Why I Yoga
I tried to start this post by saying "YO FAM!" but decided almost immediately that I am waaaaay too old and dorky for that. Oh well.
I was on the ol' Facebook this weekend going through the pictures from my On This Day page. The On This Day page is equal parts delightful and terrifying. On the one hand, I get to see all of my old sassy statuses and pictures of my college shenanigans. On the other hand, I had Facebook in high school. Let me tell you about high school Lizzie: she was a cheerleader, she worked at Abercrombie, and she was in a serious relationship with a tanning bed. I never should've been let out of the house.
This week has been particularly fun to reflect on. It was during this week three years ago I received my yoga teacher training certificate of completion, meaning I was officially a yoga teacher. The whole thing happened quickly- I made the decision without much thought, but also seemed to move at a snail pace- I remember almost giving up a dozen times because my body and brain were so tired.
Now that I teach yoga full time and lead my own teacher training I often get asked what lead me to yoga. I usually tell the condensed version, but I remembered this morning that I have a blog! And I could use it to tell that very story!
So, here we go.
In the winter of 2012 I found myself in a funny place. I was fresh out of college, living in the city, and hating everything with a passion. I was in my first desk job and constantly on the verge of throwing my back out thanks to two very painful injuries that were lingering from rowing. I felt un-tethered and super lonely all the time. I did a lot of whining and crying, much like most millenials. I was doing all of the right things in my career, my life, and my relationships, but I felt restless. I was dealing with the experience of becoming an adult.
I was also extremely depressed but didn't really know it yet. (Another blog post for another day).
In college I was on the rowing team. Rowing is a beautiful sport, but is essentially one repetitive motion. It's equal parts an endurance sport and a power sport. After a few years of the same movement, most rowers start to hurt a lot. I managed to injure both my right shoulder and my left hip (I know, I know, I'm so lucky!), so I basically had a diagonal line of pain shooting through my body at all times.
After college I was freshly 23 and praying that the trainers who had told me I would need hip surgery in college were wrong. My hip was constantly throbbing. My shoulder felt like it was going to snap off. There was no comfortable position to sleep in, so I just flailed around violently. Thanks GAWD Dan was still in Spokane or he would've probably killed me in my sleep. The more I sat at a desk, the stiffer I felt my back getting. Some days I couldn't really move my neck, so I was #RobotLizzie. I started to worry a lot. If this was how my body felt when I was 23, what was it going to feel like at 40? 60? 80?
I was in pain all the time. I couldn't row. I couldn't run. I couldn't do anything without my injuries flaring up. I felt increasingly frustrated that I couldn't workout without my whole body being on fire the next day. I had gone from being a Division 1 athlete to somebody who worried that sleeping in the wrong position would permanently break me in half. Chiropractors would help momentarily, but the ache would slowly creep back in. I went to the doctor a few times, and they prescribed me pain meds so strong that I just laid on the couch, ate chips, and fell asleep. Also, why was it so alarmingly easy for me to get pain medicine? Can we talk about that? Yikes.
I lived in West Seattle, and a few Facebook friends directed me to a cute little studio right near the bridge. They had a ridiculously cheap intro package and their schedule worked for me, so I signed up. I sweated and winced through a 90 minute class. I was that girl and thought I could do 90 minutes in a heated room no problem my first time. I wish I could be a fly in the wall at that class. I remember falling over. I remember feeling like I was going to shit myself, and also like I might pass out. What if I passed out and then shit myself? Afterwards, the teacher gave me a high five. He remembered my name, which was very satisfying for little 23 year old me who was feeling like I was going to be an entry-level employee forever and never do anything with my life. 20-somethings are dramatic as fuck. I was very doomsday about everything back then. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to calm my ass down and drink a damn beer.
The next morning I woke up and- as every cliche yoga story goes- I felt amazing. I was a goddess. I was a whole new woman. I was not in pain. I had no idea what kind of yoga class I had just taken, but I was in love with it. I wanted to marry it. At the time, I didn't even know that there were different types of yoga. I'm proud to admit that I was a die-hard Bikram yogi for about 6 months before knowing what type of yoga I was doing. I didn't know what a Bikram practice was, I just knew that the weird shapes felt good in my body and I wasn't waking up in jarring pain everyday.
