The Obstacle Is The Path

The Obstacle Is The Path

Hi friends! It’s Stacy, the newest edition to the Yoga Squared team and recent transplant to the Akron area after 2 years away. When Nikki and Kate asked me to share my yogi transformation story, I was equal parts excited and nervous to practice what I preach by leaning into that vulnerable space of sharing my journey.

There is a Zen Proverb that says, “The Obstacle is the Path”. When it comes to the story of how I have gotten to where I am from where I was, I cannot think of better words to describe it. As I sit down to string the words together that will give you a glimpse of my story, not sure exactly where to start, I turn to my Moon Deck for guidance. The card I pull says, “I have unlimited potential and claim my purpose. All I need is within me.” The words resonate with me as it is when I am on my mat that I am most deeply connected to this truth.

I found my way onto a yoga mat for the first time soon after graduating from college. I lived in the small town of Westerville, OH, just outside of Columbus and found a studio to take my first class. To be honest, I couldn’t even tell you what made me decide to go. I had never been much into health, fitness, or spirituality. Although I danced and cheered and was in relatively good shape growing up, my high school and college years were spent drinking too much and using drugs as a way to numb myself of the pain I experienced from losing my father at the age of 13 in a tragic accident. While I will spare you the details, I will tell you that that one event changed the course of my entire life. It was roughly 13 years before I faced the reality of how the trauma of losing my father led me to make choices that were harmful and disrespectful to myself and most others around me. I wish I was one of those yogis that could say that from the first time they got on the mat they were hooked, but that wasn’t the case. I did enjoy it because it felt good to move my body in a way that was similar to the movements I craved after years of not dancing. But I didn’t love it enough for it to stick and I was still not in the phase in my life where I realized how deeply I needed to heal.

Fast forward to 26 year-old Stacy. I left the life I had built in Columbus and moved back to the Akon area. After the continued years of binge drinking and drug use, I had an urge to become healthier on a physical level and thought that yoga would be a good start. What I call my first “real” yoga class was a noon all levels heated Vinyasa flow. I was nervous. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into but I did know that it felt good to be doing something that was good for me. I fell in love with the practice for the physical aspect. I learned how to connect to my breath which was mind blowing to me after years of being a heavy smoker and chest breather. I didn’t know that my breath had the ability to soothe my body until I got comfortable on my mat.

The craving to move my body on a regular basis began to have a ripple effect in my life. I started going to the gym and working with a personal trainer, seeing a holistic psychotherapist on a regular basis and studying holistic integrative nutrition and alternative healing. It was becoming more and more apparent to me the ways in which the body stores trauma and I wanted to dive into the field of being able to help people achieve healing with the same alternative methods that were changing my life. While I always thought I would use my Bachelors of Psychology to become a social worker or therapist, that door didn’t open as I had planned. I am grateful that that plan didn’t work out because it led me to the aha moment where I realized I wanted to be a bodyworker and go back to school to become a Licensed Massage Therapist.  

While in school for massage therapy, I developed a consistent yoga practice. My mat became my safe place and often the words the teacher spoke were exactly what I needed to hear. There were so many days that going to class turned my whole day around. The deeper I delved into the practice and further into school I got, the more I wanted to become a yoga teacher myself. I completed my massage therapy degree in at the end of August in 2016 and a month later I moved to Costa Rica to embark on my 200-hour teacher training journey. The training was a month-long immersion and I had found a family to do a work trade with so I was able to stay in Costa Rica for some time before and after my training. The plan was to spend a few days with the family, go to the teacher training, then come back to stay with my work trade family. When I left for Costa Rica, I set the intention to expect the unexpected. I knew it would be a life changing experience, I just didn’t know in what way that would be. On a sunny, Friday afternoon, the day before teacher training was to begin, I went to lay out by the pool when the unexpected did indeed happen. As I went to lay back in the chair my finger caught in the hinge and amputated part of my right index finger. Obviously, I screamed in shock as I saw half of my finger in the chair and the bone sticking out on my hand. It took 6 hours before I was able to make it into surgery in San Jose. Because of the way the amputation had occurred, a successful reattachment wasn’t possible. As you can probably imagine, I was devastated. Not only because I physically lost a piece of myself, but because teacher training was going to have to be postponed. After spending 10 days post-accident in Costa Rica, visiting the medical center daily to have my dressing changed, I had to come back to Ohio for two and half weeks while I waited for the next YTT to start. I contemplated getting a prosthetic but due to it only serving the function of being aesthetic and not actually usable for things like yoga, climbing, swimming, and surfing I decided that I would embrace things as they were. This was another huge opportunity to me to practice those things I seek to cultivate through my yoga practice – surrender, acceptance, and self-love.

 Post-accident, visiting the Anamaya, where I did my first YTT.

Post-accident, visiting the Anamaya, where I did my first YTT.

 A few weeks into YTT, finding strength and balance.

A few weeks into YTT, finding strength and balance.

