Undiagnosed as a child, I have struggled with anxiety my whole life, worsening in high school and college. During that time, I was hospitalized twice for anxiety attacks that exhibited hyperventilation, spastic muscle rigidity, neck stiffness and chest pain. I was scared, not knowing what was happening in my body, I felt out of control and disconnected. The medical community worked me up, telling me I might have meningitis, blood clot, and/or heart conditions. The potential diagnosis and treatments felt invasive and only intensified my fear. Discharged from the hospital both times with negative test results and instructions to follow up with my doctor. I pushed through with steady perseverance, family support, and devoted friends. I managed to obtain my bachelor's degree in nursing six months before I turned 21! It was a stressful experience to say the least, cramming so much education into a short span of time.
After passing my nursing board exams, I immediately started working the night shift right out of college! Within two years, I wasn't sleeping, I lost weight, and the anxiety escalated. Thankfully, my doctor listened to me. She guided me towards improving my overall health through nutrition and exercise, and she also suggested I try yoga. I found the only yoga studio within 20 miles from my home and dedicated my days off to practicing.
In 2005, I enrolled myself in Yoga Teacher Training at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA. I was excited to discover new and different modes of healing: Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga), meditation, breathing practices, and yoga postures. These amazing activities filled each day for my whole month long training.
I was reawakening, slowly coming back to life! Living in the transformative beauty of western Massachusetts during autumn, I could feel my emotional resilience, physical strength, and my mental perspective shifting. Connecting mind, body and breath was the best gift I could have given myself. And now I get to share that with others.
|"May we all have PEACE, LOVE, and LIGHT in our bodies, minds an hearts."|
Being a natural introvert at heart, the teacher training challenged me because it felt uncomfortable and unpleasant to speak in front of others. Thankfully my bunkmate had my back, encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the experience. She gave me a card with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that said, "Do one thing everyday that scares you." I think of that quote everyday. It reminds me that I have the freedom to remember my power, while feeling out the potential of my courage.
Back home, I taught a weekly donation - only class to friends, family and community in an effort to gain confidence speaking and moving in front of an audience. It was a special time witnessing myself become a leader, while watching my friends, my mother, my friends' mothers, and new friends enjoy the benefits of yoga. A practice that has helped me in so many ways. Two years later, I found a great studio where I started teaching a beginner yoga class. The other yoga teachers there became my teachers and mentors which I am so grateful for. Slowly, over time I have built up my classes, teaching adults, children and creative yoga workshops.
Throughout the years, I have had the pleasure of refining my practice with specialized yoga courses. Returning back to Kripalu many times has been a blessing, and each time I returned, I sought out yoga classes that inspired me. I met amazing teachers and reconnected with training graduates that developed their own unique style of yoga and taught from the heart. It was at Kripalu that I met Jennifer Reis, teacher of Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra. I was drawn to her fluid, graceful approach to yoga and her ability to access a profound state of relaxation within her students. It was at this time that I became aware of how personal yoga can be, and how creative and expansive a force it is for change. Yoga Nidra became a pilgrimage of body, mind and spirit, activating hidden energetic layers I didn't know existed. I felt whole and complete within myself.
|"Be love, be kind, be happy." Sean & William|
This year marks 20 years as an RN, and I am in my 14th year of teaching yoga and meditation. My healing path has come full circle. I have successfully adapted calming techniques, breath awareness, and guided meditation into the delivery of my nursing care. I share my life with a loving husband and two wild boys! We are raising them with kindness, compassion and respect with the hope they will realize these qualities within themselves. Sharing the practice of yoga and meditation with my little yogi's has only enhanced my experience as a mother, staying open and flexible to reap its many benefits, They have been my true guides navigating me toward what is important in this life.
Anxiety is still present in my daily life - it really doesn't go away, especially during times of overwhelming stress, sadness, grief and tenderness. But by prioritizing self care with yoga, rest and relaxation, I now have practical tools to assist me with anxiety and the rise and fall of emotions, thoughts, sensations, behaviors and actions.
Living our yoga by breathing, moving together, and by simply being, has opened up a world of effortless enjoyment for me. As I continue to heal, and help steer the course for others on their yoga journey, I recognize the importance of having patience for the practice to unravel. I do not know what the next steps in my yoga teaching path will bring, but witnessing others moving freely, breathing peacefully, and deeply resting swells my grateful heart.
Many thanks to Jennifer Reis for highlighting my student story and encouraging me to write it for the benefit of others, now is now! jenniferreisyoga.com/student-stories