeling anxious about it. Dogs somehow make everything simpler. My therapist was this wild yet calming, untamed creature who somehow understood me and my need to relearn how to breathe and function. She taught me about Buddhism and meditation and was the person who suggested I go to yoga. It would change my life.

Yoga is not a religion. It has its roots in many spiritual disciplines, a dash of Hinduism here, some Buddhism there, but it is not in itself a religion. Sure, there can be chanting and the poses all have names in Sanskrit (an ancient language of India), but this doesn’t make it a religion. When I first came to yoga I just thought I wanted to work out the anxiety, to figure out a way to breathe so I didn’t feel like my head would explode at any moment from the sheer stress of living. I would go to class and move through the motions at first, feeling so uncoordinated and out of breath. How the hell does this woman bend her body in that way? Are you kidding me with that arm balance stuff? Again and again the teacher would say, “your pose might not look like my pose,” and in my head I was thinking back, “well, screw you then.” My first class I wanted miracles. I wanted to be fixed, to not be broken any longer. But things don’t happen like that. When you’ve spent years building walls, they don’t come down in just one day. I came to yoga a failing perfectionist and it was a solid year before my ego slowly chipped away, as yoga will do, and the meaning of the teacher’s words finally sunk in.

I bought an unlimited class pass and was going to yoga a minimum of two times a week, but more often then not was there three of four times a week as the magic of the practice started to work its way through my body and my mind. I was slowly starting to sleep better and my body was regaining strength I had lost to disuse and stress. You hear the phrase sometimes, “I was beginning to feel more like myself,” but that wasn’t really the case for me. I wasn’t beginning to feel more like myself. I was beginning to feel like a new version of myself. One with more confidence and an understanding of how my failures were not really failures at all. They were human moments because humans aren’t perfect. Humans are this beautiful, messy, wonderful, infuriating ball of existence and it is ok to falter. I understood that my pose was not going to look like my teacher’s. That my body was my body, with all of its amazing qualities and limitations. No, my t-rex arms will never be long enough to grab each hand behind my back in cow-face pose, but that’s ok. That’s what yoga props are for- to help you where you need help, as long as you’re willing to accept it.

As the words and movement of the practice started to truly take hold of my mindset, I realized that I wanted to share this with the world. The magic that was happening inside me needed to be shared and brought to others. I needed to give to others what this practice had given me. I signed up for a 200-hour teacher training program that would meet for nine weekends over the course of nine months at a beautiful studio in North Haverhill, NH. The studio was on a working farm and one wall was all windows, looking out over the fields where the Highland cows were grazing or the geese were walking around. I knew after the first class I went to there to meet the teacher that it was exactly where I needed to be.

Teacher training is not just about learning the poses to instruct others safely. Teacher training is as much a road to self-discovery as it is a program to help people teach yoga. Your success in a program is dependent on two main variables: your willingness to go deep within yourself and discover who you are and what truly matters to you, and having a teacher who is the right fit to help you journey down that path. Without the right teacher, you may pass the course but you will not be truly prepared to teach the practice. Teaching yoga is about giving, every class taught requires you to give a part of yourself away to your students, so you need to understand who you are so you know what you have to give.

When I met Carolyn, I knew she was the teacher I needed in my life. Carolyn is my polar opposite: tall, slim, beautiful in an interesting way, flexible to the point of inspiring envy. Yet despite these oppositions, we clicked. She is uncompromising, but not in a way that discourages. She holds the line when it is vital, but also provides space when you need it. Her confidence is contagious as is her kindness. I knew from the first meeting that I would learn from her. In yoga there is a sense that the universe has your back and will move things in front of you, both obstacles and advantages, when the time is right. The universe had my back in this case.


As seems to be the theme in my life, shit tends to hit the fan all at once and from all sides. Part of this is related to my Go Big or Go Home nature –  I never do things halfway and most often go overboard, expecting too much of myself and then struggling to get through (a common aspect of perfectionism). When I signed up for teacher training, I was in the midst of grad school. I figured I was only doing online classes at the time, so I should be able to balance grad school, working full-time, and teacher training. The problem with this sort of thinking is that it leaves no room for anything else to get complicated. My very first weekend of training, my beloved cat died on Saturday night. His death wasn’t a surprise, he had been in decline, but it was devastating and the grief was instant and debilitating. The month of my first week of training, work became intolerable. My office mate went on maternity leave and I ended up having to do all of her work, my own, and most of my boss’s work. I was buried. Add in travel and house guests, and well, it was not an auspicious start, but through it all I knew that I would not regret teacher training and needed to stick with it.

