My Yoga Story

Photo credit: Elijah Northen

Photo credit: Elijah Northen

I’ve been running my yoga business and website for several months now, and I’ve been working on sharing my yoga knowledge, thoughts, goals, plans, and of course, the classes I’m teaching. But I realized I’ve started a bit in the middle of the story - I’ve started from the point of becoming a yoga instructor, and not from the point of becoming a yoga student (though please know, even as instructors, we’re still always students, and we’re always learning). I haven’t yet shared my full yoga journey, how and why I got to this point that I’m at now. I first began taking yoga approximately 14 years ago, so my journey is a bit long and winding, but I promise it’s all relevant. It has influenced my life and my path tremendously, and it has certainly influenced the direction in which I want to grow my yoga business, and so I felt it important to share.  

My yoga journey began at a time of major transition in my life. In March 2006, at the age of 26, I quit my full time job to open my own travel planning business. I was renting a storefront in Collingswood, NJ, not far from the town where I lived at the time. I was married, and the plan was that we would live on my (then) husband’s salary, and to put what I made in my business into savings until my business took off. We’d been putting my salary from my job into savings anyway, so this seemed like a solid plan. In January 2007, my husband and I separated and shortly after began the divorce process. Two weeks later, I learned that the owner of  the building where I’d had my new business for less than a year was selling the building, and had a cash offer for the full asking price. The prospective buyer wanted to terminate my lease and put a family member’s business in place. Within the span of 8 months, I was about to lose my marriage, my home (my ex husband stayed in it, I moved out), and my brand new storefront for my business (not to mention my health and life insurance and basically any steady income). The owner of the building was understanding, and seeing as I had been a good tenant so far, gave me “right of first refusal”. My family and I (but really them) had two weeks to come up with the full asking price in cash in order to salvage at least this piece of the situation. I, to this day, am not entirely sure how we (they) did it, but they managed to, and I was able to stay in my storefront. 

I spent six days a week in that storefront, and I loved running it. I had followed my dream and I was incredibly proud of myself, and what I was building. Still, I was now living alone, working for and by myself, and had stepped away from the majority of my friends group, as they’d been couple friends with my ex-husband. Suffice it to say, life was rocky, and I was questioning a lot about myself, and I was feeling a major lack of connection and community.

A few months later, I noticed that a yoga studio was opening almost directly across from my storefront. I had gone to undergrad for Kinesiology/Exercise Science, had spent five years working in corporate fitness full time, and was generally active, but I had yet to try yoga. I was intrigued, and felt like it might offer a missing piece to my overall wellness that I felt was lacking. I was also terrified. And since I’m being honest, I’m going to be totally honest - I was most terrified that I wouldn’t be able to be quiet for 60-90 minutes during class - for an introvert, I’m talkative, and as I’ve explained, was a bit company-deprived. I pictured sitting there, not able to talk to my neighbors, 1000s of thoughts swirling in my head (because they tend to do that, especially during a rough time in one’s life), and I truly thought: I don’t know if I can do it. I also pictured everyone else doing perfect yoga sequences and me falling over my feet, not being experienced. Neither of these felt super appealing to someone who was already feeling lost and struggling with self-esteem and confidence. But still, I was drawn to it. 

I emailed the owners of the soon-to-be-open studio, and I introduced myself by way of being their neighboring business across the street that was also new(ish) to the area. They were super welcoming and friendly and encouraging. We built up a rapport. I felt a little more comfortable. It was still probably a year before I finally, tentatively, ventured across the street for an hour-long gentle class. I explained that I was new. They made sure to make me feel comfortable. I don’t recall if I tripped over my feet (probably), but I do know that even if I did, nobody laughed at me. Or even stifled a laugh or looked away or anything of the like. There were yogis of all levels there. I didn’t feel out of place or silly. The focus on the breath and the movement calmed me, and I had no problem not talking for the 60 minutes (if you know me, you know this is an exceptional feat). In fact, I enjoyed the time to connect with my body and breath and, wordlessly, with the others in the room. For the first time since my marriage broke up, and truthfully probably even before that, I felt connected. 

