Yoga is commonly referred to as a journey, as a path you walk sometimes forward, maybe a couple steps back, but one way or another you’re always on this road unfolding out in each direction. I’m a big fan of reaching out and stretching my fingers and feet wide, filling out a pose with an inner lift, but I can tell you my Yoga experience has been a bit more of and adventure than a path.
The first class I can recall taking was at the Park District within the small town where I grew up, in the Northern part of Illinois. (Where I currently reside.) My therapist at that time, had suggested trying Yoga to help me with my insomnia and anxiety. The years of dancing I had growing up, had me loving this new way to stretch, and I thought to myself, “I could do this.” After that class, I decided I would teach Yoga someday after I retired-much like the teacher before me had. The man was limber, strong and full of good humor, all of this much to my surprise, as he certainly didn’t look very fit or Yoga-like at all. The sorts of ideas my 14-year old self had about Yogis gives me a grin over twelve years later, but at that moment in time I really warmed up to the idea that I could grow to be a woman of confidence, full of love and capable in my body, and finally well-rested.
Through the passing years, I forgot the name of my first Yoga guide and often found myself forgetting to breathe. I moved through the practice with the goal of becoming this person I thought I should be. My therapist had been right and I’ve been enjoying sleep ever since, so I kept at the Yoga in addition to running, dancing, dating and being a classically busy late-teen, early twenty-something. I began to make a life of crossing off all kinds of ideas of what achievement looks like. At some point, I enrolled in a yoga certification program while living in Chicago. I quickly backed-out as parts of my life began to change or slip away. I clung to what I thought I had, fighting my way through, until several years later, I had no more energy. I was exhausted, totally drained and didn’t care much about anything anymore. At 25, I moved back home and started taking classes at the Park District again-thinking maybe my form was a bit off as I’d lost all the benefits my practice had once brought.
It was here, starting back from the ground, I met my favorite Yoga teacher-Barbara Cooling. I was in love after the first class with her, which wasn’t even a formal Yoga class-but a Yogalates class. She had the poise I once claimed during my dancing years, she took command of the room, she breathed in such a beautiful way-like waves on the Pacific Coast. I dreamed of that California coast-line every day and every night since my teenage years listening to relaxation tapes to aid me in falling asleep. I fell back in love with Yoga.
Aching to move away from the small town life, I once again gravitated toward the closet city to me and took a job in Chicago. This time, I kept up my practice. Few months passed and I decided to give up on that city, or maybe it gave up on me. But something inside knew the concrete beach at Montrose Harbor wasn’t quite the sunny, sandy coast I was after. I had to regroup, figure something else out, so I enrolled in a teacher-training program in the far Northwestern Suburbs of Chicago. Then the magic all started. (I call it magic and you’ll soon see why.) People starting asking me to teach them, left and right. As much as I tried, promising to teach them after I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training, I couldn’t escape! Plus, I needed another job. Freelance photography and writing can be a bit uneven in flow sometimes.
My dear friends, they inspired me-no make that they lifted me up to a happy place then kindly shoved me into reality by asking me if I’d ever feel ready to teach. There I was, in that moment, realizing as much as I wanted to be free, be that woman I saw Barbara reflect back at me, I was terrified, but I started to teach anyway-children at first.
It all came to me, I swear. I didn’t set out to teach this early on, but a small children’s class formed. They loved it, I loved them and I fell in love with teaching. During this time, more opportunities to share yoga started coming to me. Everyone I’ve admired has always said how one-day things just got easier and stuff just started to flow their way. First a gym, then a studio asking me to teach, so I did! And there I was, flowing deeply with my practice and the Universe delivering so many fun things to me. That’s the magic of Yoga as I know it now. It’s pure magic, the magic of life.
Every moment I stand before a Yoga class now, I channel a little bit of Barbara, and I become a little bit more of who I already am. My 200-hour training is flying by, and people are now bringing me the question, “What’s next?” Without even thinking, my heart floats to a Coastline. I see mountains, I see a community of health, happiness and abundance. I see me teaching, I see me in love. All of these things I see-I feel in my heart no longer waiting, but ready to unfold.
So naturally, I’ve chosen my next step as a 500-hour training in Lake Tahoe, California. I’ve never been, but if I can handle years of not sleeping, broken hearts, lost jobs and self-healing, I think I can handle this new challenge.
My goal is to help myself and help others reach beyond any path, continuing to unfold as the Universe expands and just see what the next breathe holds. To inspire the liberation of the natural creativity we all hold within us, sharing the magic of life through Yoga. And if that wasn’t big enough, there’s something new, something bigger inside of me that I’m ready to own. That something I saw in my favorite teacher, that something I see in my closest friends, family and people passing through my classes or on the street. And to that, may we all benefit from our own unfolding, expansion and adventure with the beautiful art of Yoga-it is magic.
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Rachel Wolfe
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