Falling in love with yoga was a slow process for me.
Prior to college, I'd never done yoga. I had been involved in and adored playing sports my entire childhood. I knew how important the cool down was. As a kid, I played soccer, softball, basketball, I ran races, I did tap and ballet, I swam... but nothing was easy. It was all 100% effort all the time. By the last 2 years of high school, I earned more awards for Basketball and Indoor and Outdoor track, specifically running/jumping hurdles. I'm sure this level of competition as a young child has probably given me a very competitive edge.
I took my very first yoga class in college, at JMU. Although it was really more of a social thing at the time than about the actual yoga, I'm forever grateful I found myself giggling on the floor with my girlfriends that evening in the upper level group fitness room on the front side of UREC in 2003.
I took a few more classes like this over the next 4 years at James Madison University. I also worked out regularly and would always incorporate a few minutes of laying on a mat, stretching, breathing, and cooling down at the end.
Why am I sharing this information?
Well, for starters, I really want to revamp this website.
I know I can't do it alone (although I'm damn sure gonna try first)... but, I want to make it more accessible and little simpler format that's more user friendly. I realized my "about me" page and home page are really wordy... and I no longer feel like all of that information needs to be in place. That is what a blog is for, after all. So, rereading my bio got me thinking how I just kinda wanted to put my story out there... rather, right here... as to the how I got into yoga and teaching... and some of the why too.
Prior to graduating, I worked a summer internship at a Maryland gym, the MAC (now Coppermine), after my internship at a YMCA in Richmond fell through at the last minute. For my senior capstone project, I created a mock-up employee wellness program with an active outline for how to implement the program as well as assess the results or changes in wellness over time. Immediately after college, they offered me a job. It couldn't have been a more perfect fit for my first job, as the owners of the gym were very dedicated to health and wellness and had their own employee wellness program brewing that I was able to help with!
I actually learned so much and enjoyed myself tremendously in this job. I started off on the fitness floor staff, walking around talking to people, making friends, and getting to know the lay of the land. Soon, I found myself as a team lead, setting the schedule for the other fitness staff, closing at night, and even assisting the on-staff Nurse with his specialty programs, aiding people in their workouts and tracking data. I even played an integral role with the employee wellness program by delivering the HRA questionnaires, assisting in baseline and incremental measurements (cholesterol finger stick, blood pressure, body fat) and reporting.
Soon, my competitive nature kicked in and I decided I wanted to level up and get my certification to be a Personal Trainer. Since I already had a whole collection of college books from ACSM, I aimed at the Health Fitness Instructor Certification (which was one title "above" personal trainer, at the time), where I would be able to work with a wider spectrum of people, including those with medically controlled diseases. I had to take the test twice because of some math on a treadmill equation my brain couldn't quite wrap around at the time... but I passed it and had my HFI certification! I immediately started booking one on one clients, I grabbed another certification for teaching TRX classes, I led a Bikini Bootcamp in the spring, I helped create "Hunger Games Workouts" that made the local news... and I loved what I was doing.
Or, I was obsessed with what I was doing.
I got REALLY into the lifestyle working at the MAC. We had our own culture there and at times, it even felt like I belonged in some weird fraternity. I was working out with other trainers, creating my own workouts, taking a variety of fitness classes (yoga included), having a weekly plan to increase muscle and lose fat. I was watching everything I ate and surrounding people who always commented on my appearance. Some days of the week, I would lift extremely heavy while other days, I'd throw all of my energy into High Intensity workouts, for hours. On top of physically working and training and helping other people with their workouts all day. My body was beginning to know "burn out". And I could feel it the most when I'd wake up at 4am to be at the gym when it opened at 5 to administer V02 max treadmill tests on tremendously athletic individuals... who were hard on themselves AND hard on me.
When I wasn't at the gym, I wasn't actually taking the best care of my body. I'd have full on "cheat days" where I'd eat and eat and eat. I was still drinking any chance I could. And... all that plus trying to let my body recover from crazy hard workouts just started to not work anymore. I was almost 30 and I finally realized (at the very least), that I needed to build in a rest day. So, I took that as an "active recovery day" and would waddle my sore, stiff, and bulging muscles into a yoga class and feel like a freaking surfboard with how stiff I was. The classes offered me this beautiful quiet atmosphere though, this slower headspace, and a nice change from the clanging of weights and the powering through sweaty workouts. I could breathe in yoga... and I liked it the quiet. I kept going.
I ended up changing jobs and leaving the gym scene. A former training client gave me an opportunity I couldn't pass up at that point in my life. But I soon found myself sitting in an office wondering "how in the hell did I get here?"
Nothing at all to do with my degree... or my experience in the gym. I guess I'm just really good at office management crap.