Things didn’t get easier in my life throughout the training, but each weekend at the studio improved my life in a multitude of ways. I started to become more confident as a teacher and a person, my voice unwavering in the front of the room, my pulse steady as I moved students from pose to pose and not concerned about always filling the silence. I began to understand myself and what was important to me, truly beginning to understand my purpose – I was meant to be a teacher, it is where I felt at home when I could let go of the anxiety and desire to be perfect. I became more aware of how important it is to be accepting of ourselves and where we are at any given point in our lives, that we are exactly where we need to be, no matter what is going on around us – my heels will never reach the floor in downward facing dog, it’s ok, that doesn’t make me a bad teacher or a failure, that’s just where I am in the here and now and I can give my students the freedom to accept where they are too. I became a better teacher and student, and understanding how those are ultimately one and the same.

The biggest breakthrough came the last weekend of the training. As part of the ‘final exam’ you teach an entire yoga class to the rest of the trainees and the teacher observes. I had been having a really terrible time at work, feeling like I was failing in every way, and this caused my anxiety to spike to levels only seen before yoga entered my life. I had an event the night before as well, over-extending myself and burning the candle at both ends. I was so nervous about the practicum, despite my teacher’s assurance that she wasn’t worried about my passing, that I couldn’t sleep the night before. I walked into the studio to teach my class and I could feel myself coming apart at the seams. Then it happened, my tired brain jumbled my planned class and I KNEW I had failed. I taught the rest of the class with my head screaming at me the entire time, “YOU FAILED.” By the time I closed the class with a final, “Namaste,” I was in tears and bolted from the room.

See, perfectionism is a nasty habit. It’s pernicious. It invades your psyche and makes you think that you can’t be doing well if you’re not perfect. It’s especially harmful when you must operate in a culture of perfectionism, such as where I worked. When I’m feeling good, anxiety in check, sleeping well, breathing fully, I can keep the perfectionism at bay, it is ok to do ‘enough.’ If things are not in order, it creeps in like a plague, taking hold and rendering me sick and helpless. When the tears had stopped and I returned from my walk around the farm, my teacher said nothing to me other than, “We need to talk in a bit, your class was great and I need to know what’s going on in that head of yours.”

This is a perfect example of why you need to have great teachers in your life. She got me. This is also why I needed a practice such as yoga in my life, because just the fact that it is called a practice is a clue to its power. It can remind you that not every day is going to go well. There will be great days where you feel like you get everything right, and there will be days where nothing goes as planned. Life is a practice where every day is a chance to do over, try something new, expand who you are and be a better version of yourself. There will be days when things will be completely out of your control and you just have to accept the circumstances and do the best with what you can control. Carolyn understood and she understood the words I needed to hear. I had taught a lovely class that hit all the right points. I had passed with flying colors. I was elated, but she didn’t let me off the hook at that, we talked through what happened and I left that day with a better understanding of myself and what I still needed to work on. I needed to work on changing my default mode of perfectionism, because it would only hinder me if I let it continue, even on the days when my threshold has been reached and I’m just trying to survive, if anything, those are the days where I needed it most. I needed to believe in myself no matter what, and to remember that the students looking at me for guidance do not know what my class plan was and if I can just keep going rather than faltering at the first sign of mistake, they will still have a great class and I can walk away with my head held high.


I left teacher training a better version of myself, and I continue to bring that version to my yoga classes. This better version works hard to not hold herself up to the standards of others, or even her own impossible standards. I make a point every class to share my own limitations with my students, “If you can believe it, the ‘perfect version’ of this pose says that your head will touch your knee. For me, that’s never going to happen because my body is just not constructed that way, and it’s ok if that’s the same for you. Any amount of the pose is the pose.” Any amount of the pose is the pose, it’s something that Carolyn said over and over again during class. It stuck in my head and it became part of my own vocabulary because it is so true, both in yoga as in life. I want my students to understand that it is not about being able to force your body into the ‘perfect pose’ because if you have to force your body that means it is not the perfect pose for YOU. Your perfect pose is making sure to have the pose meet you where you are in that moment and accepting that as where you should be that day. You don’t need to be slim and young to do yoga or anything you really want to do in your life. Accepting who you are at any given moment is far more important than hitting some standard set by others. Yoga taught me, and continues to teach me, about acceptance. It is an ongoing practice that has improved every day of my life.