I'm applying to a hot vinyasa teacher training (a few things have changed in the past couple of years/months). Here's the essay I wrote. You're in it! xox
“You can do anything for 10 seconds.”
Those words popped into my head as I stood in the ICU waiting room, waiting for a doctor to come tell me how my husband’s emergency surgery had gone. I had first heard those words in my first-ever yoga class, six weeks earlier. The surgery went OK, but that was only the first surreal, terrifying moment in what would become a month of them. Those words became my mantra over the next four weeks, while he was in the hospital. Over the next couple of years, while he was recovering. Over the year it took me - once he was back to “normal,” whatever that means - to leave.
I had seen the yoga studio, Bikram Yoga Sandy, a million times. It shared a parking lot with my preferred Dairy Queen in the canyon suburbs of Salt Lake City. In a ridiculous last-minute attempt to “tone” right before my September 2004 wedding, I signed up for a 10-day introductory offer. I went to classes on nine of the days. I fell in love with the studio, and the owners, and yoga itself right away. Then I went out of town to get married, and five weeks later my husband got in a car accident that killed his three closest friends and nearly killed him.
We were 1,000 miles from my family and 2,000 from his. My friends, though awesome, couldn’t help to the degree that I needed with his brain injury. And his friends were dead. It was an isolating time, despite the outstanding medical resources we had, as we worked through his physical and emotional recovery. After a few months, I e-mailed the yoga studio’s owners to let them know how “you can do anything for 10 seconds” got me through some of the worst months of my life. I was able to go back to the studio, off and on, for a while. On Memorial Day, my apartment’s water heater broke, and I really needed a shower before going back to work on Tuesday. There was only one class that day, and it was packed. But the energy of everyone in the room was electric and supportive. I was hooked.
I started going to class five or six days a week. A work-study opportunity came up, and I traded computer work for unlimited classes. The yoga studio became a safe place, where I could go and just feel whatever came up. “You have to feel it to heal it!” was only one of the cheesy-cliché-but-true sayings I heard often. So, I felt it. And over a year or so, I started to heal. The teachers there and fellow students were an amazing source of support and friendship.
More importantly, though, hot yoga taught me that I could look at myself, perceived flaws and all, in the mirror on a daily basis and be OK with the person looking back at me. If I could stay calm in a ridiculously hot room with sweat coming out of every pore, I could stay calm in most other situations. Even as broken as I was when I began yoga, I knew that practicing could heal me. So the second I knew I couldn’t stay with my husband (he had recovered by then), I also knew leaving would break me open again… but I knew yoga would be there to heal me again.
And little by little, it did. I started a home practice when I moved to New York, working nights at a newspaper in White Plains. I started writing a yoga-focused blog, and connected with other writing yogis from Malaysia to London. I occasionally visited a Bikram studio in Westchester, but the class times didn’t mesh well with my weird schedule. Once I started working “normal” hours in Manhattan, I tried a few Yoga to the People classes after work but hated getting home so late. After a random weekend class at the Yorktown studio, the owner mentioned she needed a work-study person to clean, work the desk, and handle new students. I committed to two days a week, and did that for a year (then another year paid). It was great to have the dedicated time and space for practicing, but the atmosphere could be awful. The owner treated many of the teachers poorly. When she screamed at me for suggesting YttP to a Brooklyn-based college student, I knew it was time to move on…
I don’t remember how I stumbled on the 38th Street Yoga to the People studio a year later. I had gone to others, but this one was in the right direction, between my office and Grand Central. (Always thinking of those trains!) It felt like a secret, like only people who really wanted to be there climbed four flights of stairs to this kind-of shabby, shower-free, occasionally smelly, noisy-as-hell studio (with occasional music from the vinyasa classes below, ugh) for the Fire Sequence classes. The instructors were some of the best teachers I’d had - I mean, over the years I had practiced in more than a few studios in a few states. These teachers were kind, of course, but also really knowledgeable about anatomy and philosophy in equal measures in a way that seemed actively discouraged at other Bikram-based studios. The teachers - Alena, Talia, Brian, James, Aubrey, Kristen, Molly, Ben, Mara and others - were so generous in spirit, which really struck me.
I liked that place so much, I even kept going once the 90-minute hot classes were discontinued... And then I learned to love vinyasa. It was - it still is! - hard as hell, but my hips feel brand-new and my arms feel a little bit stronger after every class. (And then the next day, they feel like they’ll fall off.) It’s been fun to try to figure out this whole new world of asana. And - who knew? The music can be an awesome component of class. The teacher’s playlist might include Fugazi, or the Pixies, and it helps draw me out of my head and back into class every time.
Sometime between Yorktown and 38th Street, I found NP Rock Yoga. I don’t know if I’d been Googling “‘hot yoga Hudson Valley” for the hundredth time, or if my boyfriend’s friends at the climbing gym had mentioned the studio. I came once, and loved a super-mellow class with Maggie. I came back a year later, and fell in love all over again with a studio, practice, and teachers. Between constraints on finances and time (living 40 minutes away), I’ve never made it here as much as I’d like. But as I stood in class on New Year’s Day a few months ago, I was thinking about intentions, guiding principles for the year ahead.
Two concepts surfaced: The first was to be open to new opportunities that might arise. The second was to really devote myself to those things I chose to spend time and energy on. It was no coincidence, then, that when I heard about a job in my field less than a mile from my house, I busted my ass to earn it. I started in late February, and even though there have been serious trade-offs (a little bit of money, a lot of Thai restaurants), the relative ease with which I move through most days now has been so, so worth it. By ditching the commute to Manhattan, hours have opened up to me. But so has a ton of mental energy. I have literally giggled in awe, while eating lunch in my backyard with my dogs. On a Tuesday. In the snow.
Back in October 2013, after a suggestion and encouragement by a teacher (Talia), I began the application process for an NYC YttP weekend hot yoga training. I couldn’t work out the finances, but even if I had been able to, the idea of commuting to the city seven days a week was really daunting. It’s OK that it didn’t work out then. Maybe it will never feel like the “perfect” time, but this time, enough of the pieces feel like they’re in place. I worked out the financial investment, I’m excited about the time investment, and honestly I’m a little terrified about the emotional investment… But not in a bad way.
I’m so, so grateful for the teachers and friends I’ve met along the my yoga journey. But I’m absolutely blown away by how much gratitude I have for this system that helps me get back to me. Every class, without fail, I learn something. Whether I worked on my wonky hips or my wonky heart, I’m grateful I showed up. It would be an amazing privilege to help other people heal themselves, too!