Just a month and a few days after my accident, I started my first YTT. That experience taught me so much about my practice and about myself on a deeper level than I had experienced before. Living and breathing yoga, meditation and self-growth for an entire month with like- minded souls was transformational. As grateful as I was to be there, I was also distracted by being a in a state of limbo. I had no plans for after the training. I was in an unhealthy in and off relationship with someone back home and I was uncertain as to if I wanted to travel for an undetermined amount of time or come back to Ohio or move somewhere completely new. Ultimately, the relationship ended on rough terms and I felt like it was the push I needed to start down a new path. I came back home from Costa Rica on Christmas Eve and began to put together plans to move to Austin, TX.

I moved to Austin in February of 2017 and by the fall I was in a healthier place physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually than I had been in a long time. I knew that teaching yoga was still something I wanted to do and felt that in order to make that reality I needed more training from this heart centered space. I signed up for another 200-hour teacher training through the studio that had become like a second home. This time I was more present, more confident and more clear about the direction I wanted to take in my life. I was tested a lot over those three months and past traumas and triggers surfaced that I thought I had put to rest. I struggled with my body image, being vulnerable, and allowing myself to deeply connect with others. There were days I wanted to quit, give up, and come home yet I allowed myself to keep showing up and finish out strong. I began teaching at a small studio a few months after the training ended. I was enjoying teaching and working as a massage therapist and the life and relationships that came with living in Austin but I kept feeling like something was missing. After wrestling with the decision for months, I came to the conclusion that I needed to move back to Ohio. I wanted a fresh start. I wanted the space to tune into what I really wanted and needed from and for myself. While I was scared and pieces of me felt like I failure, I made the move back at the end of July of this year.

 Living in Austin, heart cracking open.

Living in Austin, heart cracking open.

I have now been back in Ohio for 5 months. The first few were rocky. Many days I felt like I made a mistake coming back. My only focus was taking care of me and although it was what I needed to be doing, I lacked a sense of purpose. I didn’t feel like I had a community, I wasn’t working, and I found myself in another unhealthy relationship and back in that state of limbo. Once again I wanted to escape where I was and trade it in for travel or a move to new city. Recognizing that I was reaching for external change rather than looking inward, I knew that what I really needed was lean into my yoga practice. I had first been to Yoga Squared when they opened and remembered loving the space just from the handful of times I had been there so when I decided I would get serious about my practice again, I knew that was where I needed to be.

The space that Nikki and Kate have created felt like home from the moment I walked in the door. It felt so good to find a yoga home again and to be in a place where I looked forward to coming to my mat. I missed teaching terribly and hoped to get on the sub list. I was so grateful when Nikki and Kate allowed me to audition and decided to bring me on the team for two regular classes a week. They probably get sick of me telling them on a weekly basis how grateful I am for them and how they have changed my life. I remember the days where I would say that all I wanted to do was teach yoga and help people heal through bodywork. It is because of them that I get to live my dream. It is because of them, that I have reconnected to my purpose and to my truth. It is because of them that I have gained a community and a partner that I am endlessly grateful for and in love with. If you had asked me 5 months ago if I thought I would be my life, I wouldn’t have been able to see it.

 My girlfriend Emily and I (she is also a dedicated yogi and health nut).

My girlfriend Emily and I (she is also a dedicated yogi and health nut).

My path and practice is constantly evolving. Yoga does not fix everything but rather is one of many avenues to help me become more present and responsive rather than reactive in my daily life. There are still days that I struggle anxiety and depression, with being in my body and days that I feel uncertain and a lack of confidence. Then I remember, the obstacle is the path; I lean in deeper, tune into my heart and find gratitude for every moment, ever choice, every tear and every smile that has led me here.

Infinite Possibility: Dawn's Yoga Journey

Infinite Possibility: Dawn's Yoga Journey

There are few things that excite me more than the infinite possibilities contained in one single blank page. The page is a mirror, reflecting the soul and mind of the writer manipulating its contents. Most importantly for me, the page is a tool through which I communicate everything from my deepest thoughts to simple one-line messages to a lover or friend. The process of writing is spiritual for me, surrounded by its own set of rituals and meticulous workflow. Step one, clear the mind, breathe, and focus on the task at hand. Step two, set your intention. Step three, flow.


This is how I think of so many things in my life now, in yogis terms. Seven months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to hear the background sound of a room I was sitting in, much less focus on a task for more than a few minutes. My mind was so loud it drowned out everything around me.

 Quiet mind

Quiet mind

I had my first panic attack one night in early March. I woke up so convinced I was having a heart attack that I made my then-partner call an ambulance. I had another at lunch the next day. The following four months were a blue of anxious thoughts, change, daily panic attacks, and a complete disassembly of my identity. I couldn’t sleep or calm down, nor would I fathom how and why my body had suddenly decided to revolt against all logic. I’d always been a fairly laid-back person, but this new me had found something to be anxious about every hour of the day.


The only thing that allowed me some semblance of peace was following along to Yoga with Adriene videos, so I embarked on the well-known and oft unfinished Thirty Days of Yoga. By the end of the videos, I’d caught the yoga bug. I’d never remotely been a flexible person before. I was always the one girl that failed the flexibility portion of the Presidential fitness tests in elementary school. But the day I discovered that the key to the forward fold was to let your head hang down freely, I felt as though I’d won a sort of bodily lottery.


