My name is Tori and I’m both a student and instructor of yoga. My journey to yoga has been a winding one. I think most people’s journeys to anything their heart aligns with go that way. You have this thing that follows you, but in hindsight it was also leading you, winding in and around your life.
Yoga is deeper than the physical practice. It draws you inward, connecting the body to the mind to the soul. There is something very reflective about that union. I’ve always been the reflective type. I’ve written in a journal since the 3rd Grade. So in this way, it makes sense that yoga just fit for me.
I owe the beginning of my yoga journey to my Mom. When I was in 5th grade, she started taking yoga classes through the local community education program. I don’t remember anything loud or specific about her going that pulled me in. It happened quietly, like maybe she simply suggested that I try it one day and I did. I do remember playing and replaying the one yoga VHS we owned. The one with a woman in an awkward white leotard teaching class against a 90’s gradient background. It was yoga for beginners and I played it over and over again. In part because it was exercise and, you know, adolescent body image. But when I really think about it, yoga must have tapped into the reflective part of me and felt good. It must have made me feel strong and good in my body, or else I wouldn’t have gone to the library and checked out more and more videos. Or else I wouldn’t have enrolled in a second gym elective, “Yoga, Pilates, and Tae-Bo,” so that I could keep doing it.
I had a close relationship with my gym teacher in high school. When class was coming to a close one day she said: “You know, you would make a great yoga instructor someday, Tori.” Her words resonated with me deeply then and over years following. Yoga followed me (or lead me?) throughout the rest of high school and into college. It wasn’t until 3 years after college that I had a bit of an epiphany. I was sitting in my living room at the time and it was around the New Year. I was reflecting as I usually do, and I think I wrote down some kind of resolution like “Do more yoga.” And then I thought about how I want to be a yoga instructor someday. And then I thought: “Wait a minute. Why haven’t I become a yoga instructor yet?” And I got a little disappointed in myself, but I also got a little high and mighty and I thought: “F%&k it, I’m doing it this year.” I Googled the yoga teacher training that I had kept my eye on over the years and womp they had just closed enrollment a few weeks ago. I researched a few more in the area but the one I missed was the one that would work best with a working-full-time schedule and if I was being truly honest with myself, it was the training I wanted, the one that felt right for me. It sucked to have to wait a whole year until I could take the training. I was discouraged but decided I would do some adulting, take the year to save for the program, and commit to attending classes at the studio that hosted the teacher training. So that’s what I did until January 2016 when my program actually started. It was 9-months long and we met one full weekend per month. For me, it was a big commitment since at the same time I was still working full-time in a demanding job and planning my wedding.
The training itself was hard work. When you take a yoga teacher training program, yes you study yoga and the body, and learn how to teach but you also study yourself. I think I can be real and say that none of us particularly enjoy really looking at ourselves. Because while it can mean that you discover some pretty awesome things about yourself you will also uncover some shortcomings. I uncovered my self-judgement, how often I worry about what everyone else is thinking about me, and how often I don’t feel enough in my own skin. Fortunately, while yoga showed these things to me, it also helped me deal with them. That year included a lot of meltdowns, but when I think about myself now and myself at the beginning of January 2016, I am actually quite different. In subtle ways. I just told you how I come down with the not-enoughs pretty often. But this year, I started to hear myself tell myself: “You are enough right now” and I actually believed it. It doesn’t happen every moment, or every day, but at least it happens! And that my friends is a big, subtle, quiet win. That is a shred of proof that inner work pays off in beautiful ways.
The training also uncovered teaching yoga as a passion and a strength. I thought and hoped I would like it and it turns out I do. And I am good at it. I am a new teacher, so I’m still learning and I’m far from perfect. But I love it. It feels really good to be good at something again. The post-college workforce drained me a bit. I’ve had some great opportunities to learn and try new things there, but I’ve worked in positions where I wear a lot of hats and that has left me feeling like a generalist at everything and an expert at nothing. I’m not saying a 20-something needs to be an expert yet. What I’m saying is that is feels good to live in alignment with something that resonates with my heart. I have a mantra of sorts that I try to tell myself everyday and it goes something like this:
When that mantra settles throughout my body, I feel peace. When I live in alignment with my heart, I shine. I light up, I smile big, and I can’t hold it in. I bet if you live in alignment with your heart you shine too. I bet people can see it on your face and I bet its so bright it makes them smile.
My yoga journey continues because (another thing I learned in teacher training) that’s what yoga does. It becomes a continuous journey of learning about yourself and about life. It’s okay if that doesn’t resonate with you yet, because it doesn’t always resonate with me either. There is a lot of depth to yoga, past the poses, that only takes time and openness to understand. I don’t feel like I’m always living in alignment with my heart. I still grieve the very fact that life is a journey, because most times I just want to become! I want to become that ideal, peaceful, content, balanced woman that you see on the billboards and the Instagram feeds and blah, blah, blah. Yoga reminds me that it’s not about becoming, it’s about the journey of continuously uncovering your true self at your core.
So my yoga journey has far from ended, but this is where I’m at now. I’m living more in alignment with my heart and it feels good. I’m teaching yoga and I’m loving it. I’m grateful to know this passion of mine, and to let it follow me, lead me, and wind in and around my life. What are your passions and how do they wind around you?
Love and light,
Would you like to hear more from Tori?
Tori is a fellow yogi living in Grand Rapids, MI. She attended a 200 hour RYT training through Prairie Yoga at Cascade Yoga Studio. While going through this training, she was also planning her wedding which inspired her to create Wedding Day Yoga as a service to help others remain mindful, centered, and nourished around their own wedding day.
Find her here!