“Seeing” Through Yoga

Name: Krissie Jane Penney
Location: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Occupation: Massage Therapist, Reflexologist,Yoga Instructor & Owner of “The Lila Centre”

Photo by Flickr user Mokarta Graphic.

I have no other way to describe my childhood or teenage years other than to use the word “lost.” I was brought up in a regular family, in a regular neighborhood and never had to go without. Even at a very young age I did know how fortunate I was in comparison to so many other children. But despite that, I was sad….

About what? Good question. I didn’t like how people were mean to other people, how money seemed to drive people to evil, how people were judged on their appearance, or how everyone around me seemed to accept all of this in almost a defeated way. Why wouldn’t anyone change these things? It seemed so obvious to me what was wrong, how could others not see it?

I can remember the moment I was told who God was. Church was not a part of my childhood nor was religion. My father had lost his father at a very young age and didn’t feel we needed to attend church as he was so angry with religion and God. I was taken to a church by some friends, to a group called awanas, an evening play group where they educated children about the Christian religion. I could not believe what I was being told. These people seemed to have all the answers, at the tender age of eight. But the more I was told the less I believed it. I mean, really – There was a giant wooden boat with every animal on it and everyone in China was going to go to hell? It didn’t seem right at all. So, I gave up on the notion and decided that all religions were some sort of brainwashing cult. In my eyes, they passed judgment on others for no reason, just like the government or teachers in school. I wanted no part of that.

As a teenager I sunk deeper into depression. I suffered from anorexia nervosa, got into drugs and excessive drinking, and even had a couple of suicide attempts. Nothing mattered: not my future, not my parents, nor my friends. I moved out of my parents’ house at age 17 and into a drug house with my at-the-time boyfriend. He was verbally and physically abusive towards me. Every day was a big party. And being in such a state all the time really made me forget what kind of world I was living in. At the time I really thought I was happy.

Photo by Flickr User Vladimir I U L.

One night we were at a friend’s house at a party. I had been drinking and we all decided to indulge in some substance abuse. I had too much. I remember sitting on a couch and thinking, “This is bad, so bad. I think I am actually going to die.” The next thing I knew I was not in my body at all but I was above everyone in the room, looking down. I looked fine, but what was going on? I had this overwhelming feeling that life was a game. And I was losing terribly. The rest of the evening was a blur. I woke up the next morning scared to death. After that moment I just knew there was something more than this world. But what? I mean religion seemed so unbelievable. So I decided to follow the “Krissie” religion. I believed in God but not religion. I didn’t want to be a loser in this giant game. I needed to make myself a better person.

I quit the drugs, which was unbelievably easy after my experience. I applied for university and off I went to the nation’s capital. I was going to show people what I had seen, I was going to open the eyes of the world and help to change it, through journalism and television. People love TV!! I really did love University. I loved Ottawa. Coming from a small town it was such a change and it was so exciting. I did very well in the year at Ottawa University.

One morning I was in lecture hall and I found it a bit difficult to focus on the board. I had to move up to the front. “Bizarre!” I thought to myself. I called my mother and asked her to make an appointment with the eye doctor, as I obviously needed some glasses. I came home and off to the doctor I went. She flicked through the lenses asking, “Better or worse?” over and over. “My goodness this is taking some time,” I thought to myself. She left the room and asked if it would be ok to look into the back of my eyes. She took her light and looked, then left the room again. “Just give me a prescription so I can go home,” I impatiently thought to myself. She returned and asked simply, “Do you have a valid driver’s license?” “Yes,” I replied. “I’m sorry. I’m contacting the DMV and having it suspended immediately. And, I’m sending you to a specialist in the city. There is something wrong.” Shock waves ran through me. I didn’t know what else to even say other than “Ok.”

I saw the specialist not long after. I am legally blind, I will never drive again, never see the overheads again…. So I dropped out of university. I couldn’t hack it without being able to take my notes or see the TV in class. “It’s called Starguardts, very rare, only three people in the province have it. There is no known cure,” the specialist had explained.

