Winter 2009. I sat in the welcome area of Moksha yoga scanning the fliers. I was supporting a teacher-in-training who needed folks for her thesis. Sounded interesting and I was considering practicing more yoga in my life. The Yoga Teacher Training flier stood out to me. The saboteur thoughts began: who are you kidding? That’s not you. What? You’re going to be a yoga teacher? Fat chance. Forget it. Stick to your life.
Those thoughts pissed me off. Something else inside me said why not? You want to do more yoga. Why couldn’t you do this? It’ll get your ass into gear to do more yoga. And you love learning philosophy and going deep into things. Just do it for fun! Fun? When have I ever done anything for fun? I always had a plan and it was boring AF. Go to school. Get trained. Make money. Repeat. That’s all I ever did. I was taught to be pragmatic. I never identified as creative or spiritual. At that time, yoga wasn’t spiritual to me. I saw it as a physical practice and I was interested in the intellectual underpinning. I had no idea what I was getting into and how much is would royally fuck up my life…in the best ways possible.
Moksha, the renowned studio in Chicago, called to me but I didn’t listen at first. I checked out the flier. It sounded vigorous, like grad school, and I loved that. The price tag was steep but I had a great job so I could afford it. I shoved my desire to the side and started researching programs. I found one that sounded good so I applied and began in early 2010.
I completed the first “semester” of the teacher training and frankly, hated it. It wasn’t right. I abhorred the lack of structure and restrictions. Meanwhile it wasn’t vigorous enough and didn’t satisfy my philosophical curiosity. I didn’t like the teachers and for the first time in my life, I hurt my back doing a yoga pose. The teachers weren’t particularly knowledgeable or helpful in guiding me toward healing. I was pissed and dropped out of the program.
I returned to Moksha and bit the bullet and entered the program. It was literally everything I wanted, needed, and hoped for in a teacher training. I loved every moment, even the excruciatingly painful moments. And there were many.
The painful and miraculous lessons
I hit the ground running. This program wasn’t a joke. It took up a lot of my time and I had a full time job. I wanted to take advantage of everything – the classes, workshops, class time, writing, homework, apprenticeships, everything! It was action packed and I wasn’t a spring chicken! I thought I knew myself (don’t we always think that?) and I was sorely mistaken. I pushed my body beyond its limits. I was fairly flexible so I overextended in asanas (physical postures). I focused mainly on the physical postures while ignoring and failing to appreciate the holistic and complete nature of yoga – pranayama (breath work), meditation, purification of the body and mind through developing strong and healthy habits. In a sense, I was half-assing it.
I read the scriptures, studied anatomy, started a Yoga Sutra study group with one of my mentors, tried to chant, got pretty nerdy about philosophy, and yet the true profundity and meaning of Yoga eluded me. The physical practice – the asanas – is always a mirror of the rest of life. I refused to look in the mirror until I had to. I wasn’t truly connected and feeling my body. I was just testing it, seeing how far I could go. I was playing games instead of connecting with the divine within me. I didn’t even have a concept of that yet. I injured my back severely and I felt afraid and in despair.
I could hardly move. I felt ashamed and angry. I dragged my ass to classes even though I couldn’t participate. The emotional pain was unbearable. I cried and watched my classmates learn and have fun. I just sat and watched. I was going to quit. Fuck this, I thought. If I can’t engage physically, how would I teach others? I approached my teacher and told him what was happening (which at the time was a huge deal. I usually adiosed situations without ever having a conversation with anyone) and said I wanted to quit. He said It’s your choice. I don’t want you to stop but it’s your choice. There’s no reason for you to stop. Yoga isn’t about the asanas. So you can’t do the postures. So what? Observe. Observe yourself. Feel what you feel. Accept what is. It doesn’t bear at all on whether you will be a good teacher. Be committed and stay.
It took all the strength I had and deep respect for my teacher, and inner voice of LOVE, to stay. Looking back, listening to him and trusting him was a big deal. In my life, I was often rebellious, wildly independent, and spat on authority. Daren was legit and I loved him very much. He was an extraordinary teacher. I continued to do what I could and come to classes. I continued to observe my classmates learn. I observed myself and felt abysmally uncomfortable. I wanted to hide so badly. I stayed and soon began to learn the truth.
