When I first came to yoga, I was so oriented out in others that I had completely lost track of myself. Though I didn’t understand it at the time, I can now see that to focus on meeting the needs of others while losing track of my own was the best coping strategy I could have developed in childhood. My own embodied journey continues to be one of coming home to myself, re-learning how to be in relationship (both with myself and others); it’s a journey of coming to know and trust myself in order to build my life from the inside out, rather than from what I imagine others expect from me. Because my own embodied experiences are the foundation of the work that I do, I share my story in hopes that you find some resonance to your own unique journey among my words.
By the time I reached the age of 20, I had completely lost myself. I remember once being asked what I did for fun and staring back at the question asker like a deer in headlights; stunned and frightened. The truth is, I had so completely taken on other people’s ideas of who I should be, what I should want, how I should act that I had no idea who I was or what I enjoyed. I was completely disembodied, fully oriented outward. I am an empath and, in my early 20’s, was a perpetual people-pleaser. I spent my life deferring to others, making sure others had their needs met while ignoring my own. I had no idea who I was because I spent my life becoming whoever I thought I needed to be to fit in. I was miserable, I felt unlovable, I was exhausted all the time, and I was sick…like embarrassed at the size of my medical file, sick!
At around this time, I was extracting myself from a toxic relationship with my “high school sweetheart”. We had been together since the age of 16 and, when I finally ended it at the age of 21, I had recognized for at least 2 years that our relationship
dynamic was deeply unhealthy. Though I recognized it, I stayed because I was terrified of being alone; I had no idea who I was without this relationship. You
might find it surprising to hear me say that I am grateful every day for this time in my life; it was my rock bottom and, looking back a critical turning point for me. Finding myself alone and completely devoid of any semblance of myself, I recognized something in my life needed to change. Being miserable, feeling unlovable, those seemed like insurmountable problems, permanent states, but to start getting control of my health, that felt like something to grab on to.
Having been bullied as a kid meant gym class and organized sports had been the stuff of nightmares throughout my childhood. To take the step and sign-up for a variety of fitness classes was a stretch for me. I remember walking into my first classes (spin, circuit training, and yoga) absolutely terrified, scanning the room, looking to others to show me what I needed to do to blend into that environment. Very quickly, I learnt to adapt, to fit in and I entered a love affair with fitness & nutrition. I became obsessed with spin and went through a period of working out obsessively (from one unhealthy relationship to another). Looking back, it’s clear that this was very reactionary. I was committed to never being acquiescent in my romantic relationships again and so I armored up; I pushed myself to be stronger, to be tougher. I pushed myself in ways that were self-harmful because I was still moving in reaction to something external, I was still striving for my worth.
Over the next few years, I excelled at being strong. I did all the things I’d been sold as the answer to happiness; I got a sensible degree, lined up a high salaried job, got
into a new relationship, worked my ass off for the perfect body. From the outside, I appeared confident and together. Internally though, I was still miserable, I still felt unlovable, and the confidence was an act that I stepped into each day so I didn’t have to let anyone see the tender truth of it all. Throughout this time, I continued practicing yoga and had discerned that there was more to it than the physical practice that we typically think of, there was an element of personal exploration, of
truth seeking to it. And though I still couldn’t have told you what I wanted if you’d asked me outright, I knew in some deep forgotten place that the life I was living was not quite it. I knew I needed some space to explore the questions that I didn’t even know to ask and so, I applied for my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) with this intention in mind (my application essay was about beginning my education and, if you’d like, you can read it here ).
My study of Yoga beyond the physical practice has been ongoing since starting YTT in 2014. It’s been a journey of learning to listen to that still quiet voice, whispering, pleading for me to pay attention to the tender flame of interest and passion within. In the years since starting YTT, I have made life changing decisions that set me on a path that, at the time, I couldn’t even have imagined. Coming to trust ourselves, coming to live a life that’s led from within, is a continuously unfolding process, all we have to do is keep taking steps in the right direction. Thus, at first these decisions were small, they asked my nervous system to be a little uncomfortable and adapt, they changed the course of my life little by little, without overwhelming me. They led me to leave the not quite right relationship, to let down my armor enough to find big,
beautiful, holy shit this is terrifying love and, ultimately, in 2018, these small decisions culminated in me leaving my job to pursue a career in physiotherapy. This decision was a huge leap of faith (since it required me to submit my letter of resignation prior to knowing whether I had even been accepted into a master’s program) and I was not a leap of faith person! I was a planner, I liked to be in control (or at least have the illusion of control), I still held firm the belief that my life should fit neatly into my day planner.
