How did I go from drunk Party Girl to healthy Yogi? Here I give a few simple steps to get back your life and create healthy habitsRead More
I began my yoga practice at a small studio in Indianapolis. I needed to learn how to heal and manage my depression and I knew medication was not going to be for me, I'd heard too many horror stories. So I walked in and looked at the prices, to my dismay it was incredibly unaffordable for me, I worked 2 part time jobs and had just enough money to pay my bills and had around $30 extra a month to spend on myself. The yoga classes cost nearly $20 just for one hour, and they were heavily advertising their packages which were over $120. Immediately I felt a sense of shame and disappointment.
Either yoga wasn't for me or yoga didn't want someone like me, was my thought.
I walked out and started looking up other options. I found out that the popular studio in my area offered a groupon that month and I was elated! I signed up for that month, went almost everyday, and met all the teachers and the studio owner who let me know about the work/trade program they had... and the rest is history!
Yoga studios are not fans of people like me, they need people who can pay that $100+ tab a month. There are many reasons for this but mostly because of the structure they use to pay their own studio bills, teachers, and staff- which if you practice at a corporate studio that includes a CEO. The yoga industry in general is facing quite a difficult time when teachers are struggling to pay their bills due to how the studios pay them, forcing them to quit teaching or work other jobs to help support them. When I became a teacher myself I had no idea this was the case, 95% of yoga teachers are afraid to talk about the financial difficulties they face mostly based from fear or criticism or loosing their teaching gigs. Only recently have articles surfaced on this issue and the topic is gaining more momentum as the industry becomes saturated with yoga teachers.
When I began teaching I got a taste of the sourness working for studios who paid very little and yet charged large amounts of money to their students. I always remembered where I started and came from, knowing the big picture of yoga is to make it accessible healing not luxury exercise. I began teaching donation classes and found a studio that worked with a different kind of financial model, a co-op for teachers. In Berkeley, CA, where I live and teach, the Berkeley Yoga Center has been a God send. They allow teachers to charge students whatever they want, allowing you to use the space at a small fee to make this possible. For the majority of my students, this is a blessing. For my heart, this is my motivation.
I teach classes that are accessible to all, prices start at $13 and get lower from there. My packages start at $60 and I charge a discount for students, while some students pay me what they can at the time or nothing at all. I am able to give my students what they need and be able to pay for my food as a bonus. Do I make CEO money? Of course not, and I don't want to. I didn't begin teaching because I wanted to make a killing and look good while doing it. I teach because I know from experience how much of a life line Yoga is for some people. People who work hard and yet have very little money to spare. People who need mental and community support in wellness based practices, tools for health and stability. To this day I practice with a mentor who allows me to take her classes free of charge, she herself knowing how much this practice and her teachings mean to me. Without that support I am certain I would not be teaching or practicing today.
We need more affordable Yoga, why? One major reason is not segregating yoga studios by economic class, those who have can practice and those that don't have are left in the dust. Class divide is the exact opposite of what yoga is about. It paves the road for other issues too, such as racial segregation and even outcasts the disabled who might already be struggling with their medical bills. We need affordable yoga mostly because we all want a peaceful nation.
When we unintentionally, or intentionally, exclude groups of people from a healing practice we reduce the ability for the nation as a whole to heal. We do ourselves the misfortune of creating spaces where there is a lack of hope and progress. We become permissive of violence, hatred, and trauma by telling ourselves theres nothing we can do. In reality, we can do a lot and we can change the current system.
By supporting teachers who offer donation classes or affordable classes you allow a new modality to take place. You not only support that teacher but the possibly hundreds of students who need him or her. You support the progress of those students who need Yoga as a lifeline, a way to balance the tight rope of this world. You support a peace mission that extends not just to those students but everyone who comes into contact with them, for their actions will truly become more noble, more wise, and more compassionate. Its the big picture. Its Yoga.
- To learn more about my classes at the Berkeley Yoga Center go to http://www.berkeleyyoga.com/
There might be speculation that YEAR26 started on November 8th 2012. It actually started earlier than that, in September. It was the end of summer and leaves were just beginning to turn. I love that time of year specifically because of the color palette. The green to orange to red to brown. And you know that the leaves only have a short life span from then on, and its that exact anticipation of the future that makes this moment, the in-between moment, so much more artistic and melancholy. Death for the leaves is just around the corner, but not yet, so you watch every second you get and you take it in. And as the first few leaves start to cover the ground reminding you more and more of whats to come, you appreciate them individually. Like past lovers waiting to take their exit but because they know the end is coming, they take their time.