The body is a mirror
I overextended my body like I overextended myself all the time. I was a pleaser and it hurt me frequently. I had zero boundaries – not in my body, not in my life. I learned just because I can do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do. How can I listen better to my body and to my divine inner wisdom? With time, gentleness, and self-kindness my back healed and I paid attention like I never had before. I breathed deeply. I apprenticed teachers who were reverent and cautious, not playing into the material, superficial yoga evolution in America. I focused on alignment, slow movement, breath, and honoring my body.
My yoga practice was improving and deepening but I didn’t know how to take my knowledge and wisdom off the mat. I was getting better at accepting myself and being kinder to myself but I had many more years to practice and learn. My intimate relationship with a man (who I partnered with in the middle of teacher training) was challenging and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t listen to the warning signs and felt confused and in despair often. I ignored my inner wisdom and focused on yoga and kept the relationship going even though it felt like an uphill battle. Even though I was learning a ton through asana and study of scripture and Ayurveda, I didn’t truly understand what it felt like to be devoted to LOVE (to God) and to surrender and trust myself (the feminine energy). I continued to place my worth as a girlfriend. I was scared to be alone, unloved, and unwanted.
Nothing moved me except the old programming of the pursuit of knowledge. Kirtan (devotional chanting) didn’t move me. Ceremony and ritual didn’t move me. I was still very left-brained, practical, and overly masculine (too much doing and problem-solving/analytical mind, not enough receiving and trusting my intuition, sensations, and feelings). I needed to get the postures and teaching right. I needed a formula. I didn’t trust my creativity. I didn’t know I was creative. I controlled my partner. I emasculated him. He didn’t trust me and lied to me sometimes. I didn’t let him be himself and I wasn’t myself. We were two strangers pretending to be in love.
Wisdom comes through the body
I learned stuff – important stuff that now I understand and use to support my community. I learned that fear is stored in the hips and I experienced emotional release through hip openers for the first time during class. I was bewildered. Why the fuck was I crying so much from hip openers?, I thought. So much was being released but I didn’t understand. Of course, I can look back now and it all makes sense. I was so ignorant and green. (I forgive myself for not knowing. I did the best I could with the programming I had). I had a lot more training to do on trusting, feeling, and listening.
I owe my life to Yoga. My beloved practice. I “graduated” from teacher training in 2011 and for me, it was a crowning achievement. I worked tirelessly and felt the call to serve and teach. I discovered that teaching was my path and that I had always been a teacher. I felt more proud of my yoga certificate than my Master’s diploma. I crossed over into a new life. One where I chose pleasure and the joy of listening to my self instead of only doing what was expected of me. I chose Yoga just because it called to me and thank God I didn’t allow the ego to talk me out of it.
Honestly, I stopped practicing yoga for many years and a few months ago in Costa Rica (February 2019) by the grace of God and Heather’s inspiration and commitment to herself, I took up an asana practice again. I’ve practiced every day since that trip – something I’ve never done even when I was in teacher training. I cycle through every emotion during practice. I cry often. I release many old patterns and stuck emotions. I breathe in and out LOVE. For the first time, I truly understand and feel Yoga to be a path of liberation and a direct path to God (i.e. LOVE). It is where I remember compassion and joy. As a result of Yoga asana, I have also returned to meditation on the cushion. For many years I didn’t meditate. I stopped for the same reason I stopped Yoga – fear. I wasn’t ready to handle the release of trauma. Now I have the practices and tools to handle anything and so Yoga and meditation have lovingly called me back and I have returned with my heart wide open.
And that’s how I came to call myself a Radical Pleasurist. Soon you’ll be able to take the journey with us. Stay tuned! In the meantime…
I love you fiercely!
Follow along in my adventure and choose your own toward freedom with the EPIC DIY Guide to being a Radical Pleasurist. Get it below!