A Letter from Kelly 2015
I started Yoga as a self-prescription for chronic pain and discomfort. I was 17, overwhelmed, and out in the world on my own. What I know now that I didn't know then, was that the pain I was experiencing was simply a manifestation of my discord with my life. It took me 20 years to figure it out, but the trials and challenges I faced on my path of understanding have shaped me into the person I am now, and though at times it’s still painful to reflect on it all, I am grateful.
Following the prescribed worldview of my time, I got married young and had kids. I married the only guy in my hometown that wasn't from my hometown. It was a bit of a shotgun wedding, as we were pregnant with my first born after only nine months of dating, and though it had the outward appearance of a fairy-tale, in truth it was just the opposite. My (now EX-) husband concealed a serious addiction for years. It wasn't that I didn't know, it's just that when I would confront him, he would emotionally and later physically overpower my questions. It was during this tumultuous time that I decided to become a yoga teacher.
I had been practicing yoga since college, and I knew that it was a lifeline. I didn't quite know why, but I was unwaveringly committed to my practice. In the tiny East Tennessee town where I grew up, and lived, I had a reputation of being an oddball because of my unwavering commitment to Yoga. In the beginning, Yoga was something I kept to myself. With the exception of my Mom, I didn't invite my friends to classes. It was my time to spend with myself. And for a long time, my practice was my escape from my life. So when I pose the question to a room full of Yogis "is your practice the way you get out of your life, or the way you get into it?" I ask because I know. I was there. I used my practice as a way to tap out of discomfort of my choices, a way to escape the suffering of my own mis-alignment with my life.
So when my teacher got up in the middle of class one day and announced "Kelly will be taking over," though it came as a shock, I never skipped a beat. After that class, my teacher pulled me aside and set me on a course for my life that I have scraped, scratched, dragged, and ultimately managed to make not only my career, but my life. I've spent years practicing, teaching, cultivating and refining.
In 2006, I began studying with Yogarupa Rod Stryker, and though it was uncomfortable and unfamiliar in many ways, I knew immediately that this path was my invitation back home to myself. I up-leveled my practice, my study, and my internal work. I recommitted to my practice not as an escape, but as an entry point to the truth of my heart.
The same year I began studying with Rod, I co-led my first ever Yoga Teacher Training, and I knew that I had found the path I would follow for the rest of my time. I was a teacher of teachers, and Yoga was the method I wanted to share.
I didn't quit my day job immediately though, and for years, I kept trying to fit into the box of success that I had learned. And, I NEVER fit. Finally I risked all, and decided to try to make it in the world on teaching Yoga alone. I taught 8 classes a week and Teacher Trainings. And for many months, I did my grocery "shopping" at the local food bank, and ate mostly my kids left-overs for dinner. I remember the despair I felt when my kids wanted an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, and I couldn't provide them that simple pleasure because I was flat broke.
A hundred times I thought about walking away, acquiescing to the the idea of what I was "supposed" to do, and giving up. But no matter how much doubt and fear I would swim through everyday, I never stopped practicing, and I never stopped believing that this was my path. As I deepened my study, I began to integrate my practice into my life instead of make time to step out of my life for it. I practiced while I parented my two amazing daughters, I practiced while my marriage was falling apart, I practiced while I relocated my family to not one, but two different states, I practiced through my mother's life threatening illness, I practiced through the heartache of divorce, I practiced through the pain of healing. I practiced as I began to rediscover myself. And I practice now, in this time of transformative change.
It's been years since this struggle defined my life, but I'm still healing from it's mark. Every year that has passed, I TRUST this path more and more. I deepen more and more into my practice, and learn over and over again that the tiny whisper in my heart always leads me in the direction of what was highest and best. At some point on my journey, Yoga stopped being my lifeline and became my life. It wasn't something that I did, it was who I WAS. I'm not exactly sure when that transition happened, but I am certain that the shift has made all of the difference in my willingness to LIVE my life and not simply survive it. I am no longer looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and instead I am being guided by the ever present, unwavering light inside. This knowing hasn't liberated me from pain and suffering, from doubt and fear, but it has polished me and led me to a sense of freedom and love even in the midst of chaos.
If the world is feeling like too much, turn toward your practice and the tools that you've learned to AWAKEN to the guidance of YOUR truth. NOW is the time to find the unwavering courage and determination that is the essence of your spirit. NOW is the time to do the inner work of becoming clear, knowing yourSELF, walking YOUR path in service to the world. NOW is the time to find your VIRA BHAVA, the essence of a warrior that exists inside each and every one of you.
This is not the time to project our fears, our pain, our disappointment outward. This is the time to turn inside of ourselves, find our tribe to support us in our work, to dive into our shadows and begin the process of healing, love, and self acceptance.
I want you to know that if Vira Bhava Yoga was, or could be, the tribe that you were looking for, we are here. And we aren't going away. We are fully committed to catalyzing communities of Spiritual Warriors in the world. Through tools, support, and community, we are committed to moving in the direction of what is the highest and best for ALL.