Yoga was always one of those things that just made sense to me. I went to my first class when I was probably 11 or 12 with my mom. I still remember walking out of the class beaming. There was a certain familiarity that washed over me, my mind humming “you know this, you’ve been here before,” an almost deja vu–like sensation. I remember carefully watching each of my instructors, so memorized at how they were about to guide the class through each posture with such beauty, and so effortlessly. I had this one instructor, and I’ll never forget her reading a little quote in the beginning of class; she then tied the quote into a broader concept and that was our intention for the class that day. It was then that I realized yoga was not just simply a workout for your body, but that it could provide equal nourishment for the mind. This gave me a taste of the depth of yoga philosophies and only left me with wanting to know more. Maybe it was because I was so young, but for whatever reason when I looked at my instructors, I idolized them. The words they spoke and the flow of the postures really resonated with me. From then on out I knew eventually I wanted to teach and be able to influence people in the way that my teachers influenced me. Keeping in mind that I was still very young, and the idea of speaking in front of a class full of people scared the hell out of me, I left the thought in the back of my mind, considering it to be more of a fantasy more than anything.
Over the next couple of years, yoga was always present in my life, but never as often as I would have liked it to be. I went from being highly active in school sports and outdoor activities to having a difficult time finding the energy to attend and do well in school. It was around this time that I began seeing different doctors and specialists, trying to understand why I always seemed to feel so sluggish and foggy. After about a year of scattered and inconclusive doctor’s appointments, I finally was diagnosed with Chronic Lymes Disease. At the time the diagnosis came as blessing, simply because I had finally figured out what was wrong with me and that meant could begin treatment.
Little did I know treatment itself is quite a rocky road that I am still learning to navigate. There was a lot of responsibilities that I felt like were dumped on to me during my treatment. Through learning the ins and outs of self-care, I began to get frustrated. It was difficult for me to understand why at such a young age I was now suddenly burdened with this illness. I could no longer wake up without thinking about the dose of medicine I was about to take or fall asleep without wondering if I remembered to take my post-dinner medication. My whole life seemed to be taken over by this external force that I had no control over. I wanted so badly to go back to the days where I had energy to exercise and do yoga and all of the other things I felt I wasn’t able to do anymore. But, whether I liked it or not, I was forced to slow down.
Around this time, I was in a graphic design program at a trade school for half the day and only had one or two classes at the high school in the afternoon. This set up worked well for me because I was so exhausted most of the time that I couldn’t attend a full day of classes if I wanted to. The graphic design program I was in was such an amazing experience for me because it was really focused on the basic fundamentals of art and allowed me to a spend a good chunk of each of my days painting or drawing or doing some creative project. I made some of my most favorite pieces of art at this time and I truly think dealing with all the challenges I faced from my illness was a huge source to pull inspiration from. Even though this was a difficult time for me both physically and mentally, I seemed to be getting pretty lucky artistically. I started to win some design competitions and my work began to get noticed, and that really sparked something in me. I had been very stuck in the idea that I was sick, and that being healthy was not an option for me, and with that came a lot of self-pity. So when my art started to become more successful, it reminded me that I am still here, not forgotten, not obligated to be sick and miserable, and for the first time I started to think that maybe I had more control over my life than I originally thought.
The next year I started college, which naturally came with its own set of challenges. I was studying art, which gave me a similar creative outlet as I had the year before. I somewhat expected my freshman year of college to be easier than the year before, not academically, but more just in general. I remember thinking “things can only go up from here.” And in a lot of ways they did, but unfortunately my health was put on the back burner. In terms of health, college dorm rooms were possibly one of the worst places to try and heal my body and strengthen my immune system. There was always someone in my hall with a cold (which meant I got a cold), the food was unhealthy, everyone was constantly binge drinking, no one had time to sleep, etc. I took a few visits to the hospital over this year, and although it was hard, this time was almost comical for me because it was so drastically different than I had ever imagined it to be.
But again there was one thing that always seemed to be improving, even through my struggles, and that was my art. I was doing really well in both of my studio classes, sometimes even impressing myself with some of the ideas that were flowing to me. At the time I would go to the yoga classes at the school rec center if I was feeling up to it or would roll out my mat in my tiny room and just basically stretch. Around this time, I started to buy more and more books on yoga and similar philosophies. Coincidentally my art mirrored the things I had been learning about yoga and mediation. It all brought me back to when I was younger and wanted to be a yoga teacher. I didn’t know how it was going to happen or if I was even ready to teach, but I just knew I needed to do the training. I looked at many intensive summer programs or retreats but they all overwhelmed me. I was going from barely being active and I didn’t want to get thrown into something I couldn’t handle. Then towards the end of the summer I found what seemed like the perfect program at Holistic Yoga School.
I’ll never forget I missed the first welcome meeting I was supposed to attend because my entire body had just recently broke out in hives and I was like, “why? I’m over here trying to get better!” I was hesitant to even reschedule wondering if maybe this was a sign that I wasn’t ready, that I needed to heal more before I took on such a big responsibility. But I fought myself and ended up on the conclusion I needed to at least check it out and then decide from there. I walked into the Solarium and was completely taken back. I couldn’t believe something like this existed down the street from where I was living. I sat and spoke with Krista and she asked my about my application for the program. There was a section regarding if I had any health problems and I remember being hesitant to even say I had Lyme, in fear I wouldn’t be able to participate in the program. Krista was quick to tell me that not only would it not be a problem, but that she actually believed the program would help to heal me! I was taken back by how at home I felt in a place I had never been before. While touring the studio, I saw all the beautiful art, and Krista began to tell me how they display a bunch of work from local artists. Immediately gears started turning in my head. I’m pretty sure I even pulled out my phone and showed Krista pictures of some of my work. I was sold on the whole program. I got home and practically danced around my whole house. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Even though I was scared, I felt ready.
Now, eight months later, I am almost done with my Yoga Teacher training and my whole world is changed. No amount of money or objects or possessions are as valuable as this program was to me. My mind is forever more open, and thanks to this program I will be a student for life. I never expected to become so close with each person I met on this path through my training, but now I can’t Imagine what my life would be like if I had never met each of the wonderful bright lights I encountered at the Holistic Yoga School. This program taught me that I am not a victim of my situation, but in fact that I can find strength in all that my illness has taught me.
I am so very grateful to be doing an art exhibit as my Seva project, because in a way it marks all the progress I have made. The pieces of art are from all different points in my life. They pull from different struggles, good times and bad. To me it represents the journey of my illness and my healing, and it is so special that I get to exhibit my work at the very place that taught me how to heal myself. I hope to inspire others through my art and yoga combined to show that each of us are exactly where we need to be.