"Don't judge yourself. Don't compare yourself to others." Michelle's voice was soothing yet clearly punctured through the million racing thoughts in my head. I was startled back to the present which happened to be my first yoga class. We were in three legged down dog, an unfortunately named variation of the ubiquitous downward facing dog pose where one leg is lifted. I had been busy looking around the room to make sure my leg was lifted higher than everyone else's. After 12 years of ballet training, that's what I was used to doing. Scope out the competition and be better.
When Michelle's words broke through, I was startled. I didn't feel she was singling me out, even though I was judging and comparing myself. I was startled because not judging and comparing myself never occurred to me as an option. I didn't realize it at the time but that class and those words were a turning point in my life.
I walked into that class a bit of a hot mess. I was 23 and in the midst of a quarter life crisis. I was working at a pizza place with no real prospects of financial independence or career joy. I had recently quit smoking cigarettes. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and, frankly, little to no idea who I even was. All I knew was I wasn't that happy but I didn't think I could do anything about it. Like a lot of us, I figured I had to wait for that job or that person or that thing to make me happy.
I continued to go to yoga classes now and then but it wasn't until I went to Kripalu Center for the first time that things really started to wake up. My mom found a retreat in the catalog called "Quarter Life Calling: Creating an Extraordinary Life in Your 20's". It seemed to be exactly what I was looking for so I packed my bags for Lenox, Massachusetts.
I will certainly be going into more detail about that week but, for now, I will just say that it was utterly transformative. I learned about mindfulness and authenticity. I learned about self-compassion and the old habits and beliefs that keep us from it. I started to understand that how I felt about myself, my relationships, and my life were all in my power to change.
This experience led me to the month long immersion teacher training. My teachers, Devarshi and Priti, continued to share with us these tools of transformation (as well as how to lead a safe and effective yoga class!). Their wisdom continues to guide me to this day. It is this aspect of the yoga practice that most calls to me. It is this aspect that I most long to teach and that scares me the most. It is raw and real and naked and, in my experience, absolutely essential. I hope to continue to grow and step more fully into my own power so I can help others do that same.
During the Quarter Life Calling, I kept a journal that I recently rediscovered. I'd like to share with you a bit from the first entry. While the grammar isn't always on point, this is really what my journey in yoga has been and continues to be. This is the shift I believe we all can make.
"It is the first night. We just had our first group session and I'm feeling really excited about what this week will hold. One of the questions that was asked of us is what is our intention here? Why did we come here and what do we hope to gain? I have a lot of answers to that question. I find myself drifting and my life is stagnant. I am repeating old mistakes and I feel lost again. I'm foggy and unsure with a familiarity that makes me a little sick. So obviously I want to clear the fog. I want to get to know myself for who I truly am. I've used sharing my life with another person as an excuse to not know myself. If all boils down to the fact that I really want to be able to be honest. Truly and brutally and beautifully honest with myself. I realize I have never really been able to do that. Even (especially) to myself I have always pretended or amended to some imagined ideal. No wonder everything is a blur! How can I be honest and true with anyone else in my life if I'm always lying to myself? I'm hoping this week will give me the courage and the tools to change that."