Name: Rachel Wolfe
Location: Winnetka, Illinois, USA
Occupation: Artist and Gallerist
Nearly every aspect of my current life can be attributed to practicing yoga. The sheer presence of my being on this planet owes a deep debt of gratitude for those who channeled the yoga asana, the dhyana and pranayama practices, those who shared their knowledge, those who brought yoga to the west and to the teachers that have touched my life.
I was born into life a vivacious and curious child. But early on, the first bouts of digestive woes and sleeping trouble began disrupting my bliss. I can recall feelings of unregulated currents of energy running through me. I was easily overwhelmed, exhausted and frequently moody. Around my transition from childhood to adolescence, I encountered a two-year span of insomnia. The insomnia doubled the effects of the mild anxiety I carried, resulting in panic attacks that would lead me to believe I was dying. This trifecta was compounded by the deep depression that grew from the darkest spot within my soul. All of this happened before the age of 16.
During this time, a therapist suggested I try yoga and meditation to help me sleep at night. I was also encouraged to keep up the writing and art I had begun doing as a means to even tolerate being in my body. While it seems dramatic to me now, this story was an intense reality for me at the time.
I was always looking for a way out, a way out of the feeling of wanting to die, the feeling that dying was a better option than feeling, and I got that way out. I was placed on medication and careful observation after my family found out I had been cutting myself. The medication numbed every inch of my being.
I was attending yoga classes at the local park district and I was loving how I was able to achieve the postures with ease. I felt good at something, and therefore good for something, despite feeling nothing. And if it wasn’t for the yoga, then I might very well be medicated now, but something inside of me was speaking up and asking me to clear out my body. I’m glad that I listened.
Coming off of my meds threw me into a high that I have yet to ever experience again. Yoga became a means to keep my muscles soft after the daily six-mile runs, as well as a philosophical pursuit to satisfy my insatiable appetite for theory and life understanding. The breathing techniques allowed me to sleep at night without waking. As I felt better and more balanced, I realized later how fast I was running away from everything, including food. The disordered relationship that developed resulted in a thinner than thin body and worried my family, yet again. At this point, I fancied myself living off of air or ascending into some spiritual realm. My yogic studies were one sided, as I had yet to discover the grounding qualities of a yoga practice.
I’m not sure how I was able to balance myself out after existing in the lowest low a person can go and swinging up and nearly off into the stratosphere. The only mainstay besides my art and writing practice was yoga. It was always there for me. Later I would discover that my family and the entire Universe were rooting me on the whole time.
Signing up for a Yoga Teacher Training was the catapult I needed to ground me, balance me and ultimately bring me to the bliss I remembered as a very young child. The training taught me that all those years of self-study were actually worth something. I was more knowledgeable than I thought I was. As I began to share my knowledge and experiences with others, I quickly learned that I am more capable than I thought I was. Yoga brought me from the depths of suicidal depression and anxiety, through the highs of mania to a place of balanced empowerment, that at one point I was assured I would never have. But here I am, living proof that yoga can heal some of the deepest and most challenging wounds to heal.
Bringing my full attention and awareness to this training must have set off some deep ripples in the Universe because during and after the training, the positive and exciting transitions grace my life. The serendipity, the synchronicities are astounding and daily. I used to dream of living a life like the one I live today. And on this day, it occurs to me what happens when I practice yoga, or when anyone does for that matter. Yoga changes the stories you tell yourself. Any experience I have encountered in this life has been centered on emotion and feeling. Simply by reinterpreting or rewriting my story, I can then feel that story and therefore live that story. There’s no amount of obsessive thought that can effectively do this rewiring. Yoga does the work, as long as I bring my full awareness to the practice. The more attention and intention I have drawn inward, the richer my experiences flow outward.
Some days I find myself wanting to run away from my mat or let my hips flop open when I know I need to hug them in. These indicators are reminders of the shadow life I once led, the story of despair I was telling myself. It is an incredible feeling of empowerment, triumph and ceaseless desire to share my new story as I feel every part of my being and life experience, through yoga. We are everything we need, and yoga is the guide.
Rachel Wolfe was raised in a small town outside of Chicago. She completed a Bachelor of Art in 2006 and a certified Yoga instructor in 2012. Rachel has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally as a photographer and writer. Her second publication is in progress. Rachel is currently based on the Northshore of Chicago, traveling for assignments, commissions, study and fun. You may connect with Rachel on Facebook. Learn more about her projects at www.rachelwolfe.com and follow her artist process on Howlya, her blog.
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