My Yoga Experience (as of April 2020)
“Sometimes life you knocks down…
Get up! Get up! Get up!
Happiness is not the absence of problems;
It’s the ability to deal with them when they come.” (Author Unknown)
The first time I set foot in a yoga studio was June of 2018. I was, to say the least, completely out of my comfort zone. I was, or had up until very recently been, a “doer”, a “mover”, a “live by my to-do list”, “cardio to the core” kind of gal. When yoga had been mentioned or suggested to me by various people in my life over the years, I admittedly rolled my eyes and thought “that is not a work out, and there is no way I can be still on a mat for an hour!” However, rewind to June of 2017, when the person I knew as myself disappeared. Self-sufficient, get it ALL done and get it ALL done with “perfection” and without help Jodi was gone. When I reflect on that time, I realize that I started slipping away in April of that year, but June was when my world came crashing down. I was lost; I was dark; I was scared; I was alone. Even though I, by standards of the outside world’s view, had the perfect life: a faith and trust in God since childhood; a loving husband; four healthy, happy kids; amazing friends; a secure job; great relationships with parents, my brother and other extended family. I had it “all”. Until I didn’t. Over the summer of 2017, what started with a sense of being on edge and suffering from insomnia, quickly turned to paralyzing anxiety and crippling depression. I could not, for the life of me, find myself. It spiraled because I realized rather quickly that I needed help; but, I had never asked for help from anyone for anything in my life. And, I questioned my faith…”God, I love you, I trust you, give me the strength to handle this passing phase without pausing to ask for help or have to get help.” I questioned my faith and this literally broke me. I thought “if I am true believer, I can handle this; I’ve got this. I don’t need counseling; I don’t need medication; I don’t need help… I don’t, I don’t, I don’t was all I said, until one day I realized….. I do. I do need help, I do need to take the recommended medications, I do need to take time away from work to find myself again; I do need to seek counseling, I do need to be open to other “out there” self help tools (insert yoga, meditation, journaling, etc.).
Up to this point in my life I was self- sufficient; looking back now I see with eyes wide open that I was complacent; I was passive. The alarm would go off at 5 AM. I would jump out of bed, drink (aka chug) a cup of coffee, crank through my workout, get showered for work, get the kids out the door, head to teach 8th grade special education students, come home, fix dinner (maybe actually sit and eat it), do the homework thing, shuffle kids to sporting events and other activities, get everyone in bed, settle myself for the next morning, and then in the blink of an eye……BUZZZ! BUZZZ! BUZZZ! the alarm at 5 AM and hit the repeat button. I was “doing” life, but I wasn’t “living” life.
In October 2017, I crashed-hard! I could not carry on, my body literally physically and emotionally broke down. My loving, empathetic boss, at the time, as well as my husband and parents encouraged and convinced me to take some time to rest, rejuvenate, and reflect what I needed to do to get better, to feel better. While I was in the midst of this storm: time off work, finding a counselor that I connected with, getting just the right dose and combination of medicines, finally getting some much needed sleep, I was also gifted with an every day connection with my dear Dad. My parents live about 3 hours from me, so while they could not be with me physically every day I walked through this storm, they were with me in every other sense. My dad, in particular, was my life line- literally. He was retired, so he would call me every day to check in with me, encourage me, remind me to keep fighting,to look for the good and see the good. My anticipation of Dad’s call, the phone ringing, and our talks got me through a lot of very difficult days. I was not only afforded extra time with Dad, but I also had nothing but time on my hands, so I turned more intentionally to my heavenly father, and His word. The scripture and time in prayer was water for my soul; it was healing and I know it is, in the end, what saved me. Both of my father’s were speaking to me, and telling me that I mattered, that I had a life worth living (not just being), that I had purpose. I vividly remember pleading and crying out to God “why am I going through this, what are you preparing me for? Is something big going to happen that you need to make me stronger now, so I can handle it?” I wanted answers to the reason behind this storm. Another lesson I needed to learn; we don’t always get the answers. That is what “letting go” is all about.
By January of 2018, I was back to teaching; I was coming to terms that medications were “acceptable”; I was actively, as in every week, attending a counseling session; I was open about my mental health struggles with the most important people in my life, including my four children, and I was feeling a bit more like myself. Thankfully, that identity of who I was had drastically changed. I was no longer self sufficient, I was appropriately codependent on the wonderful people God had placed in my life; and I was drawn to time well spent with God like no other time in my life. God, and His word, were now my morning wake up call. I was less judgemental; I was more focused on being present rather than perfect. I was on my way back.