Every possible negative feeling ran through me. HATE. I hated everything and everyone. And WHY? Why me? I was trying to be a better person and this is what I get? I went back to drinking, partying and not really caring. I felt sorry for myself and anyone that might have to be around me. I worked in a local restaurant and I met some good people, but nevertheless hated the work. One of the guys I worked with in the kitchen became one of my dearest friends. He was lost like me. He was scared to come out of the closet and I was scared to live. We decided one day to go to a yoga class. I don’t much remember how or why it even came up. But, we went.

Kerry, the teacher, was my lifesaver! I was hooked after the first ten minutes. So was my friend Cory. Kerry was so calm. I left the class feeling like I was alive for the first time in two years. On my mat there was no eye problem, no pressure, no judgment. I was weak back then and had so much difficulty getting into any pose. I really did suffer through the physical part of the class. Savasana, oh Savasana. Meditation came so naturally to me. I found myself in the state I had encountered so long ago on that couch. Being able to see my life from an outside view and detach from the mess of life and take a moment in time to relax and breathe. It wasn’t scary this time, it felt right. We went every week. I just knew I wanted to do this, to teach this to people. This is how I could reach people. This is what I had been seeking for so long.

I went back to school. I became a Massage Therapist, a Reflexologist and finally a Yoga Teacher! My 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training warped my entire life into a great one. I had come a long way but this course was the cherry on top. I overcame my drug problems, my drinking problems, quit smoking, started eating healthy, let go of the unhealthy relationships and negativity around me and most importantly, I embraced myself for who I am. I did this all on my mat, through my asana. There are no words to describe the changes that occur in you once you practice yoga. It happens even if you don’t want it to, even when you think you are going for an exercise.

I know now why I lost my vision. If I had not, I would not be doing what I do today. I have helped people heal in the same ways yoga had helped me. Seven years of people I have helped. I am the owner of The Lila Centre, the first yoga studio to open in my small town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I work with my original teacher Kerry and three other wonderful teachers. I feel lucky, happy and blessed in ways I could never put into words. I love going to work. I am at Peace.

Krissie Jane Penney owns and operates The Lila Wellness Centre and Yoga Studio in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. She currently practices massage therapy, reflexology and teaches yoga three days a week and loves every moment of her job. Krissie owns her own house, has a wonderfully supportive boyfriend and family, an amazing roommate and two very special fur babies. Words by which Krissie lives, “I Am Legally Blind and I Love Me!” She believes that everyone should feel this way and plans to help to heal people until the day she dies.

Edited by Jeannie Page.

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.


Advertisements

There Is No Such Thing As Paradise

Name: Alli Akard
Location: Buda, Texas, USA
Occupation: Yoga instructor / mom / adventurer

It was the summer of 2005 – fresh out of college and a new love on the rise. When I met my now husband that fateful day at a coffee shop, he ordered coffee, black. Never in a million years would I have dreamt that that simple cup of coffee would forever change the course of my life. I was a fairly typical college student, semi unsure of the future, but with big dreams and aspirations…and little direction. As the weeks evolved and the friendship blossomed, the two of us decided it would be a great adventure to drive from Texas to Panama in search of surf and new beginnings. We starting planning immediately and before we knew it our car was packed with basically everything we owned and off we went, heading south.

I had always had a love for yoga. It started out as a form of exercise when I was fifteen. My mom had convinced me to take a class with her and I remember my very first adho mukha svanasana (downward dog). It was a sensation I had never felt before. I always considered myself an athlete, having played various sports in high school and of course, surfing, but nothing could prepare my muscles or my mind for that first downward dog. It was as if it flipped my whole perspective upside down. As I grew and evolved from a scrappy teen into a free-spirited adult, I took my yoga practice with me. During college I even took yoga as an elective to gain a deeper understanding of all eight limbs of yoga. I remember writing my Sanskrit on note cards in preparation for my mid-term. Virabhdrasana is still one of my favorite words to say.

As I set out on our ‘Summer of Love’ tour with my new romance and a wild spirit, I remember thinking, “Thank God for yoga, I can do it anywhere.” I would use the asanas at night in our dinky motel rooms, mediation in the long car ride and my karma with the many people that scammed us along the way.

