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New.

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“New” was the only word that came to mind.

I’m not usually one to attach meaning to my yoga practice with a word or mantra plucked out of thin air. Teachers love to open class this way, asking students to root their practice in some obscure adjective, but when I try it always feels contrived and uncomfortable. Nothing ever quite fits. So I just breathe and move and that’s good enough.

But there I stood tonight, hands at heart center, swimming in the waves of a word that rang through loud and clear: new.

It doesn’t hurt that I was practicing a new style of yoga with a new-to-me teacher at a renewed-to-me studio, but somehow I missed the conspicuousness of it all and instead felt like it meant so much more, that word. I devoured the new like it was fed to me by a loving hand. New day, new practice, new breath, new everything.

The return to yoga after a long and tumultuous time off is highly melodramatic, you see.

I stopped teaching yoga about six months ago, running straight back into the arms of the corporate world I swore up and down I’d never re-enter. While I claimed it was all just to give me time for my own personal practice, the truth is I hated teaching yoga. I had bet my whole career on it, bypassing the final step in becoming a Registered Dietitian to be a yoga teacher instead. But I never considered the fact that maybe, just maybe, I’m better as the student.

I finished my Masters in Nutrition and my Registered Yoga Teacher training in the same weekend and spent most of that last semester writing out sequences and memorizing sanskrit instead of listening to dietetics lectures. I skipped school to teach my first yoga class, which was offered up to me before I finished my certification. Rumors flew, but I didn’t care. I was a yoga teacher.

I stayed up the entire night before re-working my sequence and practicing my cues and still royally fucked the whole thing up, but it didn’t matter. No one teaches a good first class. No one. Good or bad, the first class is a gateway drug and I was addicted ahead of schedule.

I was quickly offered more classes. I taught private classes and picked up corporate clients and was proud to be among the chosen few with a full studio schedule. I posted it everywhere as if anyone gave a single shit about it but me. I guess I felt this internal need to externally validate the decision I’d made. As in: “Yes you can be a career yogi and yes I did it in less than a year and yes here is my packed schedule, please behold.”

I also happened to be dating one of the most popular and successful yoga teachers in the city, and while I loved and supported everything he did I desperately wanted someone to notice me.

It’s all so ego-driven and un-yogic it makes me sick, but at the time I just really wanted to make it work. Because what you don’t see in all of the public displays of “hey look at me teaching yoga now!” is how I spent my private time wrestling with every fear and doubt and insecurity in the book and how woefully inadequate I felt at all times. I guess I thought if I could convince everyone else I loved this, maybe I could convince myself too.

I never did, though.

I eventually made myself so sick (with things beyond just the yoga, to be fair to the yoga), I went to see a doctor about the mass amounts of hair I was losing and in a terribly ironic twist of fate his medical advice was to “try yoga.”

It was then that I realized I’d taken this thing that had completely changed my life, that for so long had been my escape and my empowerment and my favorite thing in the world to do and I’d turned it into something I hated. I didn’t quit right away, and I probably wouldn’t have because I was so convinced it was supposed to be right. But eventually when the time (and the new job offer) was right, I gleefully pulled myself off the schedule. Everywhere.

I didn’t go back to my practice as quickly as I thought I would. Since I quit teaching I’ve only been back into the studio maybe twice. Yoga is a deep emotional pool for me and I’m clearly kind of a terrible swimmer and would prefer not to drown again. Yesterday I decided I’m finally ready to wade back in.

Tonight I felt like I was really back into my yoga the way it was when it changed my whole life–the way it was when it was all still new. It was a really beautiful class and, as new as it all was, still felt very familiar. Yoga is often referred to, after all, as a consistent coming home and that’s where I felt I was.

I have this wonky left rib I threw off a couple years ago. I don’t know how to describe it beyond just a tightening of my chest. It’s one of those impossible-to-access places that has only popped maybe once since it first locked up.

Tonight in my third lift up into wheel I felt this gentle strain followed by a loud audible pop in my chest.

They say that the body physically manifests emotions. Tightness on the right side is a reflection of how we treat others while tightness on the left side is a reflection of how we treat ourselves.

Tonight was total release in my chest, just left of center, right over my heart. It’s all brand new.

23 Comments

  1. Lyndsay Lyndsay

    Welcome back to a new/old journey.

  2. This is why I love your writing. You have a raw, honest, emotional vulnerability with your own life that honestly lets me exhale with mine.

  3. This is so beautiful and I identified with every word. I teach yoga and I do love it but it also scares the crap out of me. So I know all about the doubt and the wrestling. In a deeper level I also intimately know the struggle of wanting something to work because we think it’s supposed to. That is so painful. I am so happy that you are truly following your heart, enjoying life and finding a practice that is meaningful in a way that arm balances and popularity can never be.

  4. Love this! Your post should be mandatory reading for every teacher trainee. It’s hard to admit but probably >85% of all newbie teachers never actually end up teaching, and that’s not just because of the oh so fierce competition. It’s also because SO many of them realise that they love yoga – but they don’t love teaching. Thanks for sharing!

  5. This is simply the best thing you’ve written yet. Well done and congratulations to your release.

  6. I loved this, beautifully written and hit me in a lot of places. Welcome back.

  7. Liz Liz

    This was simply breath-taking to read!

  8. Dana Hauck Dana Hauck

    This was fucking beautiful.

  9. Amy Amy

    Raw and beautiful.

  10. I didn’t read your blog back when you were a yoga teacher, but I loved the realness of this post!

  11. Pam Pam

    My heart is full after reading this naked piece. Beautifully written. Enjoy this newness.
    Namaste

  12. It’s amazing that the Dr told you to “do yoga”…. because it sounds to me like at that time you weren’t really doing yoga. Or… you were “doing” yoga but not practicing [true] yoga. I think the universe was trying to speak right there!

  13. apples apples

    you? melodramatic?

  14. So very real and relatable. It’s beautiful to hear that you’re finding your way back to something that fed you in a raw and deep way and waited for you to drift away and then back. I understand…in a way. I’ve been teaching children’s yoga for almost 3 years, adults for one. This year I packed my schedule, anywhere from 15-20 classes per week, most of those were elementary aged kids. It got exhausting, my personal practice waned (which is easy to do with no studios locally to practice at). I’m nowhere near where you are in finding my way back, but am so grateful to see someone I admire on that path.

    Enjoy all the rewards that are to come in your finding balance!

  15. Erin. Erin.

    I love everthing about this.

  16. Erin. Erin.

    and by “everthing” i clearly meant “errrrrrrrrrrrrthang”

  17. Hilary Hilary

    I can totally relate to this. I got a maters degree and tried to follow the path that you were “supposed” to follow even though, deep down, I knew it was a terrible choice for me. I moved to Charlotte for a job that fit oh so neatly into this plan. I absolutely hated it. I could barely eat. Never slept. It was awful. I’m happy I’ve now found something that’s a much better fit for me.

    On a somewhat unrelated note, have you tried Yoga One in Plaza Midwood? That’s the yoga studio I go to and I absolutely love it. I’ve tried other yoga studios before and never really felt like they fit but somehow, there, everything melts away.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  18. houdekj houdekj

    Inspirational, authentic and beautiful…this is why you rock!

  19. Laura Laura

    What a beautiful post. Loved it

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