I Am... Enough.

I Am... Enough.

Hello yogis!  If you were to tell me a year ago that I would be writing this blog I would have never believed you.  Hell, if you were to tell me 6 months ago that I would be voluntarily waking up at 6am twice a week to get to class I would have told you that you were insane.  Yet, here we are…waking up at 6am and writing this blog.  It’s taken me longer than it should have to get the inspiration and find the courage to actually start writing.  I’m typically a very outgoing and outspoken person, that is until I have to put it on paper and am able to read my own thoughts. Yoga has definitely pushed me in the best direction possible outside of my comfort zone and allows me to be able to share the story of my practice with all of you wonderful humans.

Always introducing friends to yoga!

Always introducing friends to yoga!

All of my life growing up and into adulthood has been very fast paced and a go, go, go mentality.  I was an all year round athlete growing up and into my early adulthood, which led me to constantly pushing my body to limits that probably weren’t always healthy.  When I had finally stopped playing organized sports I spent most of my days, well mainly nights, working in the restaurant industry.  My body must just be glutton for punishment at this point because I can tell you that years and years of sports and bartending do not do the body much good. I have some of the worst knees you could possibly imagine and my back isn’t in a much better state.  For a large portion of my 20s my body didn’t know what more than 5 hours of sleep even felt like.  But, at some point in my life I realized that I do have the ability to change how I feel, mentally and physically.  That’s where yoga came into play, or at least that’s what I thought…


I remember my first yoga class; I remember it all too well.


My first class was just your run of the mill Vinyasa class, or that’s at least what I thought.  I knew nothing about yoga at the time, and quite honestly I didn’t care to know very much.  But what I did know was that one of my good friends/coworker at the time wanted me to try this with her and promised it would make me feel much better.  So there I was, sitting in the car headed out to Kent to try my first yoga class.  No expectations on what was about to happen and no idea on what a single yoga pose was.  I remember sitting there before class just staring at my friend and trying to figure out what the hell she just roped me into doing.  Then the class started.  It was hot; oh my god was it hot.  My brain was all over the place, it was too hard and I’m not sure if I made this part clear but my god was it hot.  I tried to do every pose that the teacher cued and in my mind I would have been damned if I wasn’t going to try it and nail it.  That was the mindset I had the entire class, I was an athlete my entire life I’m not going to back down from any challenges.  What a serious mistake.  60 of the longest minutes of my life had finally passed and I wasn’t sure how I made it out alive.  That night I made a promise to myself that I would not be trying yoga ever again.


Fast-forward 4 years...


I find myself in a weird rut in my life, I took a step down from a position that I had been doing for years and on top of that decided to start a second job.  I want to try something different that will make my body feel good for once.  Remember that formerly mentioned good friend/coworker?  Well now she’s no longer a coworker but is one of my best friends, I sent her a text. I told her I was ready to try yoga again and I felt there was no other place to start then at the studio her and her girlfriend/future wife owned.  If you have yet to figure out by now that Kate was that friend that roped me into my first, very hot, yoga class then now you know. (She’ll probably read this and disagree with me on the hotness of the class, but she knows I’m dramatic.)  Going to my first class at YS was terrifying for me, I had no idea what I was supposed to bring or even what to wear!  I drove to class in a snow storm, nervous as ever, and just hoping that my experience would be better than the last.  Nikki taught class that morning and I practiced right along side one of my best friends.  It was so different this time and I could feel it, not only in my body but also in my soul.  My heart felt so happy after class and from there on out I was hooked!!  All of a sudden I started practicing six times a week and my mindset began to shift.  I went from such a negative and judgmental attitude to feeling more empathetic towards others than I ever have in my entire life.  I finally started to realize that where I’m at in life is exactly where I need to be.  It’s amazing how good the body feels when you stop trying to fight what you need and just start to finally listen to your inner voice instead of criticizing yourself every day.

Friends don’t let friends miss Sunday Funday at Akronym!

Friends don’t let friends miss Sunday Funday at Akronym!

Having a consistent yoga practice for the last year and a half has changed my life in all ways for the better.  I have met and became close friends with some of the most amazing people, people that have such full hearts and open minds.  I’ve gone from being terrified to walk into a studio where I actually knew people to now going on vacation and searching for new studios to try when I’m out of town.  I’ve finally learned that sometimes slowing things down and listening to your body is the right thing to do. (Aka: it’s okay to go to a restorative class and practice something that’s not just Hot Power) And I can honestly say that my body has never felt better in my life!  Yet, most importantly I have learned how to love myself for who I am and what I am at that point in time is enough. I find myself saying the same mantra from one of my first classes to saying it in my every day life now…“I AM ENOUGH”. I’ve finally learned how to talk to myself the same way that I talk to others, with compassion and only good intent, because I am enough and I deserve it.  We all deserve that in our lives, we deserve to make ourselves happy and to be kind to ourselves, we only have this one life to live why choose to make it harder?

