From Trapped to Thriving

From trapped in an unhappy life to thriving yoga teacher

 

Just over 10 years ago, my life was very different than it is now. Every morning I woke up facing a day packed with stress and misery and often the first thing I would do is have a drink. Weekends were filled with junk food, cigarettes, alcohol, isolation and dread for the week to come. I made a lot of money, was more than financially secure on my own, had nice things, travelled, and had a career that on the surface looked like something to be envious of. But at the core of it all I was lost and unhappy and had no sense of greater purpose or self-worth. So when I lost that job for reasons that should be obvious, even though it was devastating and embarrassing, there was something deep down inside me that recognized it was the beginning of a chance to live a different kind of life. 

For two more years I struggled in jobs that made me unhappy. At which I counted down minutes, hours and days until my weekends and vacations. Yet I understood finally that there was more to life than money and appearances, and so I was finally willing to start looking for the life I was meant to live even though it felt far off and out of reach. And then in my early thirties my father lost a short and awful battle with pancreatic cancer which offered up a few blessings. One was getting to say all the things we wanted to say to each other before time ran out. The other was getting to be with him the moment he left this life for the next. Something inside me finally began to listen to a truth that had been hunting me down for years: that these lives are short and fleeting and that there is no time to wait to live your dreams or find your happiness. And because of this deeply spiritual experience of being with him when he passed I began to long for deeper meaning and purpose in a way that I was no longer willing to ignore. That’s when I found yoga; or maybe yoga found me. 

I began a practice 3 times a week and then four. First it was all about ambition and accomplishment, ego and self-certainty. I chased big poses, funky arm balances and advanced transitions without really recognizing the patience and practice that would go into truly mastering any of them. But there was no escaping the transformative power of yoga, whether I’d shown up for it or not, and soon I began to let go of everything I was reaching for and started to delight in the moment and in my present circumstance and ability, without some story I was meant to be anywhere but where I was. I gave up smoking and drinking, changed my eating habits and lifestyle, and slowly this practice of showing up fully on my yoga mat turned into me showing up fully in my life.

Immersed in a community passionate about study, practice, growth and self-reflection I soon realized that I wanted to give back what had been given to me through my teachers. I wanted to pass on this practice that had fundamentally changed my life and the story I had about who I was and what was possible. I was able to take my 200hr Yoga Teacher certification here in Halifax with my teachers at Shanti Yoga which made it all the more special and I was certified to teach yoga in 2015. And when I was laid off from my day job in November later that year I knew I had been given an opportunity to change the landscape of my life forever.

This isn’t always the easiest career to step into. Especially when you are someone who has spent a lifetime questioning your worth, second guessing yourself, and needing and looking for validation from the outside world all the while that deep well of insecurity tempts you to believe you’ll never quite get it. It was hard those first couple years. The struggle between wanting to be appreciated, liked and seen and the fact I’d stepped into this career and onto this path in service and to give back. At times the weight of needing to impress people, students, to make and keep them happy, have them leave the room raving about what I’d offered so they’d keep coming back, was crushing. But I wanted to succeed and I wanted so desperately for them all to get some of what I had from this amazing practice. I was sure I was meant to be doing this work and yet I was so afraid no one else would believe it too and I’d have to walk away from it at some point, because I wasn’t good enough. That same fear that had showed up in every aspect of my life, over and over again, had found me even here. 

I’m not sure what finally shifted things for me. I guess like all change it happened slowly and yet all at once. Life shook me up and tossed me down, and in the getting back up I took a look at myself and why I had become a yoga teacher and what the practice really meant to me. I realized I had a home in this practice as myself. Bright, shining, flawed, troubled, sometimes insecure, sometimes sure of myself, passionate, loving, creative and all the rest in between, good and bad. That’s who was meant to show up in rooms and spaces and offer this practice back, humbly, in service, hour by hour, day by day. Her job, my job, was not to make yoga great, this practice is that all on its own. Don’t I know that just by where I’m standing after it all. No, my job is to hold space for others to find their own yoga in whatever way serves them, without me trying to tell them what that should be. Figuring that out meant for me that I could let go of trying so damn hard to be some idea of myself, and relax into who I am, and trust what I’m meant to be doing, here and now. Teaching yoga.

Every journey is different, every path laid out ahead of us utterly unique, but my way forward was simple: I put myself out there over and over again, I taught as much as I could and said yes to almost every opportunity whether it paid a little or a lot, whether there was one person in the room or 20, and I was fortunate enough to have people and communities like RIO, On the Mat and others that were excited to give new teachers opportunities to teach, grow and learn. That opened their doors lovingly to me and believed fully that I would succeed and helped me do it. 

Almost 4 years later and here I am. Still teaching yoga full time, still imperfect and yet willing to grow and learn, still showing up in passionate and amazing communities every single day to teach and to be a student, still looking forward to my life and what I get to share and be a part of. Among so many amazing moments and accomplishments these past four years I am a lululemon ambassador, I am now certified to teach teachers in this amazing practice of yoga, I travel to lead yoga retreats in beautiful locations around the world, and I am happy, and fulfilled, and sure of myself in this moment right here. How did I make it happen? By working hard, by being willing to take risks, by finally believing in what I had long ago told myself was impossible, by learning when to say ‘yes’ and how to say ‘no’, by letting myself be helped and guided by other teachers and friends and this amazing community of ours, by being open to change, by being willing to fight for what I knew in my heart was meant to be, if only I was willing to take the leap and trust myself. By taking my yoga practice and all it’s given and taught me and working to put it into practice in my life over and over again.