I’ll never forget the first group yoga class I attended. 22, living in the Virgin Islands and barely living in a downward spiral of situational depression and co-dependent relationships. I was unhealthy and unhappy. A friend, Meg, encouraged me to go to a Saturday morning yoga class at the nearby resort. I agreed and when Saturday morning rolled around, I begrudgingly dragged my hung over, sorry -ass out of bed and thought, “Why did I agree to this? I want a cigarette and coffee. What the hell do I wear to this class?” With blurry, blood shot eyes and black, bell-bottom yoga pants (this was way before the super cool leggings trend happened – THANK YOU to whoever started that!), I stumbled into the yoga class and set up next to Meg and our other pal, Adriane. The class unfolded as I was repeatedly folded into unfamiliar poses and contortions. Out of breath and falling behind… “Why am I doing this to myself?”
I’ll never forget my first downward facing dog. It was the most uncomfortable, unnatural position I had physically ever been in. It felt terrible. It felt like my shoulder blades were cemented towards my ears and my spine was 90 years old and my hamstrings may as well have been made of Valyrian steel. It was far from enjoyable. But what I did notice was how present I was. I wasn’t thinking about my unfulfilling job, my previous night’s bad decisions, my shitty relationships or my constantly broken car. I was thinking about how bizarre my body felt. How new and old and unified and disconnected it felt – all at once. I felt like I was a stranger in my own body. I was like a baby discovering tactile sensations for the first time. What is THIS? Who the hell am I and what is this body I am in?
I will not say I ENJOYED my first class. It was far from pleasurable in so many ways – but it made very obvious that I was disconnected from unity, health, my body and peace. I wanted to get to know myself better. More than anything, I was CURIOUS.
And that was it. I was hooked on yoga-fueled curiosity.
So no, I didn’t feel magic in my first class. I didn’t immediately run home and change my entire life from bad choices and patterns to a pure, yogic lifestyle. But a taste of curiosity stayed in my mouth. What else was there to feel? To experience? To explore within myself? What might I find with yoga?
And that curiosity, more than anything, has lingered through these years.
Then one class turned into monthly classes – which turned into weekly classes – which turned into teacher training – you get the picture. However, this momentum was slow. And I purposefully slowed it – because I was curious but also afraid. I felt things shake up under the surface. Yoga shined a light on my lies, my destruction, my path. I wasn’t always willing to go to that place of vulnerable truth. So, I skipped class. Then I would return. And after one particularly phenomenal class that smacked me in the face and said, “What do you really want?! Is this it for you? Seriously?” I knew I had to make a choice:
Stay the same or practice yoga.
I painfully choose yoga. I knew to stay the same would have been far more painful.
This ultimately led to the complete destruction of my current life over a 6-month period. If you knew me then, you know how dramatic and drastic this transformation was. And how painful. And how worth it. I quit my job, friendships, relationship and apartment. I moved, eventually relocated entirely and quit smoking. I became intimate with myself and learned how to love myself entirely, in the present moment. Every step of the way, no matter how painful this transformation was, I remained curious about where I was headed and the treasures I knew I would discover under the layers I peeled back.
I fail to convey the most important aspect of this transformation because it is increasingly hard for me to explain, especially looking back on it. I wasn’t sitting down with a pad and paper, “Okay, so I am going to quit my job tomorrow, blow up my relationship on Wednesday, not talk to these people anymore starting next week, quit smoking by next month, blah, blah, blah.” No. It all unfolded so organically, I almost felt like the compliant co-pilot of my own life for a while.
Once I made the decision to continue yoga as a way to LOVE and become intimate with myself, I set out on the journey to figure out what the hell that meant, and changes started happening. Yes, I was the one DOING, but the path became so clear it was like I made the choice to buy the ticket, wait in line, get in the cart and then WEEEEEE! The roller coaster took off. At that point, you are no longer the one that gets to decide what’s happening. The universe, my soul, God… what have you, took over. I just buckled in for the ride and did my best to keep my eyes open.
This is when I started to feel the “magic” of yoga. When my circumstances became intense and I felt like everything would just derail at any moment – my yoga practice reminded me to be curious. To feel. To be present. And eventually, I awoke to the truth that I was on the right path. How did I know that? Even through tears and anger, I felt this unyielding, ever present peace and contentment, underneath it all. When the rollercoaster chaotically plummeted and twisted, I found peace within myself. I was able to loosen the white-knuckled grasp on what happened around me and be content. My curiosity kept engaging with this peace and contentment in yoga until I realized it was ME. It was inside of me all along.
I was the one I was looking for. Yoga helped me to return to myself.