I had just heard back from them. I stalled to turn in my application for over 4 years and now they had finally replied. I opened the email and there it was... Acceptance. After being put on a wait list for a month they had finally written back that I was in. I was terrified and excited all at once. It was a chance of a lifetime and it couldn't come at a worst time! I was broke, barely had a savings account, and I couldn't afford to call in sick to work for more than a day. But I have to go, I thought to myself, this is what you need and its time.
I would leave on september 26th, for almost 2 weeks. No phone, TV, cell phone, book, internet, game, dogs, money- NOTHING. I was to be completely silent for 10 days with 39 strangers in a place I had never been to, 5 hours away from home. Heaven.
Dhamma Pakasa was the name of the closest meditation center to Indianapolis. I heard about it from Oprah, the queen herself, interviewing a woman who had started meditation practice in the Alabama prison system. From the minute I heard the story I was hooked and thought up every scenario of how to make the trip happen. 4 years and 3 heart breaks later, I found myself accepted into the program with a lot going against me. But a strange thing happens when you make up your mind on doing something, no matter how many challenges you are faced with. I packed my bags and on the morning of the 26th I began the journey.
Vipassana is an amazing kind of meditation dating back to the days of the Buddha in India. You don't sit and imagine yourself in a different place, on a beach surrounded by sun and sea. You don't say mantras or chants over and over until you forget where you are. There is no praying or bowing to some God you think you know about or saw on a piece of toast that one time during lunch. It's just you, with your thoughts, and the air going in and out of your nose. Thats it. And if you have never been forced to sit with yourself you might be thinking, that sounds really boring! In fact, it would probably be the hardest thing, aside from being in the middle of war, you would ever be faced with doing. Its intense, its frustrating, its beautiful, it's depressing, its challenging, it's heartbreaking, its funny. Basically, it sucks! But I would go back in a heart beat.
What I faced in those 10 hours a day, meditating my little heart away, was more work mentally than any test I had ever taken in high school and college combined. I was tired all the time and I had done nothing physical but walk 3 minutes from my room to the hall and then back. I took more naps in those days than I probably did when I was a baby. I had so many thoughts going through my mind at once that it made it harder to actually sit in one spot for longer than 10 minutes without wanting to cut my head off. My greatest satisfaction came from the couple of seconds in every hour that I got a glimpse of silence in my own head space. They were lovely, but they never lasted and eventually frustration set in again.
But all of that was the point. I needed to know that those moments of silence were possible, and that I could get them back again. I needed to realize my own potential and believe in myself much like when I was a toddler and was just beginning to discover my talents. I needed a lifesaver, and this was it. I didn't want the ups and downs that I had been told were a human condition that would never go away. uncontrollable depressions and breakups that lasted years before I finally came to terms that they actually ended and I was ok. Months of watching my life pass by me as I sat in bed looking out from my bedroom window. Years of my life spent in torment I will never get back. I wasnt satisfied with that.
So I began to look for my soul. The evolution of self had begun and it was a one way ticket. There was no going back. I sat for those 10 hours a day in silence, listening to the thoughts and stories in my head, and I waited. Songs, memories, movies, fairy tales, stories, all came to me sometimes bumping into each other and many of them unfinished but all just as annoying as the next, and I sat just the same. When the silence came, a joy unlike any other burst out of me and I embraced it like a long-lost friend. I held it close like a baby bird, gentle so I wouldn't crush it with my excitement, and just as carefully watched it go. I was completely in awe, speechless and enthralled by all its wonder. And when it left I felt an openness that words do not give justice to. I felt more alive than I ever have, in those few seconds.
When the 2 weeks were over I went home. I found myself being completely mesmerized by this world. Everything was loud and aggressive. Everyone seemed so angry and rushed. I wanted to go back to my life in the center, to the rough schedule and amazing food. But I was a responsible adult and had to take care of my dogs and my boyfriend before they forgot all about my existence. 3 months later I find myself in front of a computer, remembering the days I was a hermit and adored it. My life is back to normal but I'm not the same. My mind has begun a shift. It's not an everyday occurence that I have a clear head, I am still a human after all. But they come with less pain, less attachment. I'm not as stressed as I once was and not as lonely as I used to feel. Life is much better than what I previously told myself it was and I still get that alive feeling every once in a while.
What I have learned is much more valuable than any monetary item could ever be. I am infinite in my wisdom and I am more spacious than the sky and the sea. My life is not limited to one mind and one being, it is bountiful and free. I don't need to figure out the details of every detail, I know the answers already. And when the bad moods come and I feel defeated, I look back to the days in that room and remember the power I felt. Energy flowing through my skin and light bursting through my veins... I am free. I am free. I am FREE.