How yoga gave me hiking boots and walking sticks

I have been meaning to write this post for quite a while now but every time I started, I wasn't able to finish. And the reason for this is simple: I sometimes struggle to express my emotions publicly. Growing up, my family, running their own business and therefore being well-known in the city I grew up, was very concerned about what other people, the public, might think of them. Even though I have come a long way since then, I am still sometimes hesitant to express openly what I think or feel, fearing the response and judgement of others.
However, here I am. Honest and true.

Yoga teachers- the perfect human beings?

In my work as a yoga teacher, I am meeting lots of people, from various backgrounds, cultures and age groups. For a while now, I have been realising, that people can have an interesting idea about who I am and I often hear comments such as "I am not like you.", "I am not as calm as you." "I am not as dedicated as you are." Talking to some friends and other yoga teachers, I concluded that a yoga teacher is often mistaken as this perfect person who has total control of his or her life, eats healthy food, is calm, always friendly, loving and kind. And while I think there is a lot of truth in this as the practice of yoga can build and enhance these beautiful skills, habits and characteristics within oneself, I am still a human being who feels pain, who struggles, who can be unkind. 

We all fight our battles

Only recently have I really understood, what the practice of yoga has taught me. While it is incredible that it has helped me to remove the symptoms of early onset arthritis, it is the more subtle, yet deeper healing, that I have experienced that amazes me the most. 
I was a very happy child, growing up in a middle-class family, with loving parents and an older sister. People often commented on my bright nature and my smile. I smiled a lot, and explored the world carefree and content with curiosity and joy. But, as many families do, ours went through some very dark years. During my early teenage years, my parents went through a very nasty divorce, often using us children as shields in their ongoing battle. Being rejected from my father and often scared for the life and well-being of my mother, I became an adult way too early and too quickly and was left with a deep wound and many scars. Living with my mum was challenging as she was trying to find her own feet again and so I took off to a different country after finishing High School to get some distance from it all. I used to say that these 13 months away were my therapy and I think I was quite right, but not completely, as in many ways it was simply a way to escape from dealing with my inner world. In the years after, I tried a lot and tested my boundaries, especially my physical boundaries. I exercised excessively and tried to surround myself with as many people as I possibly could, attending one social event after another. To simply be with myself was impossible. I always wanted to do things, to be occupied. My yoga practice during those times consisted of very strong postures and hot rooms in crowded and popular yoga classes.

Yoga woke me up

A change came only a few years ago, almost 15 years later. I started to explore other tools of yoga, such as breathing exercises and meditation, but also spent more time in nature and established the habit to journal. Slowly, I managed to cultivate the ability to be with myself, to look within, to self- inquire. It was painful in the beginning and often quite disturbing, but step by step, with the guidance of some wonderful teachers and my own personalized yoga practice, I began to uncover the past, to clean the wounds and to let them heal. Walking bare feet on this gravel road made me more authentic, more real as I am listening with open ears to myself, understanding my own behavior, my pains and struggles (yes, I do have them, too!).  The practice of yoga provided a space, a platform, to make me and want me to meet myself and to be curious and open about myself and at ease with my own company.
I feel like yoga has woken me up to a beautiful sunrise called the path of life, my life, with all it's bright facets and it's shadows and has equipped me with the right hiking boots and walking sticks to move along more confidently.

"Yoga does not eliminate life's challenges, and neither does it provide us with a convenient trap-door to escape from life's distractions. Instead, yoga gives us the skills to meet life head-on with dignity and poise."
- Donna Farhi-