Yoga Saved Me. More Than Once.

Name: Rebecca Butler
Occupation: Yoga Teacher, Writer & Mother
Location: Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Rebecca Butler crow poseI started practicing yoga right after graduating from college. I was in Austin working at an advertising agency next door to the global headquarters of Whole Foods, where they were offering classes upstairs. I had no idea what to expect. I figured it would be granola and easy. I was shocked when I broke a sweat.

A few years later, I was a runner. My knees were killing me though, so a friend, who
was very fit, suggested that I join her at Bikram yoga. I went. I loved it. The end. I hung up my running shoes and never looked back. Within a yearʼs time, I was modeling for Lake Austin Spa, busting out dancerʼs pose at the waterʼs edge during sunrise.

Iʼd always had really bad female problems – debilitating cramps, extreme moodiness
during PMS, and an irregular cycle. I started noticing that after every class, I would be
miserable with cramps. So I went to the doctor. They did a sonogram and discovered I
had uterine fibroids. The doctor removed them. It was a surprisingly complicated
surgery. During this time, my marriage was suffering. My husband was a little bit older
and he wanted to have children. I was on the fence about children, but we had tried a
couple of times to no avail. After surgery, because of the extent of dissection required to
remove the fibroids, the doctor said, “Letʼs not discuss fertility until you are ready to
really give it a go.”

Photo by Flickr userJLM Photography.

Photo by Flickr user
JLM Photography.

And then, 9/11. Ok, up until this point, I had been partying – i.e. cocaine, marijuana, and booze galore, mixed with live music. And this had been going on for quite some time since, um, basically high school. See, I grew up in a household with a paranoid
schizophrenic sibling hell bent on killing me and not a single parent, or adult for that matter, who wanted to help me as that meant admitting that something was wrong with our seemingly perfect family. So my solution was: act perfect, be perfect, look perfect, make perfect grades, make boys happy, girls mad, and ‘who cares what you want cause youʼre their only hope.’

Drugs made all of this not feel so horrible. So did yoga. But in different ways, although I wasnʼt yet conscious of the difference. However, I did make this comparison often to my friends. Iʼd be standing in line at some concert, chewing my lips off on x, and my friends would ask me why I liked yoga so much. Iʼd say, “Cause itʼs the closest feeling there is to this right here (meaning the drug high) and smile a 1,000 megawatt smile.”

As 9/11 approached, I began an affair with my and my husbandʼs mutual best friend.
This was not something I was proud of, but it was part of my spree of self-destruction
that was necessary for evolution. The result of said affair: getting divorced, fired, and
pregnant.

In early 2002, I was in a new apartment, working at a new job, and starting to build a
new life – one that had depth and meaning. I realized that my pregnancy was a swift kick in the rear, from the Universe, to get it together. I became instantly sober. Up until this point, I had been living my life to make others happy. Becoming pregnant was my chance to do something to make me happy. Once I became pregnant, I realized how much I actually wanted this baby and I realized how much I had been partying to numb the pain of not being able to do something perfectly for once.

During my pregnancy, I practiced prenatal yoga the entire time. I was single, working in corporate America, and pregnant. I was working alongside beautiful married women. We would enter a conference room together. They would be barraged with questions about their pregnancy; I would be ignored. This blew my mind and severely hurt my pride.

Yoga to the rescue!

On my mat, I could shed my tears. On my mat, I could connect to my baby and feel the
serene happiness that I knew was in store for us, even if my father had begrudgingly
asked me, “Who do you think you are? Madonna?!“ upon realizing that I was
proceeding with my pregnancy, even single. On my mat, I was free of fear, free of
sorrow, and full of love.

