I have always been a people pleaser. I have always done what people have asked of me and what I think they expected – so much so I began sacrificing my own well-being, my own earned thoughts, standards and opinions to meet the demands of others. At times, it was almost an out of body experience in which I – alarmingly self-aware – would watch myself in frustration – as if from a corner of a room – fall repeatedly into these traps, these self-deprecating, apologetic routines after which only a shell of myself remained. Yes, there is a certain degree of selflessness one must possess but there is also an indisputable need for self-love and awareness. At age twenty-six, after countless, unfulfilling jobs, toxic relationships and compromises, I am beginning to understand what self-love is and the importance of honoring my passions, honoring my goals and, above all, honoring myself.
I have studied and practiced yoga for nearly ten years. I first rolled out a mat junior year of high school after my mom made an impulsive purchase having seen Rodney Yee on Oprah. Thrice weekly, I would flow through two of Rodney’s twenty-minute sessions before settling in for a night of Dawson’s Creek or Gilmore Girls. Nobody I knew did yoga. Most of my friends were involved in cross-country or team sports at school. For the time being, the only guide I had was a DVD of a blissful man in hot pants on the cliff of a mountain – a mental and physical paradise I know I would never see. Needless to say, I look back at my high-school years as some of the best of my life. When I think of where I am now and how happy and confident I feel, I realize that yoga has been at the core of each of these distinct periods in my life. Sure, I may have allowed my practice to wax and wane like the tides but I could always come back to it. It didn’t matter if I was alone in my college dorm room or taking a class at a local studio, I could practice yoga anywhere. There were no conditions to the practice just as there are no conditions to the affection and attention I now bestow upon myself.
Having practiced consistently for nearly a decade now, I have oftentimes considered a yoga instructor training, however, it never felt right. Something wasn’t pushing me to follow through and truly research and invest in such a commitment. Only now do I understand that I wasn’t ready and willing to make such a commitment to myself without feeling sorry or selfish. The last year has been one of extreme personal growth. I left a job that, while high paying, left me empty, sad and stressed. I was told I was stupid; that I needed to keep my mouth shut and suck it up. For the first time, I didn’t care. I knew this wasn’t for me. I knew I worked hard and deserved better. I owed it to myself to find something that excited me. This is when I really, actually physically felt the first, big shift in taking ownership of my life. It sounds silly – typing it out – but (apart from the panic over impending household bill payments and the like) there was comfort in the unknown, the Rachel in the corner had come out of hiding and given hollow Rachel a shove in the right direction, filled the empty spaces with drive and determination. I want to teach yoga because I want to continue to challenge and better myself as a person, to awaken these parts of my self that have laid dormant for so long and to help others to do the same. I am leery of the word ‘teacher’ – even as someone who has earned their high school English teaching certification– because I think we all have such a great amount and capacity to learn from one another. Yes, I hope to guide others in their yoga practice but I am more excited at the thought of the education I will gain from others in the room and the exchange that will take place as we come together to share in our yoga practice.
Liza B. helped me to discover this about myself. She has guided me in both practice and life to do that which makes me most comfortable and happy. I have worked with her for the past year and her (com)passion is nothing short of contagious. She offered me a part-time job at her studio when I was making small steps to better myself and fill my schedule with things I cared about. It was there that I was welcomed into a new community of people who shared, embraced and cared for one another. For the first time in the two years I had lived in Hoboken did I finally feel like I belonged. Liza is not only a yogi and a businesswoman, but a role model who I see pursuing the unconventional in both her personal and professional life because she wants it, desires it and because she knows it will make her happy.
I also found this mindset and passion at FlorYoga. From the moment I reached out to Sarah with question after question after question (you get the idea – I had a lot!) I knew that my experience would be a positive one. She immediately offered to speak with me on the phone and extended an invitation to practice with those already in enrolled in the Fall teacher training. Before practicing, she met with me at a café to go over the training –what it entails, its intention and course of study – and to find out more about where I am coming from and what I hoped to get out of the training. There was such a sense of having already known her, as if we were friends reuniting. I knew – quite soon – that I wouldn’t need much more to convince myself that FlorYoga would be where I completed my teacher training. The practice that followed our meeting took place in a room in an old mansion in Jersey City. It was not the traditional studio space to which I had grown accustomed. It didn’t have candles or an altar to Ganesh – it was simple. Although I like the more ‘traditional’ studios in which I have practiced over the years, I was drawn to this space because of its simplicity. It served as a lovely invitation, a reminder that yoga is, again, unconditional and that it can take place anytime, anywhere as long as you come to your mat. I was taking a journey to deepen and know the barebones version of myself and I wanted to do it in a place that was just as stripped down.
This isn’t an easy task to undertake – to look inward and give yourself over, well, to yourself and honor and let go of who you are, where you are and where you are – or think you should be – going. I am inspired by those who have guided me throughout my ten years of practice but, for the first time, I am inspired by me – by the energy, drive, love and happiness that burns so passionately inside. I have never felt more confident, more self-assured and more ready to let go and let my heart guide me. I am finally ready to accept and live the life and joys I am always wishing for others to experience. My yoga practice has taught me that each day will be different; each will have its strengths and weaknesses, its trials and tribulations but you never have nowhere to go for you always have yourself to come home to. It is with this truth that I hope and strive to fill my days. It is with this truth that I hope to inspire and learn from students of yoga, such privileged students and citizens of the world for when we first learn to take care of ourselves can we truly give and take care of one another.
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Rachel Chibnik
If you liked this article and want them to win a free yoga teacher training, then make sure to vote for her by leaving a comment (scroll all the way to the bottom), and sharing this article on Facebook or Twitter. Each comment, Facebook, and Twitter share counts as one vote and you can do all three!
Are you interested in becoming a yoga teacher? Then visit our Yoga School Directory to find the right teacher training. Or, visit our Yoga Retreats page to explore beautiful yoga vacations from around the world.