I moved back to Akron in may to stay with my parents for awhile after a pretty messy break up. Though I’d been in therapy for a few months, the panic attacks and anxiety hadn’t really ceased. I’d just found ways to cope. I biked constantly, and when I wasn’t biking I was still doing my yoga videos with Adriene. In June, although I felt pretty nervous about it, I thought it was time to take my practice to the next level and join a studio. One of the first classes I attended was Vin + Yin with Elizabeth. The music was exactly the kind I loved to listen to, and she started the class with the lesson of how the caterpillar becomes a butterfly by existing in, then forcing its way out of a cocoon. That resonated with me and I began to envision myself in a cocoon- the darkness of my anxiety- preparing to break out as a more fully-formed, more at peace person.

 Dawn and her incredible family (we are lucky to know them!)

Dawn and her incredible family (we are lucky to know them!)

Yoga has shown me how to take care of myself. When in practice, you let your body guide you through pose after pose, you teach yourself an agency you might not otherwise have known. I’ve learned over the past few months how to use what I learn on the mat to guide my life. Yoga is an effervescent teacher, worming its many lessons into the intricacies of its practitioners’ lives gradually and completely. When I sit down to write, I set my intention, clear my mind, and flow. When I wake up, I give thanks. I breathe. I listen to my body and when it tells me to rest, I rest. I am present (at least I try to be). When I’m not present, learning to be kind to my distracted mind becomes part of my overall practice.

 Dawn and her brother David practicing together at Zen Space!

Dawn and her brother David practicing together at Zen Space!

I’m learning that my body isn’t a cage, it is instead my refuge. The panic attacks have mostly stopped, and most days I feel a freedom I couldn’t have imagined earlier in the year. More than that, I’ve found this beautiful community that I feel blessed to be a part of. I hope to keep growing with ya’ll both in class and outside of it.

An Upside Down Perspective: Andrea's Yoga Story

An Upside Down Perspective: Andrea's Yoga Story

I’ve put off writing this story for a long time. When Nikki asked me way back when the studio opened, I thought, no way- I don’t want anyone to know this side of me- it feels dark (it’s really not that bad), but I’m not this person anymore. Through, practice, patience, and the support of a strong community at Yoga Squared, I feel like I am in a place where I can share a little piece of me with people I truly call family.

If you’ve seen me around the studio, teaching or taking class, I’m probably smiling (or upside down). I haven’t always been so happy, though. Growing up I had a great, privileged life (thanks mom & dad!), but I looking back I can’t really say I was always a nice person. I dealt with a lot of anger problems over the years, and not knowing how to deal with overactive and angry emotions. I would flip from being normal to raging in seconds. It was always just me immediately reacting to anything and everything in an almost hostile way. Basically, I had no chill.

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I tried to use working out as a means to let off some of that energy but it only resulted in hyping me up to new levels of crazy. One day my fitness instructor started adding yoga stretches into our workout, and right then and there, a teeny little shift started.

Now, I had tried yoga all of one time in college, and immediately dismissed it as boring (can someone direct me to the spin class, please?).  A few years later, when I was about 26 or 27, I stepped into my first Hot Power class and my whole life changed (forever grateful to Lisa E). I found something that satisfied my desire to feel strong, but there was this subtle shift going on under the surface that I wasn’t even aware of until a couple years later.

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I started diving in to yoga, or, at the time, what I thought was yoga, online. I started an instagram and found some really inspiring people doing cool yoga poses, and I knew I wanted to learn them all. I was pretty good at doing these poses, and started stringing them together in different flows and sharing my struggles, that I guess some people liked to see. I thought I was doing yoga. For years, this was all I knew. I had a strong community of men and women who were all supporting each other out there, and we were all just “throwin shapes,” on the internet, and slapping #yoga all over it. Little did I know how much more to yoga there was…

 

After two years, and a ton of encouragement, I decided to become a certified teacher and go through my YTT. Somewhere along the way, I was starting to finally think like a real yogi. I met some of the most amazing people in my class (including our very own Nikki Woodford-Shell & Serenity Messner), who to this day inspire me to be better, whether they realize it or not. I came to the realization that yoga is not about twisting and bending and making pretty shapes or cool flows for the world to see, but that it actually made me feel like a human being. I’m not one to share a lot feelings, but I promise, I do feel them at times (like right now as I’m tearing up writing this and truly realizing what this practice has done for me).

 

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As someone who has always been a little odd, and never been a true empath, feeling like I understand people on a real level has been life changing for me. I feel like I can actually connect with people, instead of just try to make them laugh and use sarcasm as a way to dosge feelings (though, I still try to do that, too). I’ve always been an optimist, but optimism can be difficult when you feel like you operate on a completely different level than everyone else around you. I think this is what stemmed a lot of my anger - being so satisfied with everything that I just couldn’t see why anyone could be unhappy about anything, ever. Why were people choosing to live such miserable lives when they could just BE HAPPY?! Ah, I had so much to learn. I’m still learning.

