Just a few years ago, I can recall a dark point in my life.
I slouched in my brown leather recliner with a huge ice pack on my left knee that was hooked up to a rotating ice machine, recovering from my second ACL replacement surgery on my left knee.
Up until that point, my biggest passion was trail running ultra races, which is any distance over a marathon. My entire year was planned by which races I would do in the summer and my closest friends were my running partners. I would average about 50 miles per week. My favorite day was Saturday because it was my long run day. I would spend the entire day outside in the woods, munching on energy bars and chatting nonsense with my girls. Besides my full time job as a children’s librarian, my entire identity was built around being a runner.
So here I was, curled up in my convalescent chair wallowing in self-pity, sobbing while watching one of my favorite 80’s movies, Mystic Pizza. I had borrowed an iPad from work and was simultaneously surfing the web, searching for a hobby or direction in my life that would pull me out of my self imposed victim-hood.
I researched yoga teacher trainings and felt myself get really excited and also scared. I had always wanted to do a yoga teacher training, having had a dedicated, albeit inconsistent practice, since college. I had picked a training in India that looked great but involved a whole month of doing pretty intense asana. This didn’t seem practical given my physical condition. Plus, I had all of these negative voices arise in my head like, “you can’t be a yoga teacher”, “that’s impractical”, “there are already too many yoga teachers”, “don’t be so selfish”, “you’re just a dreamer”.
Instead, I pulled up a more practical option, learning web design. I had always been pretty tech savvy and I love working with colors and photos. Maybe I could even make it fit in with the work I already do, I thought. It was the practical, rational choice for me, it seemed safe.
So while I was recovering from ACL surgery, (it took a full year!), I learned basic code and how to build WordPress websites. Without much thought, I opened up a website design business and started building sites for a few people in town. It wasn’t particularly exciting but it kept my mind off of not being able to run.
As luck would have it, almost all of my website clients ended up being yoga teachers! Then, I started doing website updates and social media posts for the local yoga festival in my town. The festival was just beginning and they didn’t have a budget for marketing yet, so they offered me a trade. Would I be interested in doing a 200-hour yoga teacher training that they were hosting in my town in exchange for the website work I was doing? (The Universe is funny, isn't it?) Yes, of course!
And the best part was that because the yoga teacher training was “free”, all of those negative voices in my head of me being selfish, narcissistic, or spoiled did not come up. Or if they came up, I could easily ignore them. I told myself I would just take the training for personal growth and to improve my practice with no intentions of ever teaching yoga.
We graduated on a Sunday night, I remember thinking that was so fun and I learned so much and I’m so glad I completed it, but I will probably never teach yoga. Less than 12 hours later, I get a phone call from the owner of a local yoga studio that desperately needed a sub for their community yoga class that night.
She said, “I heard you just graduated! Can you teach tonight?” In my head, I thought, hell no! Then, no joke she said, “I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking, hell no. I’m not ready.” Which was exactly what I was thinking! It was one thing to teach in front of my comrades in teacher training. But the thought of standing up and teaching yoga to a room full of strangers who expected me to know what I was doing terrified me. And, it was exciting. So I said yes.
The rest, as they say, is history. Teaching yoga that first night, I messed up, I said weird things, I was nervous. And, I experienced a kind of high that I had never experienced before. The groundedness I felt of being focused on just my words, the bodies in the room, the space in between poses, the music, all of it. I reached an intense flow state and felt as if I had meditated for hours. I taught yoga that night and I haven’t stopped since.
Teaching yoga has taught me so much, most importantly it taught me about myself. You can’t share this practice without doing the work yourself. Most people think yoga is a physical exercise and don’t realize that it is actually a tool for the mind. Through the body, we slowly learn to calm and still the mind. I’ve learned tools of self-awareness, discovery, and empowerment that have completely changed the trajectory of my life.
I also learned to identify those fear voices, the ones that say things like “who do you think you are”, “you’re so selfish,” etc. Now, when I hear those voices, I see them for what they really are, fear. I used to think fear was something you ran away from. That when fear came up, that was a sign that you must avoid that thing. It’s quite the opposite. I now use fear as a compass, as a signal that I’m moving in the right direction. When those voices come up, even start shouting, I now know that I’m on to something.
That one distinction has truly transformed my whole life. It also led me to pursue life coaching, another terrifying and richly rewarding endeavor that feels like my true life’s purpose. Now, I get to help others form a new relationship with fear, to move past their blocks, and step into what is truly calling them.