Four years ago, my marriage was falling apart. My neighbor, Laurie Solet, asked me if I wanted to go to a 6 week series on the different asana families (backbends, inversions, etc) at a nearby yoga studio.
I ended up taking the series twice in a row.
I still have my notebook from that time in my life. I was hurting. I was processing. I was excited. I was confused. I was worried. Many times, as I sat with a blanket around me in class – working to meditate – to name the thoughts and excuse them so I could concentrate and be present – I would cry. Out of one eye.
When I cry in yoga, it is out of one eye and one eye only.
I met Jee Moon during that series. She was my teacher. I remember her focusing in on me during a lab on cobra. Cobra is a little back bend you make while laying on your stomach. As she worked with me – encouraging me – urging me deeper – arching my back and dropping my head behind me – she said, “Oh my God, Erin. Can you bend your knees??”
And I saw my feet.
“Strong back” She said.
Months later, I was talking with my Grandma Lavona about her Chinese Zodiac sign: an Ox. This after making friends with a fellow yogi friend who worked at Enterprise and who introduced me to this. My Grandma’s sense on being an Ox was simple: she has “always had a strong back” – been a hard worker.
Understanding your body is insight to your heritage.
After I moved out of the shared house, I met with Cathleen Williams – owner of Urban Breath Studio – to inquire about work trade. I was re-establishing my life and we worked out an agreement that I would clean the Dogtown studio in exchange for membership.
I would go in at midnight, fold all the blankets – set the props – clean the floor with hot water and white vinegar – and sing. I would clean the toilet, refill the soap, take out the trash, wipe off the incense, refill the water – and think: this is where I am.
I made good use of those nights working trade by going to yoga 4, 5, 6 times a week. Never missing Jee’s Tuesday night yin classes. One time, after a particularly emotional practice, Jee said to me as I left the studio, “You did well”. In a way that was less, “good job” and more “I see you”. It meant so much to me and still does.
This is yoga.
Fast Forward four years and I am a graduate of 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training from Urban Breath. I have learned, in reflecting over this time, I am so grateful for my yoga teachers for taking great care that I became my own resource; that I did not grow dependent on them. This is what we, as yoga teachers, aim to teach: to listen to yourself and trust.
My commitment to teaching is to give the space for others to hear themselves. Know their ego’s voice – who wants to be safe. Know their aversion’s voice – who wants to be included. Know their attachment’s voice – who wants to control and predict. Know their ignorance – who wants to be awakened. And know their fear – who wants to be indestructible. By knowing these voices – knowing the thoughts that associate with these feelings – one can learn to self guide. Through concentration, through awareness of breath, through a physical practice – one can learn that they are spiritual, sound, and secure.
Your body is your spirit’s nest.
I am so grateful for the support I have in my life. I am grateful for Laurie Solet, who was a doorway. I remember standing in between our houses in January, so stringently wounded from pending divorce, and her giving me a massive pep talk before going back inside and how much love was in it. How much encouragement was in it. That spirit is a part of my practice and a part of my teaching.
I am thankful for my yoga soul mate who is on their way to my house right now. Who was alongside of me as I processed and awakened during a concrete and critical part of my life.
I am thankful for Jee Moon for her steadiness and ability to bring me brilliantly into a new perspective. For teaching me the diligence of skill and to respect silence.
I am thankful for Cathleen Williams, for her ministry to Saint Louis by way of Urban Breath – so that people can heal and then learn to teach. Namaste.
I am thankful for Laurie Brockhaus, for her graceful physical practice that is compelling and as figurative as it is literal. For her ability to see the whole room.
I am thankful for Stacy Broussard, for her knowledge on how you can meet people where they are and offer approach to each individual so that yoga is accessible.
I am thankful for Madeleine Webb, for her spiritual depth and confidence that has reminded me over and over how a boldness of spirit is good for the world.
I am thankful for Beth Barr, for the logo for Yoga Underground, for giving me a space to teach all summer, for her encouragement and humor. You have been a sincere sister.
I am thankful for Christie Brinkman, for your constant support and pointed love. For your ability to remind me of the basics and your belief in the things I dream about.
I am thankful for Cheri Massa, for your beyond intuitive maternal role in my life. For our early morning week day phone calls and for the fact that there are so many things about me that you just get.
I am thankful for Milta Little, for my Milta plant which I am moving back down into the basement tomorrow as I resume practice in my banged up studio complete with a prayer written all over my soon to be repaired floor. For your dialogue with God for me. Now.. on to CS Lewis!!
I am thankful for Julie Johnson, you are the champion of women – endless thank you’s for what you do for people trying to make a difference in our city.
I am thankful for Andie Carter, for being my refuge after Tuesday night yin and giving me a place to continue stretching in her kitchen. I miss you.
I am thankful for the Gathering United Methodist Church for giving me a place to begin my ministry.
I am thankful for my students. For trusting me with your time and allowing me the opportunity to learn from our interactions. I look forward to many many more classes. If you aren’t already a part of Yoga Underground’s Class Newsletter – sign up here.
There are many more people who love me and encourage me in endless ways. Those named here have been a big part of my yoga journey. And I want to honor that particularly as my heart is so very full right now.
As I wrap this up, I just have to acknowledge that one of the biggest learnings I have from recent months is that quantity does not matter. I am not out for full classes and a full bank account. I am out to connect with you, or your friend, or your mother, or your cousin. I am out to facilitate space for you and your mind, heart, and soul. I am out to give you a way to see your strength. I am out to give you a consistent mirror for you to see your growth.
I’m a yoga teacher.
This is yoga.