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This journey I started led me through some difficult times, including a very recent divorce. It can be really challenging to realize you’re on a path that you never intended to be on, and you know the only way to redirect is to make some very tough decisions. I distinctly remember one night in Kate’s power class - I felt like her message was directed right at me. It hit me like an oncoming train. It was the first -and only- time I cried in a yoga class.

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Yoga has made me feel like I’m truly connected to the people around me. Meditation brings me clarity. The community gives me support and friendship. The dedication to the practice continues to help me believe in myself enough to make decisions that allow me to live my best and most authentic life (even if it’s not always pretty!). I am forever grateful for yoga, and especially, Yoga Squared. <3

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” -Albus Dumbledore (you know I couldn’t leave you without at least one Harry Potter reference :) )

Girl Almighty

Girl Almighty

hello yogis! it’s ya girl Cass.

you would probably most accurately recognize me from behind a large pile of towels or laughing + goofing around from behind the YS desk. it has been the pleasure of my life to be one of the yoga squared interns, + i’m so excited i was chosen to be the yogi transformer this month!

okay let’s go.

I ran cross country + track in high school. 11 months a year. 6 days a week.

[funny side story! coach shell, Nicole’s dad, was my coach all throughout high school + that’s where I originally met Nikki! She would come to practice + meets to take stats for us. I remember calling her coach Nikki :’) little did I know I would end up working for her 5 years later + her studio would change my life.]

running was the only thing that could ease my loud mind. I have struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember + running was my safe haven. I was in love with the feeling of my feet hitting the earth. I loved the intensity. the feeling of not being able to catch your breath after a long run put me in an indescribable state of peace. I am still a runner at heart, + will always have so much love for my stvm xc babies.

 

 Cassidy with her STVM Cross Country teammates!

Cassidy with her STVM Cross Country teammates!

a friend posted a picture from a local yoga studio in Akron + I was looking for a new way to cross train so I thought ‘hey this can’t be too hard!’ lol. another girl from my team and I attended a hot power class. we came from a long run expecting this to be our recovery. I remember laying in savasana with tears rolling down my face. the class COMPLETELY silenced my mind. i was hooked.

the more I practiced yoga the more in tune I felt with my inner most self. I remember feeling like I never really knew myself until I practiced yoga. it gave me the tools to explore the places in my head I was usually too afraid to explore alone.

when I ran, similar to my yoga practice, I would set an intention. the words would vary from inner-peace, fast, quiet, explore, almighty, truth, strong, bad ass… the list goes on and on. I was in child’s pose in one of my all-time favorite teacher’s classes, Maria Varonis, + she said, “as humans we area almighty. we are completely in control of our own fate. we have the power to choose how this life unfolds.” that was it. girl almighty was born. I don’t think she knows she had a part in the inspiration behind my tattoo, so Maria, THANKS BOO!

to me, girl almighty is for us all. it’s for my mother, my baby sisters, nana, cousins, old teammates, my best friends, the child brides, the women who grew up less than 5 minutes from me who were not as fortunate as I was, the doctors, trans women, lawyers, sex workers, single mothers, entrepreneurs, women who don’t have the right to have a voice as loud as mine. may we all always feel almighty.

 Becoming Girl Almighty

Becoming Girl Almighty

I got this tattoo when I was 18. I was so excited. I remember showing a friend + asked her honest opinion. she said it was beautiful but I cannot claim it until I live it. that hit me hard. how can I have these words tattooed on my body when I don’t live it? I allowed the actions of others dictate how I lived. a born people pleaser I wanted everyone to like me even if that meant them not respecting me as a human.

I spent many days and nights my first year of college very alone. I self-medicated as, unfortunately, many young adults// college aged kids do and I felt the side effects. hard. I was underweight and sick constantly. one Sunday morning at work a regular pulled me aside + asked if everything was okay. she said she noticed how much weight I had lost + how the color had left my face. I cried in the bathroom for about 4 minutes + decided it was time to change. this is where to yoga comes in.  I broke up with my long-time boyfriend + shed the weight of some very toxic friendships. it always baffled me that no one warns you about how much mourning + loss there is in growth. I call 2017 my year of loss. at the time I did not realize it but I gained so much more. it was then I decided to dive head first in self exploration. I became fascinated with being a forever student. I started reading, studying, listening to those around me I looked up to. I wanted to change so I did but the path was not linear.

in December I saw an ad on facebook for a free week of yoga in highland square. I picked up a friend and we went to class. I remember stepping into the studio and taking a sigh of relief. I knew I was at home. I fell in love with Yoga Squared + haven’t practiced anywhere else since. my year at YS has been nothing short of magical. I am truly living my truth [s/o to my girl tip] working here. each + every teacher + student I have met during my time at YS has impacted me more than they will ever realize. thank you for your soft smiles on cold winter mornings when you walk into the studio. you have no idea how much I needed that.

 

 Never stop practicing

Never stop practicing

being able to work for humans like Katelyn + Nicole changed the way I view work. they have loved, encouraged, trusted, + cheered for me so much throughout this year + I will never be able to say thank you enough. I am always in you guys’ corner!

