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.
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.
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 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.