Well, since this is an essay and not a life story, I’ll skip all the epic, amazing adventures that we encountered along the way and I’ll fast forward six years. That summer of love tour turned into a new way of life. Once we arrived in Panama we decided this was the place for us and the Universe agreed. We ended up creating a business for ourselves in real estate and development. We built our own home, perched on a mango-filled cliff right in front of the Pacific ocean, where we watched the sun dip into the water every night. Some would call it paradise. Our business blossomed and so did our family. We eventually married and had three beautiful jungle babies to add to our paradise.

I always said that our home in Panama would be the ideal spot for a yoga retreat. I would wake up in the morning to do sun salutations and sit under the mango trees to meditate. How could so much beauty and peace have found me? Or did I find it? Either way, it didn’t last long.

On August 27, 2009, my world changed in an instant. I was on my way home from a long overdue personal vacation. I had been a wife and mother, living in the jungles of Panama for over four years. I treated myself to a night in Panama City, were I wined and dined, indulging on sushi and expensive perfume. I had never been away from my children and I felt slightly guilty, but the prospect of a king size bed, clean sheets and A/C all to myself was more then I could deny. It was paradise.

When I arrived home that evening, I noticed a car parked down the road from our house. I thought it strange, as we live miles from anyone, but figured it was a local person coming for a visit. We were somewhat of a novelty, being gringos with small children and all. As I walked into my living room and saw my small children sitting on the floor, my husband was nowhere to be found. At that point a man in a mask ran out of my room pointing a gun right at my face. Everything went in slow motion. It was like I was watching the whole experience from overhead. I was hyper aware of every movement, every thought, every breath.

Over the years I had spent a good amount of time reading about meditation and self awareness. If there was ever a time that knowledge was to come into play, it was in that moment. I was in survival mode and I decided right then and there that if my family and I were going to die, we would do it with love in our hearts. Through the whole ordeal, I never took my eyes off my eldest son’s eyes. I just kept telling him I loved him and that everything was going to be ok.

The whole robbery lasted roughly fifteen minutes, but the stress it had on us as a family took years to get over. We eventually, with great sadness, sold our house and decided it was time to move back to Texas. Over that course of time I completely lost any passion or drive for life. I was depressed, severally stressed and suffered anxiety attacks on a regular basis.

Time had passed and we were living a new way of life, just making it through each day. Yoga had taken a far back seat to Xanax and I no longer cared about being inspired. I didn’t know who I was anymore, but I knew I was a far cry from the free-spirited girl that had taken a chance on love and adventure seven years earlier. Then one day I figured I had nothing to lose, so I decided to try a yoga class. But I assumed it would be a waste of time and energy and I hated leaving my kids and felt selfish every time I did. I lived each moment as if it was the last time I would see them.

I laid out my 15-year old mat, the same one I had used when I took classes with my mom. We started moving through a vinyasa. The instructor’s voice was like a soft bass that moved through my whole body. I felt a sensation welling up inside of me as I moved. It felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. By the time we were in eka pada kapotasana (pigeon pose) on our mats, I was soaked in tears. I knew without a doubt that I was right where I needed to be in my life. Dare I say, it felt like paradise. In an instant I knew I had all the answers inside of me. All I had to do now was set out on the path to discovery.

My adventure in this discovery this past year has evolved just as beautifully and profoundly as a lotus flower itself. I have since completed my yoga training and am well on my way to opening my own studio and retreat center in Panama, where I hope to share my love and passion for yoga with my community. But more importantly, I have evolved in ways beyond comprehension. Yoga taught me to mend broken relationships with myself and others, to deeply and unwaveringly trust my Self and manifest all of the great things this world has to offer. I went from having zero passion in life to more passion than this Universe can hold. Yoga has been the greatest gift to me and every time I step onto my mat, I am reminded there is such a thing as paradise, and it’s in my heart. Namaste.

Alli Akard is a wife, a mother, an adventurer and a yoga teacher. Her journey with yoga connected her with her true self, and then when life unexpectedly met her with a time of darkness, it was the yoga that brought her back home. Alli and her husband own and operate Panama Coast Property, a real estate and development company in paradise, on the coast of Panama. They are currently working on developing a yoga studio and retreat center, so that they may share their paradise with others. Alli can be found on Facebook here.

Edited by Jeannie Page.

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.