I kept a few part time clients at the gym in the evenings and eventually found myself full force into a new obsession workout, now with Autumn Calabrese and her 21 Day Fix. And it didn't take long before I got sucked into the pyramid and became a BeachBody Coach. I continued to changed jobs again and again and again like hats, while I simultaneously worked myself all the way up to "diamond ranking" as a coach before I came to a realization.
NONE of this felt authentic.
NONE of this felt like me.
In fact, it felt gross.
It felt fake, at times.
I felt lost, purposeless.
The jobs weren't sticking, none of them felt good. None of them felt like a "career path". And as a coach with my little side hustle, I was feeling very confined, very scripted, and like I was bothering people. I was becoming more sensitive to energy and even noticed how some people were becoming resentful of me. I was able to gain the support of a couple family members (my mom, my sister) to try the products or the workouts, but no one really seemed to get it or to care the way I did. There were times I felt rejected and ignored by close friends and extended family members who didn't understand my "social media presence". I wasn't sure how to keep people motivated on a daily basis and on top of that, my mental health was falling apart. My marriage was challenged. My body was SCREAMING from all the at-home workouts. I just didn't know who I was anymore.
But, something amazing happened one day when I was promoting the 21 Day Fix program. I fell in LOVE with the 2 Yoga classes on that program.
Like, I would do these yoga workouts on days that were designated for other workouts and I just felt so good - physically and mentally - during and after those videos. And, it was kinda crazy to me that I was actually getting in a workout because I didn't feel like I was struggling, and my brain felt good.
Of course I started searching for every other yoga video in the Beachbody library I could take and created my own little schedule, a la carte, versus following one of the programs I was supposed to be doing and promoting. I know a LOT of people found yoga through Tony Horton, and I tried his classes too! I did Piyo with Chalene and I even did the week of yoga and promoted that hardcore when it came out. People seemed to like how I was sharing this piece of the journey and maybe how easy it looked compared to all the other crazy workouts I was sharing and doing.
I was no longer working in the gym at this point... just training 1-2 clients in their homes a few times a month in addition to my full time job. I was at Johns Hopkins and about 3 years in, I started to struggle with the limited flexibility of the job and the life behind a desk. I knew I was good at my job and helping people, but it wasn't what I was passionate about. I was working as the assistant to the director at the call center. It just didn't feel aligned and I wasn't sure how I felt about collecting a paycheck for something I wasn't passionate about. I had amazing health benefits through this job and was having a moral dilemma.
I had also recently found an amazing doctor at the women's mood disorder clinic at JH, who was able to conclude that I had been living with a misdiagnosis for 11 years and taking medications I didn't need.
Thankfully, I got this all sorted out while I still had my Hopkins benefits. I wasn't doing my hard, heavy workouts anymore and Beachbody was getting old. I found myself leaning heavily into yoga. I had to collect data about my body and habits and my monthly cycle and yoga seemed to be a way I could lay myself down, move just enough that it still felt quiet, and a place where I could figure all this misdiagnosis stuff out.
I could actually HEAR myself. My body was talking to me. And as I came off of years and years of medications, I felt clearer and more tuned into myself and body and my emotions than ever before. Yoga was literally cracking me wide open... and I was there for it.
I found an amazing part time job to replace my job with JH and it was new and exciting and I didn't have to deal with as many people on a regular basis. It was meant to be part of my path. It was one of the first times in my "career" when I was like, "THIS is aligned!"
This also freed up enough time for me to take yoga classes all over Baltimore (instead of primarily on a video in my living room) with different teachers at different studios, and eventually landed me in a full-on 200 hour yoga training program with my teacher, Melisa Uchida. 6 months studying ashtanga vinyasa lineage went by in a blur. I was doing yoga all over the house, with friends, on walks, at my part time job, I was practice teaching, and eating, sleeping, drinking, and dreaming about yoga every single day.
My love for yoga has been a slow burn that's simply ignited my heart over the past 20 years. It's a practice I've grown wildly passionate about (and mildly obsessed with), and something that has helped me personally through so many struggles and hard times. Yoga has allowed me to truly get to know myself in ways I didn't know were possible.
This is why I teach.
To share that feeling with someone else.
To be a guide on their path and in their movement and/or spiritual journey.
I'm still trying to figure out how to earn some a living in this business... but, I know my time will come. I know I will figure out it. For now, I'm just going to keep sharing what I love.
And, in case you wondered...
I'm still doing other part-time jobs to make a living... but yoga will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be the core of my life.
Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I know this was a long one, but I hope the old photos helped to spice it up! :)
Please feel free to comment, perhaps when we met along this path, or even share your own yoga story. I'd love to hear as many of your stories as possible about how yoga came to find a place in Your Heart too. The comment section is Yours!
So much love,