I fell out of love with yoga.
Yes, that's the real, bare, ugly truth of it.
Although there were many reasons I left for this open-ended chapter in my life, I would be lying if I didn't say that a part of it was because I completely burned out. That I hit a wall. That I couldn't bear to continue teaching into the summer, yet I didn't know what else to do with myself in Grand Rapids. Teaching yoga was all I knew. Teaching yoga was all that I became.
I always took my disenchantment with yoga with a grain of salt. I knew I was simply dealing with a case of "too much of a good thing." That I just needed some space. I just needed some sort of reprieve. I just needed to reassess how to engage it going forward without hurting myself in the process.
So I left, quickly and swiftly, like a proper air element sign would. But air elements never leave with the intention to abandon. They leave with the intention of returning with a stronger force and clearer direction.
And now that I have gained some quite literal distance from the situation, I realize that it wasn't yoga that I fell out of love with. I fell out of love with poses. And posing. And always feeling like there was a yoga teaching standard that I had to live up to yet always fell short of.
And to be even more honest, I was tired of the constant self-promotion. I was tired of being inspiring. I didn't want to update my Instagram every day according to my brand or sputter over any more new age positive psychology. I no longer wanted to applaud a culture of yoga that uses it as a crutch to avoid the realness of everyday life. Because yoga isn't light. And I am grateful for the teachers I had who taught me that. Yoga is where light and dark merge. And the realness is that, mindful or not, yogic or not, shit is still shit. Shit gets hard, suffering is real, and at the end of each fragile day, all I want to do is speak genuinely from my heart. From the real place that I am at. Without modification. Without propping it with cushions. Just real, raw, sometimes awfully uncomfortable, beautifully transformative, truth.
And I realize that most of what I was tired of was my own stories. The stories of insecurity I had constantly running in my head. Stories like the ones listed above. But more so, I wanted yoga to be mine again. I wanted it to be sacred. And safe. Nothing but pure space that I move in according to my own pranic will.
So, here I am. In Greece. Learning how to fall in love again.
Ever since I arrived in Athens (with the exception of a few days in the wilderness), I have practiced asana every day. And not one of those "20-minute, get it in, get it over with, keep it fresh for my students" kind of practices. I'm talking about giving myself the same kind of practice I would give to my students. I'm talking about 90-minutes minimum with a 15-minute Savasana. Sometimes twice a day. ... Because, really, what else do I have to do? I'll practice on my own in the mornings (morning meaning 1pm, let's be real) and then I bike up to Eressos Village in the early evening and practice with the Greek woman who runs classes out of the abandoned pizzeria.
And it's been beautiful. And wonderful. And I am so happy to say that I am back in a space again where yoga feels like a completely natural response. Like it's a wide-open field to explore, move, and get lost in as I please. And although I practice every day, I don't do it out of discipline. I don't do it because I feel like I have to. Or I've told myself I should. I do it because I want to. I repeat: I do it because I want to.
The Greek yoga teacher in the pizzeria space was the muse who showed me a way back to what I truly love. The humble surroundings of a gutted restaurant and bar. Her relaxed vibe. Her simple, innocent cueing: Pick up a big sun (Urdhva Hastasana). Now put the sun in the ocean (Uttanasana). Look straight (Ardha Uttanasana). Now come to the plank. Down to the elbows. Slide Front. To the Downward Dog. Straight back. Hands like glue. Bravo, bravo.
They were simple, motherly gestures like being kindly reminded to sit up at the dinner table. She was present yet managed to take up minimal space so we could take up more. She led the energy of the room yet still taught from a place of conversation, despite the fact that the rest of us never spoke a word.
Within a few classes with this woman, I found myself relaxing into her presence. Like really, really letting go. I relaxed so deeply, in fact, became so unguarded, that actually I forgot I was a teacher. I didn't pay attention to or evaluate her sequence like I usually would have. I didn't try to anticipate where she was going next or consider how I would have linked the poses differently. Rather, I practiced blindly and eagerly. With the kind of enthusiasm and exaggerated expression you see in students who have just discovered the practice. The same kind of enthusiasm that I, as a teacher, sought to temper over these past few years. “Do not become too joyful because the pendulum swings,” my teacher would say. But this evening, I was swinging from pose to pose with utter joy, taking in each pose, each breath, each moment as if I was slurping from the bottom of a cup. But the practice was bottomless. Limitless. And there I came to remember: so was I.
There was one particular moment in her presence where everything seemed to click for me. When I realized that I was in an entirely new space, with an entirely new regard to the practice than the one I had brought with me. I was in Trikonasana -- a pose that I've always struggled to embody -- and the Greek woman came over to adjust me. She stabilized my hip, and pulled my shoulders back in a way that exposed my chest like I had never experienced before. And then she bent down to whisper slowly in my ear: Here. You. Are.
Here I am.
Here I am, living in Greece. Here I am, with a teacher. Here I am, with a practice of my own.
Here I am, having reclaimed myself as a subject of healing, and back in love with yoga.
Sometimes finding what you truly love isn't an act of discovery. It's an act of remembering. So I left my first silver heart here in the pizzeria, in the space where I reunited with what I once truly loved.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2!