I have felt my practice shift from a physical practice to something so much more. I can feel it from my head to my toes when I need yoga. it has become a part of my daily life, from focusing on my breath in moments of difficulty to getting on my mat when my body just needs to move. my yoga practice has become so vital to my life + I have YS to thank.

 life definitely looks different from the way it did a year ago. I learned how to love myself. completely. I found my soul sister friends. I adopted two kittens. I fell in love again. life is different but it’s good. most days I still struggle and want to pull the covers over my face + just succumb to my dark thoughts. but my practice, my tribe, + my family shows me otherwise. I am so grateful for the life that yoga has given me.

thank you for listening.

cheering you on always.

xoxo Girl Almighty.

 OG intern

OG intern

Live Your Truth

Live Your Truth

live your truth. words i’ve been saying, thinking, and manifesting every single day for nine months. and only recently have i truly realized the power they carry behind them.

honestly, it started off as a joke. i was living my truth by consuming too many vegan zucchini muffins at a time and staying out too late exploring the stars with friends. at some point along this impulsive journey, i began to comprehend what i was saying. live your truth. live your truth. and then i started panicking, because i was fiercely unsure of what my truth actually was, and i had been for a while.

for about two years i struggled with a lot of inconsistency, uncertainty, and self doubt. i was so genuinely confused about so many things in my life, and that led me to a mindset i don’t really want to go back to. i spent my energy comparing every part of my existence to others, which was incredibly draining. in high school i was a national merit commended scholar, but i vividly remember crying after getting my results from that qualifying test back because i didn’t think i did well enough compared to some of my friends.

from an age so young i can’t even remember, i thought i wanted to be a doctor. i was definitely influenced by my family growing up because my dad is in the medical field and his life seemed incredibly exciting, even until i was around 17. my entire life, i’ve also been passionate about photography and videography. one of my earliest memories is asking my dad over and over again to hold the family video camera so i could see through the lens. making short films became a more serious passion as I grew older and had more chances to explore the creative depths of the artistic side of my brain.

this is when everything changed. i went to costa rica for two weeks and my eyes were opened to the magnitude of the earth, our society, and our possibilities as humans. I realized that i didn’t want to (and don’t have to) live my life as a checklist. we are infinite and capable of things we can’t even comprehend. life isn’t a linear path with a single end goal and i learned that I am able to cultivate what makes me happy and in turn, that can become success. I wasn’t happy with where i was, what i was doing, or the people who surrounded me. i thought that by deviating from the safe plan i’d had my whole life, i was being dropped into the middle of a vast ocean and somehow would have to figure out a way to get back to shore. even with this fear, i did it. it wasn’t easy or immediate, but baby steps paved the way. i changed my major (too many times). and eventually things kind of started to fall into place.

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one of the things was yoga.

i attended my first yoga class on dec 28th, 2016 and my soul was heavy. thanks to a beautiful and motivating friend, i brushed the winter off my shoulders and welcomed a warm hug from the yoga studio. afterwards, i was glowing. i specifically remember the teacher saying “you are exactly where you are supposed to be,” which truly resonated with me because i had been struggling with that for what seemed like an eternity. those few words gave me peace to accept where i was and the knowledge that i had the power to change it if i wanted to. i felt stronger.

since that first practice, i haven’t gone more than a week without a physical yoga practice. I became obsessed and amazed at how yoga made my body feel and the surprising amount of things i was capable of doing. i stuck with it and found a studio where i go to school - here i found my love for inversions and arm balances. even though i was initially attracted to yoga simply because of how it made me feel, it was amazing to see that with commitment and dedication i saw my practice grow and develop, igniting a fire in my whole life. i remember the first time i finally held running man and my legs no longer felt like they were attached to the ground. it was exhilarating and i became extremely committed to my practice. because I was so lost, yoga gave me guidance. i looked forward to going to class every day i could and practiced in my room when i couldn’t make it to the studio. yoga gave me something to smile about. my practice became a safe, non-judgemental, encouraging place where i could escape insecurity and doubt. i was more motivated and happy than i had been in a long time.

I was in my teacher training when i discovered yoga squared. i immediately loved the space, the location, and the people from the minute i stepped through the doors. I got to know Nikki and Kate better through a videography project with a local publication creating a  story, and the rest is history. I kept coming back, taking photos, and filming videos for the studio. After spending more time at YS, i became closer with several of the teachers who gave me so much advice for my own teacher training. the people in this community are absolutely incredible and i’m forever grateful to them for their friendship. all the beautiful humans there have been so supportive and have truly changed my life. there’s no chance i would be where i am now if i hadn’t set foot in yoga squared & welcomed the love that radiates from that space.

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i’m a completely different person now than i was two or three years ago. i’ve let go of a lot of the negativity in my life and i’ve found a lot more love for myself (and others). i have a greater understanding of the universe and i’m excited to continue learning. i’m not saying every day is perfect - there are some days where i doubt everything i’m doing and fall back on comparison, but those days are few and far between. everything is still a journey. i’m still figuring out exactly who i am and what cultivates the most happiness. my yoga practice and the people i’ve met because of it have given me so much guidance and have invited so much love into my life.