Pre-Hot Power vibes

Pre-Hot Power vibes

I could go on forever about how much I love this practice and all of the joy and wonderful people that Kate, Nikki, and YS have brought into my life but that’s for another time.  Until next time yogis, just remember to love yourself and that you are exactly where you need to be.  You are enough.

Out of yoga pants for a change!

Out of yoga pants for a change!


Namaste,

Lauren




Living Yoga in a Corporate World

Living Yoga in a Corporate World

I’m a numbers girl by nature. I like things to be logical, ordered and “make sense”. I work in an environment based around numbers, strategies, codes and processes. On my quest for professional achievement and advancement I dove headfirst into doing whatever was necessary to advance my career and it was working. I had won awards, received multiple promotions and had more work than I knew what to do with. I also had no work/life balance, my stress and anxiety levels were through the roof and I had lost all creativity. At the time I felt that was the cost of professional success, but it was taking its toll on my overall health and well-being. I knew that I needed to change and find something that could help me work through some of these issues. It was about this time that yoga reappeared in my life. 

I attended YS first beginner’s workshop and hoped for the best. I soon felt the benefit of my practice, discovered Reiki and opened my eyes to the possibilities of the benefits. I took every workshop, started reading about yoga, practicing regularly and somewhere along the line I realized I had created work/life balance, reduced my stress and anxiety and felt my creativity return. 

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People at work started asking what I was doing because they could see and feel a positive difference in me. It was at this point, I started to consider how I could bring yogic thoughts and principles into the workplace.  

I started small. Things like starting my Team Meetings with having everyone state something that they were grateful for or breathing together when dealing with a frustrating issue. When a Team Member voiced frustration over stress or time management, I would suggest meditating or breathe work along with tips in Outlook. There was a shift in how I led my Team. There were more discussions about the people and how we could help them become better at their job vs. metrics and numbers. This trickled down to the Team Members and the engagement and performance levels of our Teams increased. 

But we are still an environment driven by metrics, strategies and performance expectations and we are counted on to deliver. This can be stressful. During a particularly stressful push, I introduced meditation to our Leadership Team. We opened our weekly staff meeting with a 4 minute meditation. 

And they liked it. 

So we started a weekly meditation group amongst the Team. When I moved departments, I incorporated the new Team into the sessions. When I took over our Career Development Initiatives, I pushed it out to the entire site.  We now have a weekly meditation group that has approximately 10% of our entire population that attends sessions.

I signed up for Yoga Teacher Training to be able to offer the Team an opportunity to attend sessions during work hours which would ensure no negative impact to their work/life balance, but provide an opportunity to establish a practice and reap some of the benefits. 

YTT Graduation!

YTT Graduation!

I began teaching classes at work in December. Many people who have never practiced yoga came and immediately felt some of the benefits that made me fall in love with the practice initially. We now have weekly yoga sessions that rotate times to ensure as many people as possible are able to attend. 

It has been amazing to see how open and receptive the entire Team has been to challenging themselves physically and opening up to new experiences. I have had many accomplishments over my career, but someone coming to our yoga classes with a new mat or seeing someone from work at the studio have become some of the most meaningful. 

I am now always looking for ways to incorporate yoga into the corporate world. It’s not always classes and meditation. Sometimes it’s just remembering the Yamas before giving feedback or attending a meeting. Yoga has truly permeated every aspect of my life and I know myself and everyone around me has benefited from its lessons.

Representing Yoga Squared on the top of a mountain!

Representing Yoga Squared on the top of a mountain!

Namaste, Past, Namaste, Future

Namaste, Past, Namaste, Future

At 7:30 this morning my alarm went off; the song, 7:30 A.M. by Slothrust (great band). I laid around until past 8, and my cat Wheaty scratched me on my head for his own esoteric reasons, and I finally dragged myself up, cut up a banana, had some peanut butter on a spoon, and ate a cup of cereal… Breakfast of Champions.

The one and only Wheaty!

The one and only Wheaty!

I drove five minutes to work, and at 9 I slowly dragged my workpants on by the lockers, and can’t explain to you why I did this that slowly, but there I was, barely prepared for the day ahead. I spent a significant portion of the morning at a meat slicer and exchanged Monty Python quotes with our prep cook as another coworker experimented with food up in the kitchen. At 11 I tried my buddy’s food creation—a gruyere crouton—how good it can be. Later, in the walk-in cooler, my boss entered and asked if I had much to do today; it’s always a good sign when they ask rather than tell, and the day shaped up like it was gift wrapped.