For six more years, I toiled away in my career. For six more years, I paid the bills and
hired a sitter several times a week so that I could go to yoga. For six more years, I dreamed of quitting my job and becoming a yoga teacher. Then one summer, I went raw. My raw diet combined with my yoga practice yielded some revelations… Namely:

1. What I wanted in life did matter. And what I wanted was to be closer to my family so that I could both give help to my beautiful mother, who was suffering from ALS
(unbeknownst to us), and receive help from my family, as single motherʼs often
need. What I didn’t yet realize was that I also wanted to be closer to the Divine, and
this was the first step.

2. I wanted to teach yoga instead of selling my soul to line someone else’s
pockets; I wanted to stop pimping myself out in an effort to control the power of
the outside world. Little did I know, I was being called to wake up; I was being
called by my soul to create a life of passion and dedicate myself to a vocation
rather than a career.

3. I actually could make this change. It was not as impossible as I’d led myself to
believe. All of those fears that I had allowed to trap me were exactly that – fears. I
vowed to myself that I did not want to live a life based on fear, but rather, one of
love.

And that is where yoga has led me- to a life of love. Iʼm now remarried with a ten-year old boy and a one-year old baby girl. I teach yoga for a living and I write with passion daily.

Rebecca Butler bioRebecca Butler lives in Fort Worth, TX. Here, she fancies herself in a community that is
at the genesis of change. By day, she is a self-proclaimed-intensity-junkie yoga teacher,
serving as the lead teacher at a local donation-based studio known as Karmany Yoga, a
mother, and a wife… By night {when the house sleeps}, she is a writer, a dreamer, and a
poet. Her most meaningful moments are sometimes spent pushing a stroller, listening to
her latest muse {from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer to Caroline Myss}, and picking up poop from a
90-lb silver lab puppy named Gunner. Her mother passed from ALS (Lou Gehrigʼs disease) in early 2012. Through this journey, Rebecca learned more about life, love, and laughter than any book could have possibly taught her. It is in her memory that Rebecca chooses to live each day in Joy… Joy for life – the ups and downs, breaks and bruises, and the glory. Oh, the glory. You can find out more about her teaching & writing at www.rebeccabutleryoga.com.

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Name: Candice Garrett
Location: Monterey, California, USA
Occupation: Yoga Teacher & Director of Nine Moons Prenatal Yoga

Photo attributed to Flickr user Liamfm.

At 19 years old, I found myself pregnant, alone and in a hostile environment.

My mother had abandoned me during my last year of high school, and I was homeless, living out of cars and at friends’ houses. My behavior was reckless. A formerly model student and athlete, I barely made it to class and almost didn’t graduate. I think my teachers took pity on me and pushed me through, one of them even gifting me a yearbook anonymously. During high school I took refuge in an evangelical church. Their over-the-top enthusiasm to welcome me in made me feel less broken. I overlooked some of the codependent ways they exhibited in their faith because it felt like I had a family that actually wanted to be around me, faults and all. I remember thinking they were all so open with their faults and sins and problems. It made me feel at home.

For that reason, though I had been accepted to numerous colleges that would be cheaper, closer to familial resources, or more in line with my prospects of becoming a surgeon, I chose an elite, private Christian college. And away I went. Those first days were so odd for me, having come from such a tough last year of high school and being dropped into the lap of luxury, surrounded by children who were so sheltered, so bright, so sure of their places, their safety, their faith. They couldn’t fathom the experiences I’d been through, and frankly, they didn’t want to know. I closed up, made a show of being something, someone I wasn’t. This wasn’t the church I had found, these weren’t broken people, and I was out of place. That first year I lost three of my grandparents, people who had been pivotal in my life and in my identity. Having no one to turn to, feeling isolated, I lost it a bit.

I reached out for help, for support from my new-found community, but was told that my grandparents, who weren’t confirmed Christians, were probably in hell. I found refuge instead in the man I had started dating just before I left for college, the boy back home that came to see me. He was my lifeline. But somehow I couldn’t hold it together. I lost sight of everything I wanted and who I was, a sheltered girl who was thrown into real life in such a short time. I cheated on my boyfriend and I broke his heart. I felt helpless to stop myself, to reign in my self destruction, even as I watched it happening. Shortly after that, I found out I was pregnant and being that my boyfriend wanted nothing to do with me, we had an abortion. He held my hand the entire time, we cried together through the pain and the clinical terror of it all, and he left me, bleeding and woozy in my dorm room. And that, was that.