 

live your truth, LOVE your truth, & the rest will come.

 

xx

tip

Right On Time: Lisa's Path to Presence

Right On Time: Lisa's Path to Presence

Hola everyone! If you haven’t met me, my name is Lisa Nicol and I am so honored to be the Yogi Transformer for the month of April! Nikki and Kate couldn’t have asked me at a more perfect time. April 2018 marks one year since I began my practice at Yoga Squared. I had done some yoga before; I had taken a yoga course in college as one of my physical education credits and attended a few classes here and there around town. However, it was not until I found Yoga Squared that I became consistent with my practice. I always loved yoga and knew it needed a place in my life, but it wasn’t until Yoga Squared that I felt fully connected to my mat. I took Nikki’s beginning yoga series in March 2017.

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I was at work with a former colleague of mine and she asked if I wanted to take a beginning yoga course at a new local studio – Yoga Squared. It was a four-week course to “learn beginning skills and broaden your horizons!” Of course, I said YES!! I had seen advertisements for Yoga Squared on Facebook and was really interested in checking out the studio, but I just hadn’t had the push I needed until then. I took Nikki’s course with two of my other colleagues and immediately fell in love with the practice of yoga once again, as well as with the studio. I hadn’t even come to a regular class yet, but I felt a special bond as soon as I walked into the studio. I placed my new mat on the ground and took a deep breath.

At this time, I was dating a man that lived in Guatemala. Sounds crazy? It was! Guatemala is so far away, but it worked for us at the time. We met when I was in Guatemala during the summer of 2016 doing mission work. I am a Spanish teacher and I love everything about the Spanish language and the different Hispanic cultures. I thought that when I met this man he was everything that I ever dreamed of. I’ve dreamed of marrying someone from another culture and raising my kids to be bilingual and have multicultural viewpoints (Wanderlust should be my middle name because I love nothing more than traveling and exploring new places). He fit the bill and I thought that I was so happy. I traveled to Guatemala April 2017 for my Spring break to visit, and let’s just say it did not go as planned. I ended up coming home two days early. I was unable to deal with the wave of emotions that I was unexpectedly faced with. I had been in a relationship with a man previously (apparently, we had different ideas on what our relationship actually meant and the path it was going to take – it didn’t end well). Needless to say, these suppressed emotions were brought to the forefront during my trip to Guatemala. When I was down there I was unable to eat, my anxiety was through the roof (something I’ve always struggled with), I was constantly panicking, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I finally made the decision that I needed to come home. This really hurt my boyfriend and I felt so bad because he had actually done nothing wrong.

When I finally made it back to the States, my friends and family were clearly concerned about me. Melissa - whom I had taken Nikki’s beginning yoga series with- texted me and said I think that we should go to yoga the day after I came home. I thought that sounded perfect, so I signed up! Melissa and I went to the noon class that Kate was teaching. I really can’t state this enough – that class changed my life. Everything that Kate said and did spoke to me. It was like she could see into my soul, and knew exactly what I needed.  At the end of class I told her how amazing it felt and she hugged me. I was so overwhelmed at that point in my life that tears just fell. Kate didn’t ask any questions, she just held me and that is exactly what I needed. Ever since then I have felt a deep connection with her and I will be forever thankful.

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Fast forward a little… I broke up with my boyfriend, started going to therapy, and coming to Yoga Squared on a regular basis. In May 2017 I took Cortney Martinelli’s 4-week reiki course and that enhanced my life further. Cortney has become my Reiki Master, my mentor, my work partner, yoga buddy, but most of all my friend. I ended up taking Reiki 1 & 2 with her, and I will be completing my Reiki Master Course with her at the end of this month. She has given me so much and I am so grateful to her.

 Lisa donating NINE bags of clothes to Yoga Squared's Closet Detox for a Cause!

Lisa donating NINE bags of clothes to Yoga Squared's Closet Detox for a Cause!

Practicing yoga has given me my life back. Yoga has opened up my eyes to so many possibilities and pathways. I have become very interested in Holistic Health – something that I had always been intrigued by but was unsure about how to fit it into my life. Yoga Squared has offered so many workshops that have allowed me to pursue and expand this passion. I now use essential oils for everything, I sell doTERRA Essential Oils, I am on my way to becoming a Reiki Master, I am studying at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach, I work with Cortney at SHINE, and I will be completing my Yoga Teacher Training starting in October at the only place I could imagine – Yoga Squared. Everything in my life right now is pointing me in the direction that I have always wanted to go and I am SO EXCITED!!

Practicing at Yoga Squared truly changed who I am as a person and it has been the most amazing change of my life. I get to go to the studio and practice with my best friends Alex and Elena, whom I got to start coming to yoga, receive the best classes from the best teachers, and the studio is in best location of Akron, in my personal opinion! ☺ I just bought a condo nearby because I love living in the West Akron/Highland Square area so much! According to my friend Aubrey, it’s going to be dubbed ‘The Palace of Zen’!