Work vibes

Work vibes

At 3 I considered a final cup of coffee at the bar before I split, but opted for the comfort of home, away from the clock, and brewed some of my own coffee; I hung out with Wheaty and got some work done around the house. As I caffeinated and cleaned I listened to Nick Drake, Destroyer, and the entirety of Dark Night of the Soul, a collaborative album featuring the brilliant artists David Lynch, Danger Mouse, and Sparklehorse. By 5 I was at Yoga Squared for Jenny’s midweek Vinyasa class.

The class reminded me of when I first started the Yoga, back in 2010 at Grace church’s Free Akron Yoga, a community class where many Akronites practiced Yoga on Tuesday nights in those days. I’d pedal my bike from my apartment in the Square, a variety of guest teachers came weekly and taught the basics; not just the poses, but some of the methodology of Yoga as well. As part of Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Squared, I’ve challenged myself to recall how I practiced in the beginning, and have been challenged in return by the memories of those times. In my life there are few things I’ve repressed in my memories, but in 2010 when I departed the ridged structure of childhood and education and entered adulthood, uncertain and addicted to drugs and alcohol, the thought of myself as a new Yogi is a dark thought—I had no belief in a power greater than myself, which included the power of community and a disciplined routine.

Early days at Squared!

Early days at Squared!

After practice today, I caught up with some friendly faces, went home and turned on the kitchen light and opened the fridge; the sight was scant but I had what I needed, and I thanked my lucky stars that I had food in the fridge and light to cook it by (the past month the kitchen light had gone out intermittently until I cooked by candlelight for a week straight—an electrician came last weekend and fixed it). Much of my life consists of gratitude for the myriad small victories which add to contentment, sometimes happiness. When I began Teacher Training, I thought some shit might get unearthed, and I was right about that, but I also presumed that the sort of spiritual life I’ve wanted to lead would be nurtured by a deeper practice. 

And today, as I cooked by electric light, enjoyed the company of my colleagues and community, created rather than destroyed, and then settled beneath warm, dry blankets in bed—I appreciated certain things that I’d forsaken when I lived as I did before, although that was like another lifetime. It’s true that I’ve transformed over the past year, recovered nearly completely from a broken leg and one of my life’s darkest depressions, long after the events described above which marked the beginning of my practice; but I’ve done so by the light of the resources available to me: I’ve sought help from my family, community, and therapists.

Yoga teacher training at The Highland Square School of Yoga

Yoga teacher training at The Highland Square School of Yoga

As for spirituality, my mind is as made up on it as a bed could be made up on a raft at sea, feeling in control at times, completely mystified and aghast at others; during my emotional low-point over the past six months I concluded that as willing as I’ve been to end my own life out of depression, I would be just as willing to surrender myself to the benevolent powers that be. I can’t necessarily recommend this type of thinking to anyone, and would instead add the important footnote at the end of this blog to encourage anyone who may have untreated depression to use the resources available like free counseling at Portage Path Behavioral Health.

Another, perhaps equally important footnote, is re the electrician who fixed my kitchen light, a man of about 90 who’d done the job expediently and expertly and as we walked down my steps admitted to me his knees had trouble with steps; I mentioned a fall I’d had a week before in which I injured my back on those same steps. He heard me out sympathetically, and at the bottom of the steps I added “but I’m 27,” because that’s how I talk; we changed the subject back to how old he was. I walked back into my apartment and concluded; life could be really, really long, or I could die accidentally right now…. because that’s how I think.

Namaste, past, Namaste, future.

First class feels

First class feels

From Falling To Flowing

From Falling To Flowing

“Why did I even show up?”

“You want me to take my socks off?”

“My foot has to go where?!”

“I thought this was stretching?”

“Everyone else is flowing and I’m just falling.” 

“Should I be practicing?”

“Savansana, finally a pose I can do.”

These were some of my thoughts when I took my first yoga class. The smart thing to do would have been to try an easy/gentle flow class. Instead I went to a vigorous Vinyasa class. My first class was definitely an experience. 

Anyways, let’s back up. My name is Jacob McClellan. When Nikki and Kate asked me to write this I was excited and then confused. Because who wants to hear a yoga story coming from a 21-year-old kid who listens to too much angsty punk music and eats far too many granola bars and Cheez-Its. Well- this is my story. I hope you all enjoy!!

I came to my practice about 2 years ago, and I did it by accident. In 2017, I was a sophomore in college majoring in music education, with a vocal focus. This program is very demanding, as I was required and expected to take over 20 credit hours every semester to graduate in a timely manner. During the fall of my sophomore year my life took an unexpected turn when I found out that my sister was diagnosed with mental illnesses, which meant that she would have to be taken to a hospital and given medicine to help regulate her mood and mind. This created stress and worry at home which only led to more stress and worry about school. So if you’re keeping track this means that my whole life was consumed by stress and anxiety, all while trying to live up to expectations of others.