In May 2018, I found out I had not been accepted into any of the programs to which I had applied. I was crushed, I was heartbroken, but mostly, I was terrified! I had resigned from my job effective July and I had no plan B. Shit! I started weighing my options, searching desperately for a lifeline to grab onto, searching for a new plan so I could stop lingering in this uncomfortable uncertainty. The thought of continuing to live in my hometown, of finding a new job to wait out the year until I could re-apply only heightened the sorrow I was feeling. We could move to a new city, somewhere in a new province, which would give me a better shot at getting into a program next year (by qualifying as a resident in 2 provinces) …this seemed like the reasonable thing to do. Then my partner suggested we take this as an
opportunity to do something I’d always dreamed of and spend an extended period of time travelling the world. This turned out to be another pivotal moment in my life and though, at the time, it felt like the worst possible outcome, I am grateful everyday that I was not accepted into a master’s program.
The months leading up to our travels were a whirlwind of to do lists. Preparing to leave Canada required methodical organization and planning so this decision did serve as a lifeline out of the discomfort of uncertainty…for a minute. However, in the days leading up to our departure, I came to realize I had actually taken a deep dive into that uncertainty (if you want to read more about my mindset at that time, you do so here ).
In travelling for the better part of a year, I came to know uncertainty intimately; I came to know the truth that I do not have control of anything outside of myself and I began to learn to go with the flow (which I hope I’ve made clear by now, was not my strong suit). In travelling for the better part of a year, the pace of my life slowed down for the first time since I was a teenager, and I came to know the reality that we can’t outrun our own shadows. I came to realize that my perpetually busy life had been an attempt to outrun the pain of my childhood and a strategy to earn my worth through achievement. In travelling for the better part of a year, I also came to know community and connection in a way I had been longing for. Everywhere we went, we found deeply nourishing community. We found belonging in communities of locals, communities of travellers, and were even welcomed into people’s homes to become part of the family for a few weeks.
Upon returning to Canada, I put the idea of physiotherapy on hold and entered into a program to become certified as a Yoga Therapist. Entering this program while holding all that had been unearthed during our 8-months of travelling has made this time of self-exploration revolutionary for me. It’s taken me into deep internal work on the mother wound, both individually around my relationship to my own mother and collectively around the ideas I’ve internalized from the patriarchy about which parts of me should be suppressed because I move through the world in a feminine body. It’s taught me the potential that’s unearthed in welcoming home the emotions, experiences, and expressions that are a part of me but that have been relegated to the shadows. It continues to reconnect me to my power as I journey to deeply know and trust myself and come to stand in the vulnerability that’s required to courageously live and express myself from this place. It continues to allow me to reconnect to my full humanity and, in turn, to hold space for the full humanity of those around me. As I learn to sit with my grief, my anger, my pain, I build capacity to bear witness to the grief, anger, and pain of my fellow humans.
As I move into teaching as a Yoga Therapist, I hope to create an embodied space where we can come together in community and support each other in coming home to ourselves. As a woman who is lives in a patriarchal society and is estranged from my mother, I myself am walking the embodied path of healing the mother wound. As I learn to take heart-led imperfect action, to put myself out there, to fail, to make mistakes, I am walking the embodied path of leading from my heart. These
are areas where I see my work possibly landing and where I am currently exploring offerings. However, if you see yourself in any part of my story, I hope you’ll reach out to connect or to work with me.
This a journey of learning to be with fear but not let it stop us, a journey that asks us again and again to take action that plays at the edge of our comfort zones, a journey that requires courage, vulnerability, truth, faith, and imperfect heart-led action. It’s the journey of a lifetime and the most worthwhile thing I know