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Thank you to Yoga Squared, all of the instructors, and wonderful individuals whom I have met there that have helped me on my journey. Thank you to my friends and family who have supported me through everything. I am truly so grateful.

 

Namaste.

Back to Breath

Back to Breath

Hi fellow YS fam! You may have seen me around the studio, and when you do I'm probably indirectly avoiding eye contact and heading to my mat to plant down in child's pose (my favorite) before class begins. My name is Kait, and I'm here to open up about my struggles with anxiety and panic disorder, and how Yoga has helped me cope and learn to heal myself. Anxiety is such a common struggle, one that often is not visible from the outside, and I hope that this ensures anyone in the same internal battle that they are not fighting alone.

For as long as I can remember, I've been an over-thinker. I too often get stuck in my head and buried in negative thoughts. My anxiety is constant. I assume the worst possible scenario, fear the unknown, and worry about the past and future so much that I am always fighting to "be here now". Remaining present is something I have to work to achieve on a daily basis. When I am on my mat, I am closest to free of those drowning thoughts as it gets. The cues to breathe, the insightful messages the teachers deliver, the constant and rhythmic movement - it all adds up to the best therapy my soul has found yet.

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Breathing is something that occurs so naturally for all walks of life, something we usually fail to even notice is happening, but it can often feel constricted when dealing with constant anxiety. There have been several times that I have ended up in the ER from a panic or anxiety attack because I have felt like I lost all control over my breath. My heart thumping out of chest, body shaking and sweating, and my throat feeling as if it's doing anything but allowing breath to flow easy. It is a terrifying experience to say the least. Yoga has given me the tools to help alleviate these side effects and come back to my breath when I stray too far. Not always do they work, but it is the closest thing to the strength of medicine for me. As soon as I feel the overwhelming rush of emotions approaching, I drop down to my knees and focus on achieving that yogic breath like we all do in a class. Being there on the ground and breathing deep and intentionally take me back to a feeling of safety. I remind myself over and over that if I have my breath, I'm living and thriving well. I tell myself that everything is going to be fine and that the slew of doubts and fears are all false. I remember the control and empowerment I feel when I'm dripping sweat in a Hot Power class but am able to use that same breath to push through to that blissful svasana.

When I first started practicing Yoga, it was through YouTube videos. I committed myself to a 30 Day Challenge with Yoga by Adrienne. At first, I was a little distracted and antsy through the videos, but as I became used to her voice and quirkiness, I started to find that place. You know what place I'm talking about, Yogis. I loved the feeling my mind and body achieved. I was gaining muscle, feeling confident, and my thoughts were transforming day by day. About a year later I started seeing ads on Instagram for Yoga Squared and was immediately interested! I planned on attending the first day of opening, but anxiety struck and I didn't make it. I was super bummed about it, so I called my bff (Katelyn!) who then was in teacher training, and asked her to join me the next day for a class for some extra motivation to actually make it there. We went in on the second day of YS's opening and I have been in love with the studio and people that fill it ever since. I remember my first class pretty vividly. I was nervous as hell, but soon all of those jittery feelings subsided and I was lost in the movement. We started off just focusing on breathing. The music was loud and my thoughts were quiet. My body was challenged through every pose. I cried through svasana (as I do every class now lol). I walked out dripping in sweat and already sore. I felt alive and present. I wanted more of it every day. It was a whole different world of feelings from what the YouTube videos were providing.

After that first day I went to every class I could make it to. Each teacher at YS offers a totally different experience and I enjoy them all. I am so thankful for all of the beautiful words and classes that are pieced together by each of them. So much love and encouragement is delivered in that room, and it's truly incomparable. If I'm having a bad day, I know where to go. If I need an extra reminder of my strength and control, I know my mats got my back. I love having a sacred space to release and heal & I love that I can show up and leave exactly as I am. Kate & Nikki work so hard to make sure Yoga Squared is a loving and comforting space for everyone that walks through that door. They're two extremely special people serving our community with only the best of vibes. I now could never imagine my life without Yoga, and I am so happy to have found YS when I did.

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My advice to those struggling to breathe and stay present, is to use Yoga off the mat. Find that place - where even when you don't think you can't balance for one second longer, that breath and focus proves you wrong. Remind yourself of your strength and beauty the way a soulful flow does. You can always drop down to your knees and take that child's pose, and you should never feel hesitant to do so... we've all earned that moment to breathe. We all have the power to make it through our internal challenges. Keep pushing, keep believing, keep breathing. We've got this.

peace, love, & light to all of you!

Kaitlyn <3

No Mud, No Lotus

No Mud, No Lotus

Heyyyy lovely humans, soulful people, stretchy, loving 5:00 attending Monday/Wednesday kids. Here’s my story and how I got here, cliff note version. Well, kind of.

First off, of all the times I’ve shared my story, I’ve never done it for a yoga studio.  Let alone the badass one that is Yoga Squared. So buckle up, buttercup. It’s about to get real.