Photo attributed to Flickr user elycefeliz.

That summer, I fell into a crowd from college that, though able to talk the talk, played a very different game behind closed doors. In short, I found the same bad behavior from which I had come seeking healing. I drank a lot, partied too much. One night I had too much to drink and awoke to a man I barely knew. I convinced myself it was my fault, for having so much to drink, for going to bed naked. I ended up dating him, I think in an effort to smooth over the rough edges, to make it okay, for both of us, that he had taken advantage of me when I was unconscious. I think my sense of self-worth was so broken, so guilt-ridden over the abortion that I convinced myself I deserved every rotten thing that came my way. And so it was.

It was an uneasy relationship. We didn’t like each other, not really. He was mean and played hateful games at my expense. He beat me once. I stayed even then. But I looked forward to ending our summer affair by returning to school, as it was an easy way to break up, to let distance separate us, rather than stand up for myself.

Shortly after I returned to school, he came for a visit. That visit, though uncomfortable and short, ended up with me being pregnant. Again. I know now that that conception occurred on the exact same date as the baby I had aborted. The mind is tricky that way. It didn’t occur to me for years, and when it did, I found both comfort and unending despair.

He didn’t come back, that boyfriend, not even after he knew about the baby. I couldn’t go through with another abortion, wouldn’t. It was my choice and I took it. I hid my pregnancy for shame from my community. In a strict Christian college, one just didn’t have premarital sex (though, in truth, it was happening all the time, one just didn’t get pregnant). I isolated myself, finished my semester and then I went home to tell my family, my father, my sisters what I had done with my life. Their promising young surgeon was nothing more than a knocked up failure. My dear, sweet twin sister said as much. Though she would take it back now, a thousand times if she could.

I went home and nursed my wounds, birthed my baby and became a very confused mother. I had no friends, no faith, no community. I was bitter and scared, and truth be told, tough as nails. Motherhood made me find myself in the chaos. I didn’t know where I was going, or what to do, or what I would become, but I knew I had a little boy that was more precious than anything on earth, for whom I would sacrifice anything. I knew that if I never gave him anything else, I would give him pure, unadulterated love.  He would have that at least.

I slowly pulled myself together. I married a man that had been a good friend to me since I was 17, a man who had watched and nurtured and held me up through all of my misdeeds. He became a father to my son, and eventually  a father to two more of our own sons. Meanwhile, as my husband finished school, I sank into a depression, realizing the professional life I had given up, realizing that the Christian faith no longer had meaning for me. I became a very reluctant, morbid atheist. If this faith wasn’t for me, there couldn’t be anything else, right?

When my husband was in paramedic school, I started practicing yoga at our local YMCA. I have a congenital defect with my feet, and they were getting worse. I had heard yoga might help, so I went. I marched into a dark room, sat down and looked around, realizing that I was the junior of everyone else in that class by at least 30 years. When a woman walked in with thick orthotic shoes and a pronounced osteoporotic hump, when I realized this was the teacher, I wanted to bolt. What had I gotten myself into? I was clearly out of place.

But then she threw herself into shoulder stand and I was hooked. In the entire year I studied with her, I never heard a Sanskrit word, or anything about philosophy. I never did a headstand or an arm balance. But I felt good  and my feet got better. To this day, I will tell you that the short time I spent in that very gentle, secular class was the best yoga I have ever done.

Two of Candice’s sons.

I signed up for a teacher training when we moved into a remote area for my husband’s work. It was the first time I ever heard that yoga had a philosophy, a tradition behind it. It was so much to absorb and I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand the Yoga Sutras or the ideas behind them. So I didn’t study them. For me, the therapeutics was enough.

