Which Is The Right Way, Though?

I’ve always been a vinyasa girl. Ever since I went to my very first yoga class at the YMCA as a teen, with my sweet mama. It always felt right. I got breath, strength, and flexibility all in one. The alignment made sense to me in my body, and I didn’t question it. I had a very black and white view of what was best. Needless to say, my grasp was tight and it didn’t serve me.


I didn’t know that yet, though. I began practicing at home a few years later and gravitated towards vinyasa again. It was my roots; what I knew. I got a yoga mat and an app called Pocket Yoga. I spent the next two years teaching myself the basics and how to flow on my own. I began with a blank canvas and grew my home practice into exactly what I wanted: flexibility and arm balance training. 


One day in the summer of 2015, it dawned on me... I was meant to share this practice. My purpose was to open my heart and share my experience with others. I was meant to lead others to the light. As soon as I found my path, everything fell into place. My aforementioned sweet mama helped me pay for my training (I don’t know how much longer it would’ve taken me to save for it!) and I made it happen. 


I chose a power vinyasa program at a heated studio (Be Luminous Yoga, in downtown Seattle). I take that back; it chose me. I immediately submitted my application and payed in full before I ever stepped foot inside. My heart knew it was my next home. And it was. I graduated almost a year after I found my calling. Then, the real work began. 


I had been teaching power and slow flow for about a year and a half when one studio I teach at changed ownerships. It was power vinyasa, yin and Bikram. The old owners were super strict Bikram practitioners and had a large following. Most of the students practiced Bikram style and as a vinyasa teacher, it was tough. It was hard to get people in the door. It was hard to get people to stay.


As the ownership changed, so did the studio. We began calling the Bikram classes, “Traditional Hot,” and offered 75 and 60 minute classes in addition to the usual 90 minute classes. It made them much more accessible to busy people and beginners. What also made them more accessible were the teachers who were being added to the schedule. They were DIFFERENT! They didn’t teach to the script. They let their natural personalities shine through. It wasn’t the drill sergeant type stuff I’d experienced previously (noting here that the Bikram style and those who teach like that aren’t bad- we just needed something new and different). I began to enjoy this new Traditional Hot. 


Let’s back up for a sec... I’ll tell you about my very first Bikram class. It was very strict. It was after I signed up for my teacher training. They asked us to go to one class we loved, one class we were curious about, and one class we’d never normally go to. That last one was Bikram for me. At the time, I could barely stand to be in a 95 degree room for Power Vinyasa, how would I get through a class in a 105 degree room with 50% humidity for 90 minutes?? I didn’t know, but I went anyway. I HATED it. It was the exact opposite of what I knew and loved. First of all, it’s a set sequence, it’s pretty much always the same. Then, instead of expanding out, it was all about hugging in... compression. And there’s like, a thousand savasanas. I was all, FINALLY! And they were all, j/k!! I ran out of water 30 minutes in, and the only reason I made it through the whole class is because I’m so fucking stubborn.


Fast forward to when I began working at this studio just before the ownership changed, and I went to a couple of Bikram classes. I had a super strict teacher, but she had a way of teaching that inspired me to be better. It made me want to learn more. She taught me how this style benefited every single part of the body. I began to see how two things could be good. How they could both coexist. It didn’t have to be one of the other. 


I had to let the part of me that clung to vinyasa go. I had to let that closed part of my mind die. It was a wonderful transformation that changed the way I saw my practice. It was such a stroke of fate when the studio owner decided we needed to change the Traditional Hot classes up even more and put some new teacher in the Hot Room. They held a training, which I attended. About a month later, I got my own class. It was an opportunity that never would have opened for me unless I had been willing to let go of my tight grip, unless I had said goodbye to part of me that wasn’t serving my highest good. 


One teacher friend recently asked me, “how do you reconcile the differences between the styles?” It took me off guard at first, because I forgot for a moment that I did, in fact, teach very seemingly contradictory classes. I realized and explained how I’ve learned to see the good in both. I enjoy teaching both in my classes and experiencing both in my practice. I get different things from each. Vinyasa gives me a creative flow that builds strength. Traditional Hot is meditative- I always know what’s coming next- and improves endurance. 


So, next time you get caught up in right or wrong, good or bad ask yourself... am I looking at this through a tinted lens? Is there a way of looking at this without bias? And it’s hard, but that’s totally the practice.  What black and white views can you let go of in your life? How can you soften in your ways? Could you be happier if you did?

Le Petit Mort

Nothing in my life came easy. Growing up didn’t come easy. Interacting with people wasn’t easy. Being myself wasn’t easy. It was scary. All of it- just completely terrifying. I liked to be alone. I enjoyed art and thinking. And running. I was awkward, and sad. 


The things I witnessed as a child terrified me into withdrawal. My alcoholic father was neglectful and emotionally abusive. I hated him so much by the time I was 5 or 6 that I remember wishing he had died while I waited for him to come pick us up for our biweekly visit with him. I was too scared to tell my mom how he treated us, but I think deep down she already knew.


Imagining a life other than misery and pain was unfathomable. I couldn’t imagine not being so anxious and despising social situations. It was funny, I didn’t realize till later that my heart beat super fast- I average 115-120 beats resting. I didn’t realize the connection of the mind and body. My breaths were short and shallow. Sometimes, I even forgot to breathe. 


At one point in high school, I went to live with my dad. I thought trying to mend our relationship would make me happier, make me feel less alone. It didn’t. Within 6 months I came crawling back to my mother who welcomed me with open arms. But, the damage had been done. I was so broken at that point, I went to see a therapist and she couldn’t even treat me because all I did was cry when I opened my mouth. That was the beginning of my drug use, medically and recreationally. Anything to numb the pain that I felt. I was prescribed Klonopin at the ripe age of 16. It was criminal. 


After a few years of partying way too hard, I decided to further my college education in New Orleans, where I met a guy. We dated for a few months, even though we had some very turbulent experiences, one where he tried to kill himself when I questioned his habits. Later, I learned he was into heroin. I was so curious, so I began using, too. My life started falling apart. 


Then, in one of my classes, I was introduced to Buddhism in a simple stroke of divinity. Even though I recognized it as the answer I’d been looking for, I didn’t know how to use it. Staying in meditation for hours helped, but not how I needed. I needed something to show me how to integrate my newfound mindfulness into my life. 


Shortly into the second semester of college in New Orleans, I hit a rock bottom. I was 20 years old and after months of drug use, all kinds of abuse in my relationship, and being raped, my mom  looked into my eyes and said, “come home with me.” So, I did. I continued the abusive relationships and got legal drugs. I was still fucking broken. I thought that’s all I was worth. 


It wasn’t until I found yoga that a whole lot changed for me. It took a few years of it, too. It wasn’t until my teacher training that I really felt the full benefits of my practice. It’s something I would recommend to anyone wanting to go deeper into their own practice, whether they want to actually teach or not. It’s pretty powerful. 


That’s the most basic overview of my story. In this blog, my intention is to go deeper. Each entry will dig deeper into all the little parts of me that have died to make space for who I am becoming. We all have these stories. Maybe not exactly the same things happened to you, but I know that you experienced trauma. It can look like so many different things. It is my hope that by sharing my experiences you will feel less alone in whatever you have gone though or are going through in you life.