The Journey: Becoming a Yoga Teacher
Learning balance along a rocky road
I began my yoga practice just before I met my ex-husband. The two events are likely related since I hadn't been known for being a relationship girl. Yoga probably helped that. It made me nicer and more attentive to other people's feelings. It also had me take a good, hard look at myself and turn my life in another direction.
My ex-husband is in the Navy special forces, which means he deploys and he's been deploying regularly since 9/11. His first deployment took him away for longer than we both expected and also longer than our marriage could withstand.
Before he went away I'd had my post-9/11 meltdown about my purpose in life. In our (cough) infinite wisdom he and I decided it would be best if I busy myself with preparing for a new career in massage - something utterly and completely opposite from a deployment to Iraq. I was immersed in the world of yoga and holistic health, and so, by the time he returned we were strangers. The awful part was that I'd begun a healing path and while traveling on it I jumped off a cliff. My very own personal cliff had a name: "Divorce".
My perfect plan to become a massage therapist was thwarted. Because Califonia was saturated with therapists. I ended up working for a health food store, surrounded by people who wanted to be healthy. It was quite a change from being surrounded by people who wanted to make money. A huge priority shift for me. The people I worked with were simply priceless. I was hired as a supplement specialist - there were four of us - and we used ourselves as guinea pigs. We sampled the fish oil to determine which ones made you burp like a drunken cat. We cleansed every organ. I cried a lot. My time at the health food store taught me that I could cry till I stopped - because eventually I would stop. Despite the feeling that my body would combust if I started.
Yoga Teacher, Heal Thyself
In the midst of all this inner turmoil and healing I was offered a yoga teaching job. Back then certification wasn't as much of an issue, but I only had a practice. No training. So I began studying under a former Sivananda monk. I followed him like a puppy dog, devouring any morsels he'd drop. For a year I'd attend his crack-of-dawn classes on the mornings I didn't teach, which was practically every morning because in a matter of months I was teaching at three different studios and at the University of California. Looking back, I'm surprised I had the time to be sad.
My first apartment was a split loft with no private space for a yoga mat, so I practiced outside. A narrow path just wide enough for a mat between our stucco wall and the fence. Fortunately it hardly rains in southern California, but sometimes it's damp and cold. No matter. I practiced every day.
Once I was in headstand and a teenage skunk wiggled through the hole in the fence. He looked right at me and I had no choice but to stay put. And very still. He turned his deadly little butt right at my face. And walked away. I don't think I even took a breath. But when he turned his head to give me one last look, I said, "Hi!" with one of my biggest smiles. And we parted ways. Naturally I told all my students. They were impressed with my balance and breath retention. I was impressed that I could show up for class and not stink like death.
Goin' back to California: A journey - not a destination.
Focusing on yoga, my health, and the community that both provide made one of the most difficult times in my life utterly palatable. In retrospect, I don't know how I would have managed without them. Or the skunk.
This week, I'm traveling back to California to help my girlfriend move. Her request that I help her conjured the memories of my yoga beginnings and the crazy healing journey after my divorce. I now know that California was not a destination in my life. It was part of a continual, never-ending healing journey. As it will be for her. If we stick to our yoga-health community. And pay attention to it.