When I moved to San Francisco just over four years ago, everything felt brand new. I was a new SF resident, a new instructor teaching at a brand new studio, I was dating someone new, and I was bonding with a new community. One of the only things that was not new to me, but rather incredibly familiar, was yoga.
I first fell in love with Libby Murphy and her yoga class in 2013. She played "Turn Down For What" during the core strengthening section of class and I was overjoyed that I had found someone else who also believed that practicing yoga (or working out in general for that matter) can be a joyful experience. After regularly practicing with Libby and teaching privately on my own for about a year, my connection with my practice became much more complex.
At that point in my life I was feeling self-conscious about my abilities as an instructor, unsure of where my career path would lead me, and I was riding the waves of a dysfunctional and emotionally abusive relationship (if you could even call it that... I prefer the term 'mind f*ck'). It occurred to me that I needed my yoga practice more than ever. On one particular day I decided to tell Libby that I was feeling a little low, just in case she noticed that my vibe was off. With a warm smile and a hug, she told me that she was going through some heavy stuff too and not to worry because she had my back.
Throughout that class we would breathe, flow, and heal together because that's why we fell in love with yoga in the first place. That is where the concept of "returning to your mat" really comes from; not just showing up when it is easy to do so, but showing up when we know it is going to challenge us the most. Showing up reminds us that life is complex and uncomfortable sometimes, but we are never stuck. We always have the ability to choose to refocus and redirect our awareness. Some days, practicing yoga is just about taking care of my physical body; other days, it takes all of my effort just to show up and be still. I don't remember the specific poses or vinyasa flow sequences during that particular class with Libby, but I remember how it made me feel. I opened my heart, twisted and cleansed, but mostly I cried. I cried in fear, I cried out of hope, and I cried from feeling heartbroken and yearning for a better love that I believed I deserved.
Luckily I was sweating so much I doubt anyone noticed the tears.
Fast forward to today, about 3 years later and here I am back on my mat listening to Libby tell me to feel instead of think; to listen instead of react. In this moment I feel hopeful. I feel accomplished. I feel loved and I feel so grateful for the challenges that I have faced because I have finally landed in a place where my confidence is grounded in truth and my life's mission is clear. It is easy to feel chaotic and stressed; the stillness is the challenge.
In what areas of your life could you become more still?
The next time you choose to do something, whether its going to the park, taking a yoga class, or dancing on a bike with me at SoulCycle, set an intention to create space for stillness. Give yourself permission to pause and land where you are... step back and feel what you are doing. Look around and be grateful. Even if you are in a transitional phase in your life, even if you feel like your heart is splattered on the floor, or perhaps you've been told "no" a few too many times... you will always flow and adapt because that is what human beings do.
Time will always push us forward, and within every step of our lives we must give ourselves permission to enjoy being exactly as we are. Life doesn't always have to be about doing; sometimes we need to find stillness and really FEEL the present moment in order to accept ourselves and our lives as worthy of love.