And so I practiced. I sought out teachers and studied more intently with my own mentor. I found new ones as well. And a funny thing happened. I went through a crisis of self inquiry. Though I wasn’t studying the philosophies, their lessons were happening, organically. At some point I realized that the simple act of asana, of being around good teachers, had made me seriously face my demons: the past, and the present ones. I cried, I raged, I was confused. But it eventually smoothed out to be an overwhelming sense of rightness and peace. I started studying the philosophies and really understanding them, with the help of my teacher, it grew. I grew.

Here was a way of living that made sense to me and aligned with my scientific nature. It asked me to be a better person, to study, to refine myself. And so I did. It was like coming home, for the first time.

My husband will tell you that yoga made me a better person, a more honest, kind,  confident person. In truth, he will tell you that it brought me back to who I was before all the chaos, to who I truly was, only a little bit better. And it is true.

Now I work with other pregnant women and train prenatal teachers and what we offer is more than asana, but group support; a chance to live it, breathe it, grieve it all, this whole journey of motherhood, regardless of marital status, or religion or sexual orientation. And in that way my journey has made so much sense. I lived this thing, so that I could have the wisdom to hold another woman up. It’s so simple, isn’t it? I don’t grieve for my story anymore. I don’t find shame in it. It is mine, and I own it, crunchy bits and all, so that I might be a better friend, a better mother, a better mentor to other women who know exactly what I’m talking about.

Candice Garrett is the director of Nine Moons Prenatal Yoga, a program that offers certification in pre/postnatal yoga, doula services and childbirth education. She is also the author of Prenatal Yoga, Finding Movement in Fullness and a mother to three sons. She lives in Monterey, CA.You can find her yoga program 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.

Mind and Body Connection

Name: Nancy Gilbert
Location: Clayton, North Carolina
Occupation: Yoga Instructor, Owner of Tittibha Prenatal Yoga School

Photo attributed to Flickr user EEPaul.

I have spent my 47 years being active: riding bicycles, running, hiking, canoeing and now kayaking. So imagine my surprise when I was diagnosed with having exercise-induced asthma at 22-years young. It really never slowed me down, however, until I reached my late 30s and I started noticing some changes in my level of endurance.

Photo by Flickr user Kukhahn Yoga.

I needed a form of exercise that I could enjoy and that was indoors (since I moved to the allergy capital of North Carolina). I discovered yoga at a small and intimate studio near my home. Voilà! Because of the pace of yoga it was a very doable form of exercise for an asthmatic. I can only remember having one attack in the seven years of practice. What I have learned from yoga is to breathe better and to be more focused on the way in which I am breathing, which in turn gives me more control over my asthma. Yoga itself did not cure any illness, but it did make me aware of how to better control the triggers for the illness.

Since discovering yoga, I have now started to study the yogic texts and have uncovered the deeper meanings of the life of a yogi. And by doing so I have grown in my knowledge of myself, my career and in my personal relationships. While I would say that the asana alone did not fix any aspect of my personal life, it did help direct me to a way of deeper understanding through the many years of studying the yogic texts.

Yoga is not just a physical practice. It is a connection between the mind and body. My journey with yoga will continue as will my discoveries about the connections of the mind and body. We are what we put into our body.

Nancy Gilbert 200 ERYT, RPYT, is the owner of Tittibha Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training School and has studied yoga for seven years with local and national instructors. Nancy’s desire is to stay true and authentic to the yogic traditions in her teachings. With special interest in the yogic texts and prenatal yoga, she currently teaches two prenatal classes and two body and breath classes at The Yoga Connection, Smithfield, NC. The prenatal yoga school keeps Nancy’s weekends busy providing training all over the east coast. Nancy feels truly blessed to be able to share the prenatal yoga with others who desire to teach to expectant mothers. Please visit Nancy’s blog, Pre-Natal Yoga.

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