I continued to take classes, eventually trying vinyasa and yin and kundalini and basically every class they offered. Pretty soon I was going three times a week. I made friends. Like “outside of the studio” friends. Yoga offered me a place, and a process, to connect with myself and with others, to believe in myself, to grow my confidence and courage and self-esteem. To find a community. 

Fast forward to 2013. Lots of life happened in the meantime (that was super important to me, but isn’t necessarily that I need to write about here). After running my business for seven years, I did eventually have to sell my storefront - not my business, the building - but by then had established clients, so the building itself didn’t feel as essential. This time it was a business decision, not a decision someone was making for me.  I’d moved into Philadelphia and gotten a part time job to supplement my income. I liked the job and my coworkers, but I worked on a different floor than everyone else, and didn’t have a ton of interaction except within my immediate group. Once again, I was feeling a loss of connection. I admittedly hadn’t been as great at going to yoga (I don’t have any great excuses, honestly, I let myself slack), though I tried to keep up with it at home. One day, I was sitting at my part time job at the front desk, when who walked in but the owner of “my’ yoga studio in Collingswood. We hugged, and she explained that she taught a weekly yoga class at my office on Wednesdays.. I’d heard mention of there being yoga offered, but I had no idea it was her who taught it. It was enough of a kick in the rear to get me to clear my schedule Wednesdays from 4-5PM. I started taking yoga at my office  weekly. I got to connect with other coworkers - other yoga-loving coworkers at that - and we got to interact in a non-business-officey way. I felt myself connecting with myself more. Connecting with others. Even if for just one hour a week, I had this community.  Several years in, my original teacher had to give up the class, but in her place was another amazing instructor from the same studio. “My” studio. We continued to practice together weekly for the next several years. 

Fast forward to 2018. More life happened much of it exciting. Still, I was struggling. I no longer worked at this office, and missed the comradery of my yoga group. I was also going through a lot of personal stuff, struggling with finding my place in the world once again, struggling to connect with myself and my purpose.  I was again feeling a lack of community, of connection. I was (and am still) in touch with the second teacher that taught at my office. She posted that the studio, “my” studio, was taking sign ups for yoga teacher training They’d offered it for many years, and I’d just never felt the time was right. This time, something made me fill out the application. I got accepted to the YTT program and our first weekend of teacher training started the weekend after my 39th birthday. This felt serendipitous to me - I was going to spend the last year of my 30s coming full circle, doing yoga teacher training in the studio (though the physical location has moved down the street) where I first began my yoga journey all those years ago.  For the third time in 14 years, yoga was bringing me back to myself. It was connecting me to me, and to a community of some of the most beautiful souls that I’ve ever met, which I desperately needed. It helped me believe in myself, my abilities, my capabilities. It showed me possibilities and gave me hope. It still continues to every day. 

Over the past 14 years or so, yoga has offered me what I haven’t known how to offer myself. It has helped me through some of the worst times with my mood cycling disorder and my other chronic illnesses. It has helped me through personal and life struggles. It has helped me through a several-decade long battle with body image, not because of how it’s changed my body, but because it’s helped me see the beauty in what my body does for me, in what it is and does instead of what it isn’t and doesn’t,  in how connecting my breath to movement of my body in yoga, I have been able to get through so much.

I graduated Yoga Teacher Training in May 2019. I knew when I started teacher training that I wanted to teach (not all that go through training do), and to use yoga to help others. I want to use yoga as a bridge (no pun intended - bridge is also a yoga pose) to reach those who may be struggling to find connection, either with themselves or with a community. I want others to be able to experience the belief in self, the personal (internal) strength and quiet confidence that a yoga practice can foster over time. I want to reach those who might feel the nerves and fear I felt the first time I signed up for a class, who might think they aren't flexible or active or strong enough for yoga, to help them see that none of that matters, because they are enough just as they are. I want to bring yoga to those who might be, as I was all those years ago, afraid of literally or figuratively falling over their own feet. I want  to utilize yoga to give back, through yoga benefit programs and through helping others, as yoga has given me so much. Most of all, I want to make yoga available in a way that people can experience it not just a practice, but as a process, and to help them to feel how, with time, it can extend far beyond what you do on the mat.