Choir

Choir

My body was a prisoner to my mind, and my mind was a prisoner to my reputation and what others thought of me. 

I finally broke down crying mid song at a choir rehearsal. Fun fact: it is impossible to sing well and sound good while crying. (the song was Run to You by Pentatonix if you’re interested). Everything hit like a ton of bricks all at once, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. 

After I had some time to collect myself I realized that I hated everything about my life. I hated the way my body looked, I hated singing and all things related to it, and I hated that I felt alone even when I was surrounded by friends and family that loved me. I knew that something had to change, I just didn’t know what that change was. 

Good times at the opera!

Good times at the opera!

I met with one of my professors and told him what was going on. He simply asked me when was the last time I did something I wanted to do? I honestly couldn’t think of one thing in the last 2 years that I did simply because I wanted to do it. He also helped me realize that I had no hobbies in my life that were not music related, so I began my quest to try something new, make new friends, and hopefully feel better about myself. 

Caroling (note from Nikki: yes, I DID ask Jake to carol at the holiday market…)

Caroling (note from Nikki: yes, I DID ask Jake to carol at the holiday market…)

For some reason the first thing that came to my mind was to take a yoga class. I always thought yoga was a very mysterious thing. And I had questions: why are they chanting? Is this some kind of cult or secret society? Who volunteers to go into a 90-degree room and stretch? Do they really live in caves?

Side note: I just think it is funny that I literally could have tried any activity or club. Like what if I attended an underwater basket weaving class. Would I be weaving in the waves right now, who knows. Either through the power of the universe or fate I chose yoga. This is probably for the best, even though underwater basket weaving could be on the rise, because, you know, global warming. 

Yoga was love at first sight for me, even though I was hyperventilating through the whole class, there was something about the poses that really intrigued me. After walking out of my first class I felt different, it was like for the first time my muscles finally relaxed and I was able to breath using my whole body. Yoga for me started off as a once a week thing, pretty soon it was twice, then it got to a point where I was upset on the days that it didn’t fit into my schedule. 

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As a wise yogi named Kevin once said, “yoga and the poses don’t change, you do!” This could not be more true in my life, as when I started my practice it was hot power all the time, I mean why would I stoop to what I thought were subpar types of yoga like gentle and restorative. Then one day after a hot power class, a teacher invited me to a restorative class. I found out that it was all about breathing and relaxing. The restorative class also includes some of my favorite things which is laying and rolling around on the floor.  

After an entire summer of practicing yoga almost every day I was about to start my junior year at Akron. I knew that I had to find a yoga studio close to UA so I could further deepen my practice. So I started Googling all of these yoga studios in the Akron area, there was about a handful that I was considering. I ended up picking Yoga Squared almost exclusively because there was a 5:30am class, which meant that everyday no matter what I was doing I could practice yoga. I think that I have been to most of the 5:30am classes since I found the studio almost a year and a half ago.

One of the most important things that yoga taught me was breathing. Being a singer, I was taught how to breathe the “right” way to get the most out of my breath and to create the best sound possible. But in yoga it isn’t about breathing the right way, it is simply just being aware of the breath and how it makes you feel, and if you don’t feel good change it!!  My favorite part about breathing is linking it to movement, there is just something powerful about the breath and the body moving in unison. 

This past fall I decided to start my journey to become a yoga teacher, by enrolling in Yoga Squared teacher training. I was incredibly nervous, because I am a quiet person that gets nervous when in large groups. Teaching yoga would require me to do two things that I was uncomfortable with which is talk in front of people, while also moving my body at same time. I was able to overcome both of these things with the love and support of my fellow trainees and the teachers. 

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I have truly loved every moment and experience that yoga has given me. Even those times when we are down dog too long, or when warrior 1 is cued (come on!! just cue crescent warrior). I guess this means that I have completed my goals of trying something new, making friends, and just being more aware of how I feel, so I can change it. 

Getting (halfway) lifted at 5:30am!

Getting (halfway) lifted at 5:30am!

This is the end of the story, well for now at least. Its just crazy because if you were to tell high school graduate Jacob he would be writing a yogi transformation story, he would have thought his life went wrong somewhere in his future, like maybe his future home was a cave. I can assure you that I don’t live in a cave (yet). And yoga has done nothing but enhance my relationships and attitudes towards myself and everyone around me. I can’t wait to see where it takes me next!! 

Until next time. 

Namaste

-Jacob   






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