Fast forward to June of 2018 when I walked into this warm, inviting, cool vibe yoga studio- Anahata Yoga; remember yoga was that thing, that “exercise” that I scoffed a year before. Well, the moment I stepped foot in the door, I was welcomed; I was appreciated; I was seen; I was important; I mattered. I have, not even once, looked back or thought about letting my yoga go. The “Come as you are, all are welcome, let go, smile, breathe, judgment free zone” that is the atmosphere of Anahata Yoga studio and, in fact, the entire philosophy of yoga in general has saved me. More than that, yoga has helped me find a me that I didn’t realize existed. Yoga has taught me to slow down, even stop. Yoga has taught me that the practice, and therefore life itself, is just that- a practice; no perfection necessary. When I am on my mat, I get lost in myself. My hopes and dreams feel real. I feel good; I feel free; I feel worthy and deserving. When in yoga class, the internal connection is so deep. But, BUT…. the connection to the greater good of this world, the connection to the other humans in that class lights a fire in my soul. I hear the breath of others, as I concentrate on my breath; I see the falling out of poses and the struggle of balance in others, as I struggle to hold my Warrior 3 pose. In yoga class, I feel and see patience and persistence; I feel and see grit and grace; I hear the instructor saying, “let go, breathe, be kind to yourself, surrender”. And these feelings, these emotions, elicit something in me that lets me know that even if the storm comes, and it will; even if “life knocks me down”, and it will; I can get back up- again, and again, and again!
In November of 2018, my world did come crashing down in a way that I wasn’t sure I could or would get back up, but this time it was loss, real loss- not emotional or mental loss, but physical loss. My dad, my rock, my go to person over the past tumultuous year, unexpectedly passed away. We were stunned, numb; our family is so close and this man was the rock. Our compass of common sense, our source of unconditional love, our truest example of loving and living without limits or regrets. So you see, my self reflection, my willingness to hit the pause button on life, my agreement to seek counseling and consider medication, my time spent talking with Dad, his more than normal frequent visits, my soul searching and digging deep into my faith and God’s Word, my realization that this life is meant to be lived, not simply done, were all huge catalysts for my healing. And they prepared me, giving me strength and armor to help me stand strong and prevail through the devastating storm of losing Dad.
And yoga. My yoga mat became a place where I could sit quietly with my thoughts of Dad; oftentimes dedicating my practice to him, and crying my way through the asanas. Yoga, like Dad, has helped me realize that there is no perfection; there is no end point, there is no isolation. Yoga, in itself, means to join or unite- your body, your mind, your soul with God. I quickly learned that yoga is not simply stretching and becoming successful. Yoga is digging deep to examine yourself; yoga is taking the time to be present for yourself and others; yoga is asking for help when needed; yoga is a life long journey; it is a practice- it is not perfection. I know that I will continually learn and grow- emotionally, physically, and spiritually as I continue my yoga journey.
This brings me to the present, April of 2020, where I have decided that if yoga made me feel so good, and I have grown more during my yoga journey ( which includes a very rich life journey, including the loss of a parent, and a shift in how I LIVE life) than any other time in my life, then I want to share this joy, this acceptance, this transformative practice with others. So, I decided to take the Yoga Teacher Training course. This, in itself, has ramped my experience up several degrees. I am being taught by three amazing women; I call them my Yoga Warriors. They are amazing; and, they are the core of my experience and hooked me on yoga. I would love to bring this journey, share this connection of thoughts, actions and feeling, to someone else. I want to help others see that yoga helps you see the testimonies in tests and the messages in the messes of life.
During my training, I have been blessed with learning alongside six other amazing, powerful, strong, resilient, loving and accepting women. We have laughed, and cried, together numerous times on our journey thus far. We have accepted each other and challenged each other. I have learned so much from them; their experiences, their insights, their questions, their ways of practicing, and I look forward to completing this part of our journey together. My hope is that our yoga journey together won’t end after our training, but that we have found life long friends and yogis in each other. I did not expect to learn so much depth and breadth of the yoga practice- the philosophy, in itself is mind blowing- forget about the anatomy and practice of sequences… the PHILOSOPHY is where it’s at! The anatomy and sequencing is really important, but again… the PHILOSOPHY!!!
In short, I am learning every day that yoga, like my life, is a journey of practice, not perfection. I will stumble. I will fall. I will lose my balance. I may even feel lost at times. But, I will always, always have my breath. I will always get up from every fall. I will learn to accept who I am, where I am, with what I have on any given day. I will be knocked down many more times in my life, but the Yogi inside of me will whisper, or maybe she will roar , “Jodi, Get Up! Get Up! Get Up! Get Up! And, Get On Your Mat!”
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again.
And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine.
Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful,
and relax and exhale during the ordinary.
That’s just living, heartbreaking, soul- healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life.
And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
See you on the mat,