to the girl who is not yet lost, the woman finding her way back to herself and anyone else who finds comfort in my words. It is a compilation of thoughts, realizations, recipes, and anything that has helped me along my healing journey. It is a little bit of love, from me to you.
Written in 2018
As a child, my mother and I spent the summer months living in a small home, on top a summit that neighbors Ohiopyle, PA, in the beautiful Laurel Highlands. I was lucky enough to spend my days rafting, hiking, swimming, biking, kayaking, and playing in the woods. Once I was about eight years old my mother found out that not only had yoga come to Ohiopyle, but it was moving from a friends store to the Community Center for an all levels 90 minute class every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Eager to check it out but unwilling to leave me home alone, I was drug along with a book to keep me occupied. My mother approached the instructor, Yogi Wade, and asked if I was allowed to quietly sit and wait for her to finish practicing. What happened next was so small and simple, but had an unknowingly huge impact on my life. Wade, operating under the true belief that yoga is for everyone, welcomed me to join the practice. I practiced for about 15 minutes, wore myself out, then proceeded to lay on the mat and take a nap for the last 75 minutes of class. These Tuesday and Thursday classes quickly became a ritual as I built up to a longer practice (finally participating for all 90 minutes). My mother and I would diversify each practice by going for a run on the Great Allegheny Passage before, swimming in the Youghiogheny River after, or continuing the fun with Wade, his now wife Diane, and the majority of participants in the class at Falls City Pub.
As I grew older, yoga always had a presence in my life; from 12 years old, when I first felt the pressures to fit into the unrealistic mold of how a woman's body should look, and began practicing to "stay fit". From 14 years old, when I joined my high school cross country team, discovering my passion for running, and incorporating yoga into my warm ups and cool downs. From 18 years old, when I studied holistic healing in massage therapy school and led my first class as an alternative to giving an oral presentation on the many different types of yoga. To 20 years old, when the bad habit of pushing my body further than it could go collided with depression and the side effects that exacerbate it.
For me, depression is sly and fickle. When I was in the thick of it, I could never put my finger on what I was feeling or what was happening to me. Every time I thought I defined the word depression it would sneak up on me in a different disguise, telling me that everything was okay and what I was feeling was normal. Things I once loved became things I dreaded and ultimately felt guilty for bailing on. Running and yoga became activities I couldn't find the emotional energy to motivate for and were quickly replaced with drinking and sitting on the couch. I did not like, nor recognize, the person I was becoming, but had no idea how to halt the downward spiral. I was swimming in the bad habits of my past, reacting to situations as I had in my childhood, not realizing that, as an adult in control of her own actions, I had the power to change everything simply by making the next right decision.
As one's body normally does, mine started sending warning signals that it could not keep up with the compiling list of bad habits and stressors. After ignoring my body longer than I should have, I ended up in the hospital with gallstones, three months before my 23rd birthday. Although it was recommended that I get my gallbladder removed, it was not infected and I was in no immediate danger, as long as I changed my lifestyle. I cleaned up my diet, stopped drinking and started taking supplements specifically for women.
The first thing I noticed when I stopped drinking was how much time I had on my hands. It wasn't long before I found myself bored out of my mind on a Tuesday evening and decided to do something I hadn't done in over a year; attend Yogi Wade's class in Ohiopyle. I was out of shape, inflexible and had no endurance. I knew that I would have to approach the class as I had at eight years old, with an open and judgment free mind. For the first time in over a decade, I had zero expectations. I took breaks when I needed them, I stopped when it hurt, I didn't go further than my body allowed and (for the first time ever) I began to focus on my breath. The first time I maintained focus on my breath for the majority of the 90 minute class I walked out feeling higher than I had ever been. I remember thinking "This is a great feeling! I can't believe it has taken me this long to figure out that THIS is what yoga is about, not the ability to twist yourself into a pretzel." In that moment I decided I would do what I needed to, to become a yoga instructor, to help other people experience the best high ever and find their breath, hopefully in less time than it took me. And so, in less than a year, I traveled to the Blue Spirit Retreat Center in Costa Rica with Amazing Yoga to become certified in teaching yoga.
If you attend one of my classes, you'll notice that my story plays a huge role in the way I teach. While I love power yoga and giving everyone the opportunity to push themselves, I understand that every body is different and we all need rest sometimes. I like to take things step by step, continuously stopping to remind practitioners that they can always return to the last comfortable pose if they've gone too far. I'll also recommend variations to poses we see frequently throughout class to either add or lessen intensity, truly making it your OWN practice. To quote the man who has given life and light to my practice and career, "I'm merely here to give suggestions, what you do on your mat is entirely up to you." - Yogi Wade
Continued in 2022
I now understand how privileged I was to have access to a 90 minute vinyasa class suitable for all levels twice a week, every week for almost 20 years. Before the pandemic, I was blind to my privilege. I took that hot room in my community center, the donation based class, the best yoga instructor I have ever practiced from and the wonderful humans who filled the room all for granted. I showed up late, left early, skipped on really nice days and never ever practiced on my own at home. When the pandemic hit and our world shut down in the winter of 2020, my yoga practice came to a screeching halt. I lost a massive amount of muscle, my clothes barely fit, old injuries reappeared and my stress level skyrocketed. I used every excuse for why I could not unroll my mat and simply show up; I didn’t have the right space, the time, the energy, the guidance. I tried to teach online, but I found it difficult to pour from an empty cup. It was over a year before I was vaccinated and attended an in person hot yoga class, but it wasn’t in my community center with my favorite teacher, so it didn’t even come close to what I wanted. It was another few months before reality smacked me in the face and I realized that I will never have my “normal” back. I could either remain still, bound to my excuses, or I could unroll my mat, depend on myself and deepen my practice. In the autumn of 2021, I showed up to my mat as a beginner for the third time in my life. My daily practice was not 90 minutes or hot, I usually wore whatever I slept in and it was hardly power vinyasa. Some days I didn’t do anything more than a child's pose, but I still showed up, and that’s where the magic comes from. My practice fluctuated as I moved into three different homes, one of which was broken into and sent me spiraling. It fluctuated more as the seasons changed and my old, uninsulated farm house with an inconsistent furnace stayed a consistent 53 degrees. By the time spring rolled around I was tired, burnt out and in desperate need of a shift. Thanks to an amazing job opportunity with one of my favorite brands, I was sent to a five day wellness festival in California. While there I had access to over 12 hours of yoga classes every day, along with meditations, workshops and speaking events with therapists, psychologists, healers and coaches. This festival was a pivotal shift in my life. I knew it before I went, while I was in it and believe it to this day. Some of the most impactful events I attended included a daily routine workshop, a womb healing ceremony, a discussion with an intimacy coach and an “unfuck yourself” yoga class. It was there that I had seven prolific dreams in a row one evening, where I saw the anger stored in my body and met a sun goddess who told me that to honor her was to honor myself first. The morning after those dreams I attended a yoga class where the instructor started by explaining that each yoga practice was a prayer and connection with our highest self. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be.
Since the spring of 2022, my personal practice has been nowhere near perfect, but it does exist. Sometimes it is 90 minutes of power vinyasa, sometimes just a child’s pose, sometimes it’s something in between. Now that I have the knowledge and understanding, I flow through my body’s natural energy cycles in a way that feels ideal for me and encompasses all of my passions, not just yoga. I look forward to the possibilities that flow through every single day of our lives and it is my mission to share this outlook with others struggling to create structure within their own personal practice.