Tomorrow morning I'm teaching Sunday Salutations (10 am) at Lululemon Halsted. It's a full-circle moment for me. Don't you love it when it happens? When you reach a point where you are able to reflect, only to see that universe was laying the path before you all along?
About 4 years ago, a friend asked me why I didn't practice yoga. I didn't know about yoga. Every week for about a year my landlord would ask me to go to this store in the neighborhood to 'do yoga', but I never understood what it was she was doing. Stretching? The only experience I ever had with yoga was in college. A band I sang with was looking for something to do together, so we signed up for a class at the university. I don't have much memory of the class itself, other than that it was held in my elementary school gym. I believe we went twice, maybe only once and I remember feeling very light-headed and I ended up having to run out where I got sick to my stomach in the lilac bushes. Ick. Anyway, I guess I just never gave yoga much thought.
I was never much of a health nut. When I moved to Chicago, and as I was getting older, I would work with personal trainers here and there, I even joined a gym for a while, but I didn't get into the regular exercise thing until about 5-6 years ago. I have a few chronic health issues, one of them being a neuropathic pain condition (atypical trigeminal neuralgia) and I was looking to explore alternatives to conventional pain management. I knew I had to do everything in my power to manage my stress and get healthy. So I dedicated myself to it. I had already given up alcohol a few years before this, so I committed to exercising daily, I went vegetarian and gave up fast food, I got a good therapist. This all became a part of who I was rather effortlessly. In fact, I connected to this person more than I'd connected to any of my other selves in the past. I was so disconnected for so long, but I didn't know it... so with each connection, I realized how much more I enjoyed connecting. I started digging deeper in life... something I think many of us do as we get older? I started getting into books on mindfulness and meditation, self-actualization and presence. Within about a year, I was able to stop taking all medications for pain management - medications that I had used for 10 years. Pretty profound, right!?
Then back to this friend that asked why I didn't practice yoga. The timing was perfect, really. And so when he offered to take me to a class with him, I agreed. We went to East Bank Club where we worked out for a while, and then made our way up to the studio, where we practiced for about an hour and a half... it was a physical practice for me, but I liked it and I even remember feeling like I was actually pretty good at it for it being my first time. Little did I know at the time that yoga had nothing to do with flexibility and that it's something you're not good or bad at doing. When my landlord asked me the next weekend if I wanted to join her for yoga, I went. We walked into the store where all the retail racks had been pushed into the back room. The store was packed, yoga mat to yoga mat... I remember feeling super intimidated the first Sunday there. I didn't own any of these cool clothes. In fact, prior to this, I didn't even know what Lululemon was!? I shop at Target!? But that was the cool thing about Sunday Salutations - while you're in this super hip store, you aren't held to any super hip standard. In my experience, the folks at Lululemon couldn't be any less judgmental. They are always friendly, inviting, and are all about supporting community when they can. So each Sunday we would go to the store to practice. In the summer, they offered a weeknight class in the park. Yoga, outside? In the park? Under the trees? Amazing! Every class was taught by a different teacher, so I was exposed to a number of different teaching styles and learned pretty quickly what I liked in a teacher. After only a few classes the practice became more of an inside job than a physical practice for me. Some of the yogic philosophies, or the teacher's philosophies resonated with me and what I was working on in my own life... it all jived with everything I had worked on up to this point in my journey. Yoga tied up all my self-discovery work and Lululemon put a fancy little bow on top in the form of beautifully constructed yoga gear.
I practiced every week with Lululemon because it was non-intimidating. I started also practicing with a teacher at the corporate gym where I work (she was phenomenal), and thought about finding a studio, but something about yoga studios felt intimidating to me. I'm not sure why. Not to mention the cost of membership to a yoga studio. So thank goodness for Lululemon for making it free and accessible for so many! After about a year and a half of practicing with Lululemon and their various studios of the month, I found beach yoga, which is also amazing. If you haven't gone, I strongly suggest you give it a go before the summer leaves us in the cold. There is something so beautiful about practicing during a sunrise over the lake, or in the evening after a long day. I knew I wanted to teach and enroll in a teacher training program someday - and in the summer of 2013, I started experiencing health issues that made me very heat intolerant (no more beach or yoga in the park for me that summer), and so I finally sucked up my intimidation and sought out a studio. As fate would have it, Village Yoga Chicago was the first studio I tried, and not only was the first teacher I practiced there a fellow neuroscientist, but the other woman practicing with with us in that Thursday night class was in a clinical neuroscience graduate program! Amazing how the universe places our paths before us, isn't it!? For this, and a few other fun reasons, I decided that Village Yoga Chicago would be my new home away from home and I enrolled in the 200-hour teacher training program with the lovely studio owner, Alyson D'Souza. That same Thursday night class is now the class that I teach. Fun, huh!?
So bringing it back... beyond the learning experience, and growing and expanding my own personal practice, one of the main reasons that I wanted to become a yoga instructor was to share this goodness and love with others. Yoga and the presence that came along with it had been so profound in my own journey - to be able to share that and have it impact even one person would make it all worth it. I felt it was my karma to give back, just as it had been given to me. So in the same light, teaching the Sunday Salutations class tomorrow is both my way of giving back and celebrating coming full circle. I hope you will join me on the mat, if not tomorrow at Lululemon, perhaps some Thursday night. Namaste.
And here's to the team at Lululemon Halsted for hooking me up with free gear for teaching tomorrow's class! Love the Wild Tank! It's such an amazing thing you do, offering free yoga twice a week for the community. #lululemonhalsted #karma #gratitude #nofear #chicagoyoga #yoga
I live in Chicago with my partner Tim, our 34 year old turtle Freddie, and 7 year old dog Fagan. We just lost our 21 year old cat, sweet Belle, may she rest in peace until we meet again. We live in Lincoln Park and absolutely love living in the city. We enjoy taking Fagan to the park every day, living so close to the lake and the beach, the restaurants and the food, and the energy of the city... there is just so much to love. I love my job and enjoy a full-time career as an animal welfare research scientist, a role that I worked quite hard to establish. But this is just a part of my life, and I am a big believer in a balanced life. Not long ago, I was very much a hermit... I didn't get out much beyond work, didn't have a lot to identify with... My life has really opened itself to me in the past 5 years. Finding balance and connectedness was an inside job that required time. It's amazing how much happiness, connection and balance can bring. In our free time, Tim & I enjoy working our independent business, where we have met amazing people and formed lasting friendships. That, and we're excited to building supplemental and residual income! I also love everything music - see my Music and Yoga Playlists blog for more on that- but I enjoy both playing and listening to music. I also enjoy cooking, spending time with friends and family, and staying healthy by exercising and practicing yoga. I discovered yoga only a few years ago, during that moment in my life where I was seeking balance and connection. The timing was perfect, and yoga helped me to find peace in accepting that at any moment, life is as it should be. I immediately knew I wanted to become a teacher, to share with others the experience and practice that was so profound in my own life. I completed my 200-hour teacher training in 2014 with Alyson D'Souza at Village Yoga Chicago. As a yoga teacher, I appreciate the practice from a different perspective and am grateful to be able to share it with others, seeing the profound impact it has on the lives of those who practice.