“What I Did With My COVID-Staycation” is the current equivalent of “What I did on Summer Vacation”. But perhaps it’s even more than that. We’ve all experienced this break, this pause, this shift – for good and for bad. For me – I knew I HAD to come out the other side with something to show for my time. Something more than just passing the time – I needed to grow. And that I did. I’m so proud to have achieved this long-time dream of becoming a certified Yoga Teacher. I’m coming through this with my 200HR and 300HR Yoga Teacher certificates and my Level 1 and Advanced Kids Yoga Teacher certifications. More than the pieces of paper though, I’m a better person – for myself and for others.
Below is my final essay from my 300HR Yoga Teacher Training Certification. I hope you enjoy. I hope you see my love and passion for this journey. I hope to see you in one of my yoga programs (online for now – in person as soon as we can!) soon. I hope you find yourself surrounded by peace and love – in whatever form that takes for you. Namaste.
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It is the nature of a yoga journey to be a long and winding road – and mine has been no exception to that rule. I took my first yoga class over twenty years ago; I was 21 years old, leaving a life in dance behind and exploring new ways to connect with and honour my body again. Yoga and I did not have a “love at first asana” experience. It took me years to even understand that the whole idea was to quiet the thinking mind – to find union and peace within; and I struggled because of it. But – as in all great relationships, yoga was always there for me any and every time I needed it, it was there, patiently waiting. As I rolled out my mat with greater and greater frequency over the years, yoga would greet me again and again, as if to say to me: “I knew you’d be back.”
A year ago, on my 41st birthday, something changed within me. Suddenly, and with great purpose and urgency, I was ready to put myself first in a way I never had before. I was ready to find and embody peace. I was ready to loosen my white-knuckle grip on life and learn to truly live. I started with a commitment to myself. I would do yoga every day. It didn’t matter if it was five minutes or 3 hours, at home alone or in a packed studio – the point was to take time every day to put myself first. This was such a simple shift in action and perception – but it caused an avalanche of self exploration, expression and growth that I could never have expected.
The first thing that happened when I committed to myself and to yoga as a practice, was that I stopped disliking myself and my body. Simple but so profound. It still surprises me when I see myself in the mirror or in a photo or video and think: “I look good – I like that person!” Finding confidence in my body and mind – my Self – was something that just happened – like a glorious side-effect of simply committing; like some divine magic trick to wake up one morning and suddenly feel good inside myself. It’s true what Shakespeare wrote however – “the course of true love never did run smooth” – and my affair with yoga has certainly had its ups and downs. Gaining strength and ability, only to lose it again when a minor injury or illness takes priority, the unpredictable fluctuations of the thinking mind and learning to not judge myself – against others or even against the me of yesterday or tomorrow – have been only some of the challenges I’ve faced in the last year. But – what yoga has given me is consistency. No matter where I am, who I am with, how I am feeling or what my abilities are right in that moment, my mat is there – willing and waiting patiently – ready when I am.
When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, it felt like the world was ending. And perhaps in some ways it did. What felt like a disaster – my business all but shut down, I couldn’t see family or friends, and everything I held so dearly virtually disappeared – has become, for me, one of the greatest opportunities of my life. I could have wallowed and whimpered; and I can admit I did for a couple of weeks, but instead I chose to push myself; and seized the opportunity to dig into a long time goal – my Yoga Teacher Training. Getting started was hard. Harder than I imagined and likely harder than it needed to be – due to my vice-like grip on the need for perfection. But changes started happening quickly, and I was aboard for the ride. In March I’d never even FaceTimed and loathed the sound of my own voice on a recording. By May, I was submitting video assignments and practice teaching along with the group – feeling totally freed by the realization that there is support in this world for anyone who tries. My Yoga Teacher Training has taught me the fundamental, deep value in simply showing up and doing my best – a life lesson I’ll always be grateful for.
Yoga Teacher Training has been like six months of the most in-depth personal therapy I could have ever undergone. I am a different person now than I was in March – and so different from the me of a year ago – and I’m so pleased with the changes. Most are entirely internal – my self acceptance, my fortitude, my positivity, my calm and my inner peace – but they are mine and can never be taken away. I have found my Self. It’s important to document, account for and remember all of these experiences – as I move forward now, committing even more thoroughly to the practice of yoga, and to teaching others, paying forward all that I’ve learned – and will learn. I can’t pretend it’s all been easy – starting to teach was one of the most nerve-racking experiences I’ve had – but it’s also proven to be one of the most beautiful, empowering and developmental experiences of my life. I only hope to help others to find their true path in turn.
The first class I taught was nothing but hard. It took nearly a week to plan the sequence, with revision after revision to get things just right. I’m so thankful that I had good friends supporting me; willing to be taught in those early sessions. They allowed me to explore, to find my voice and to slowly gain the confidence to stand on my mat and lead a class. Since those very early sessions, I feel I learn with every class I teach. I’ve learned to trust what feels good in my body. I’ve learned that healthy transitions – on and off the mat – are a foundation for success. I’ve learned to trust my students to take what works for them and to modify as needed – because their journey is what matters most. I’ve learned to teach and encourage students new to yoga to listen to and honour their internal voice – reminding them not to compare – but simply to enjoy the place they are in, wherever that might be. I’ve learned that the present moment is both completely intangible and yet, it is also all that we have to truly hold on to. I’ve learned that the breath is the starting point for all else. I’ve learned that we are all on this journey together. I’ve learned to like my Self. I’ve learned that falling is a part of learning. I’ve learned that it’s okay to let go. I’ve learned that I have something to offer and that – without even trying, every student I teach, teaches me in return. I’ve learned that teaching, paying it forward, expressing my truth and exploring the beauty in the world is the best thing I can do – for myself and for those around me.
The path here has been long and winding – but it is proof to me that the journey is the point. The journey makes the person. The journey is what it is all about. Yoga has given me the means to find myself – over and over again, like slowly unwrapping the most precious gift I could possibly be given – and then realizing that it was in fact I who gave this gift to myself in the first place. Yoga has given me a framework to live by – and the permission to live with no framework whatsoever when needed. Yoga has been everything to me – and this year, a year that could have been an utter disaster will be a year I will look back on with deep, resonating pride.
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