It sounds incredibly dramatic, but I had something to look forward to every day. I would rush home from work, throw on my spandex, and zip to the studio. Once I was so eager to get to class that I hit a parked car. I was so desperate to get to class that I almost didn't leave a note. Almost. (To be clear, I left a note and they were chill about it.) I worshiped my teachers. My heart swelled a bit when they would remember my name, when they complimented me on my practice. I started meeting other students. I felt like I had a purpose, I had something that I belonged to. I was totally obsessed. I planned my whole day, no, my whole life, around when I could go to yoga. It was the best thing that had happened to me in years.
I couldn't get over how good I felt mentally and physically. I pretty much would tell anybody who would listen. I was enlightened, you guys. And so, since I like to go big or go home, I decided that I was all in and wanted to be a yoga teacher. I had no idea what that would look like. I just knew that I liked doing yoga and I hated sitting at a desk, and I wanted everybody else to feel what I had felt. I wanted to help every single person who complained about being in pain and walk them to my yoga studio.
Take my advice: do not do what I did when you sign up for a yoga teacher training. I basically just googled "Seattle yoga training", found one that looked legit, and handed them my credit card. I didn't even know what kind of yoga it was for! I just knew I wanted to be a yoga teacher right that very second, and I was going to make it happen. Thankfully (phew!) the training that I signed up for was legit. I met a slew of fabulous yogis. I had to practice multiple times per week, which left me permanently sweaty, sore, and blissed out. I would take doubles and then triples and could've saved a lot of money on rent by just claiming the studio as my home. I made new yoga pals. I felt healthy. I felt happier than I had been in a long time.
Once training ended, I picked up a class on Sunday mornings. It was a beginners group of yogis, and I swear I got high off of how excited they were when they left class. One class a week slowly turned into two, and then four, and then as many as I could humanly fit around the schedule of my "real job". As I grew increasingly miserable at my desk job, my yoga-life was blossoming. I had tons of regulars, I was having a blast teaching class, and I never felt like I was working. I still don't, and it's amazing. Teaching yoga feels like home to me. It feels like what I am meant to be doing. My body craves yoga and needs the heat, but my heart craves connecting with my students and watching them grow.
I know, I know. So many feels. Lock it up, Liz.
This could go on for about another 20 years, but I ended up quitting my job in March to take on teaching yoga full time. I was spending more time crying in a conference room than enjoying the work I was doing, and constantly felt like a total failure. I realized one morning that I was slowly killing my soul in a job that was breaking me down, which was totally stupid. I had another job that I loved! I put in my notice, I threw away the majority of my bras (#sportsbralife), and never looked back. It has been the most fulfilling 9 months of my whole damn life.
After a few years of teaching for the studio that I got my certification at, I harassed the owner at my very first yoga studio into letting me audition for a teaching position. I was so nervous that my 60 minute sequence ended up taking about 40 minutes tops. I laughed too loudly when I spoke and was shaking a lot when I talked to her because I wanted the job so badly. For whatever reason, even though I was a complete psycho, she hired me. Now I work for her full time, and manage the studio where my whole yoga journey began. Each time I walk into that space I feel my smile exploding out of my face.
Not everybody likes yoga, I get that. For some people it's really boring and not hard enough and it just doesn't speak to them. That's totally cool! You do you, my friend. BUT yoga came to me at a time when I desperately needed it, and I will always be grateful of my very first yoga teacher, my very first yoga studio, for making me not feel like a complete idiot. I felt welcome and like I was part of something bigger than myself, and added bonus yoga healed all my injuries. I can row again!
I am that person. I am that crazy yogi who was pulled out of a black hole of sadness and (physical) pain by my yoga mat, and if I can share that rad feeling with just one other person in my whole career, that's good enough for me.
Namaste, ya weirdos. Oh, and come take class.