It all started as a New Year’s resolution back in 2009.
I needed to find an exercise program that I could do consistently. Middle-aged and overweight, I was not enthusiastic about joining a gym. I have always hated running. Giving up on exercising after a week was my typical pattern.
I was lamenting about my resolution to my hairdresser when she suggested yoga. She told me it was relaxing, and that anyone could do it. That sounded good to me.
My first yoga class was not relaxing. It was a challenge.
I loved every minute of it.
I started going to yoga every day. I struggled to do the most basic poses, but there was something about the way it was taught, and about how my body responded that kept me coming back.
Finally, I found my exercise calling. I was hooked.
My Yoga Journey
Most of my life, I avoided exercise. In fact, I lived in fear of it.
As a result, I was always the last picked in gym class for teams. I was afraid of being hit by a dodgeball or softball. Unlike the other kids, I could barely run. Each year, I flunked the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. I just believed I was incapable of physical fitness.
Yoga changed that.
I cannot do the infamous pretzel poses that are often seen in yoga marketing materials. It didn’t matter. It turns out I was actually flexible in other ways that surprised and delighted me.
Through yoga, I learned that everyone is different, and that our experiences and paths make us unique. The shape of our bones, the structure of our hips, and so many other factors means that everyone approaches the practice differently, based on what makes the most sense for their body. There is no such thing as being perfect at yoga. Each journey is different.
It was a relief to know that competition was not inherent to yoga. It is always about making progress at your own pace. That is exactly what I did.
When I began, I did not have the strength to be in plank. For years, I had to lower my knees and do a supported version of plank. It took me four years of steady practice to hold plank for over a minute, and to lower down in one straight piece. It was one of the greatest moments of empowerment in my life.
I was 44 years old.
Deciding to Become a Yoga Teacher
For over four years, yoga helped me to grow healthier, stronger, and more confident. The more I pushed myself, the more I was able to do more advance poses. I was amazed at the strength and flexibility I had cultivated. I learned how to meditate, and found myself turning to silence to reconnect and refuel.
It was at that point that I decided to learn more about yoga, so I enrolled in a teacher training course at my studio.
For the first few months of 2013, I immersed myself in the study of yoga. From the history to the philosophy to the poses themselves, I learned everything I could about this ancient practice that changed my life. My Sanskrit understanding and pronunciation improved. New poses were added to my practice, while poses that I had done for years took on a greater depth and meaning for me. Learning how to create a class that would benefit and inspire students was an exciting discovery, and I am so glad to know how to perform this craft.
When I first began teaching, I was nervous. Then, over time, teaching became effortless as I felt I could intuitively know what my students needed, and help guide them through the class so they would feel strong and healthy.
The Old Yoga Teacher
Discovering yoga in mid-life was an important turning point for me. Up to that point, I believed what other people had said about me.
“You’re just not an athlete.”
“You’re not inherently thin.”
“You’ll probably end up with diabetes like your grandparents.”
This negative narrative that I heard repeatedly during the first half of my life almost kept me from becoming healthy. Yoga was the rock that helped me shatter the glass ceiling of my potential. It proved that all those statements were wrong. I always had the power to change. I just didn’t know it until I found yoga.
As an older yoga teacher, I use those lessons from my past to help others who are in the same place. Many of my students are older like me. They are not confident about their bodies, and fearful of looking foolish in class. I think when they meet me, a 50 year-old woman, they relax. They see that I am like them. By beginning slowly, we work on building their trust in me as their teacher. Gradually, we add in small challenges so that they can create a practice that they grow to love, and will continue on a consistent basis to build their strength and health.
I always tell my students it is never too late to begin to develop new, healthy habits. It can be a hobby like painting, or meditation, or just simply walking. Small steps can be more important than big steps, because it is more likely they will stick with gradual changes so that they become habits.
I have younger students that I also teach. They are in a different place than my older students, but we all work hard to build community and to bridge generation gaps. Respect and understanding is essential, and that is part of the yoga curriculum that I teach.
Teaching yoga is a gift I am grateful for every day. It is never too late to learn.