Through junior high and high school I started to notice my negative mindset, habits, diet, and life. I wanted to play softball less and get high and sit on my couch more. I was deep in addictive behaviors, on all kinds of medication, struggling with self-harm, the need for acceptance, and the urge to be in a drugged out state every day. I failed out my senior year, lost my license, car, sense of self, friends, and the ability to look in the mirror or even the ability to FEEL. I was a mess. For the sake of you and the possibility that you’re reading this while eating breakfast, I won’t share an old photo of me. Ask me sometime and I’ll be glad to laugh at one with you.

In the deep of winter 2009 I woke up. I realized I wanted change but I didn’t know what that meant. I was 19, lost, and spiritually bankrupt (I always joke around now like why didn’t my mom just throw me some lavender oil when I was in high school? Anyway. Hakuna matata). Maybe you don’t know what rock bottom feels like. Maybe it wasn’t as dark as mine, but know that we all have a story and some parts of our story hang in the depths of the ocean until we get saved by a hot lifeguard that eventually brings us to the surface.

I mean, it wasn’t a hot lifeguard. But it was close to that feeling.

I started getting my high school diploma, hanging out in the basements of therapy buildings, stopping hard drugs, and eventually started doing yoga on YouTube. I mean there’s no wrong way to find your body and breath- except maybe not to at all, right?

On the third floor of a not so great building, in which I lived at the time, I’d do small stretches and be like “this feels good, I could get into this”.

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It wasn’t until I got completely clean, jumped into recovery and gained more weight (you know how we do) that I went to my first studio in 2011-2012. I googled a studio near me and couldn’t believe there were some in Akron. Why didn’t anyone tell me these sweet places existed? That’s how I feel now. It was hot, it felt long, but it felt like I finally took a breath. I remember that first class like it was yesterday. It’s funny, some people will tell you “they won’t remember what you say but they will remember how you made them feel” and that’s what I got out of that. I felt a small reconnection with my body.

Since that first moment on the mat in a community class, I started going more regularly. I took a break for a little and attended small classes at my university, and checked out some other studios In the meantime. I barely remember first having the vision of possibly teaching yoga someday. I mean, I stumble on my words, speak too fast, have a lisp, all of that. But guess what? I didn’t crawl out of rock bottom to chill on my ass. I wanted to soar.

So… I enrolled in yoga training 200 hour level in 2014, and loved every second of it.  I jumped around from job to job, found one at an in inpatient drug treatment, continued school for my bachelors in social work, moved around, went through a break up, reevaluated my life, traveled, traveled again, went to another workshop for self-love-and-radiance-through-your-freakin-heart-chakra-goddess-self-awareness-whatever, went to another, wash-rinse-repeat… until 2017.

Last year, after reading about it for months, I finally jumped to Indiana to attend the Yoga through the 12 steps workshop (Y12SR).  I obtained my certificate here to be more professional in the area of teaching yoga to recovering addicts. DAMN!  Talk about my life dream, eh? I went to the codependency breaking barriers training after that in Virginia. I can’t get enough teaching, learning, reevaluating. I love it.

I want to tell you that life got 100% better when I got clean, started doing yoga, and that I float on through life with no problems eating vegan cookies and enjoying every moment of every single day.  But, that’s not the truth. I still struggle with things. I still get in my head with negative thinking, that I may not be good enough, smart enough, etc. That I am not good enough to do anything extraordinary.  I learn over and over again that isn’t true. That’s not my truth. How dare I sit on my butt and not learn more, when I can help save more lives, help ENRICH lives? If I received so much help from the support that saved my life, how dare I hold on to the gifts and not share it with others? Keep moving, growing, helping, laughing, joking, pushing forward. Yoga helps with that. You deal with yourself on the mat in the poses and breathing and being, and then you do it out in the world. We all have crap. How are you going to deal with it? I like the messy parts of life too, because if they challenged and changed you, it will help someone else. Always.

All of this inspiring-crap-that-sounds-lame-if-you-havent-changed-a-whole-lot-and-continue-to-do-so is probably the fire that has brought me to today. That helps me teach my 5:00 Monday/Wednesday spiritual badass all level flow. That pushes me to teach the girls in rehab about life. That pushes me to go to advanced yoga training to attain my 500 level.

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I love what I do, love sharing it with students, and I love helping young girls that seem lost, like I was. I enjoy making people laugh, taking way too many photos of the people I love, rollerblading, volleyball, writing, goofing off, eating good food, singing over vegan chocolate chip cookies, traveling, blaring girly indie music, challenging people to look within, and chasing my freakin dreams. Shout out to Nikki and Kate, for being there always, and giving this girl a chance and a space to do cool stuff.

Overall, I knew recovery for me (and we are all recovering from something) had to do more than just my mental and emotional space between my ears and the 12 inches from my heart to my head. I knew my body needed to move. My suggestion for new students is find something you love doing that is good for you and jump in with both feet. Learn about yourself. Do something and regret it instead of saying shoulda woulda coulda. Don’t should on yourself. Do it. Be patient with yourself, quit looking at the person next to you on their mat, and enjoy the prana life force that springs from the bottoms of your hippy feet to the top of your beautiful head. You’re human. You’re spirit. You have so much to share and grow from and learn and love. And if I can transform, so can you.

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