Yoga Black Belt

Name: Lisa A. Tyler
Location: Ellijay, GA, USA
Occupation: Kripalu yoga teacher, life coach, artisan, organic farmer & more

Photo attritubed to Flickr user carderel.

They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. In 1995, I was a newly divorced Mom, jaded by love and life, burning out from a 50-hour-a-week marketing job. The one outlet I had for stress relief was a martial arts class. Punching and kicking practice bags, then pulling on gloves to spar with big bouncer type guys, I was always scared but determined to stand up for myself. I kept getting winded (and wounded) during the sparring sessions, and heard that yoga had something to do with breathing. So I signed up for a class in order to become a better warrior.

The instructor, Margo, floated in wearing white gauzy cotton and a serene smile. In contrast, I was decked out in black lace spandex, wearing an inch of makeup, jewelry, and an attitude. Just beneath the surface, I wore a full suit of armor to cover my heart and emotions. She led us through Warrior 1 and 2, familiar martial arts stances that I cockily used to compare myself to the other students. Some of them appeared to be struggling . . . weaklings!

At the end of class, Margo invited us to go home and sit in silence for five minutes or so, just to see what might happen. I set my egg timer for exactly five minutes and sat cross-legged in front of my patio window. Closed my eyes. Took a deep breath. And started sobbing. It was the first time in years, maybe decades, that I’d allowed myself space to feel. To connect. To just be.

A voice came from inside me – not from my head where I usually talk to myself, but from the depths of my Being. It said “You are on the path. And it is the right one.” The floodgates really opened then, as old wounds broke open and tears washed everything cleaner. The guilt I’d felt about divorcing lessened. Compassion took its place. I knew that I was on the right path. And this knowing has carried me ever since. I left that job and that city, and became a healer using massage therapy, energy work, and coaching to help others move through their wounded places.

Margo and I remain good friends, and I eventually became certified to teach yoga and meditation in addition to martial arts. She told me once, “I knew from that first day that you were a yoga teacher.” I asked in amazement, “How did you ever see through my disguise?”

Lisa A. Tyler, a long-time Kripalu yoga & meditation teacher, practices in the serene forests of Northern Georgia. Her inspirational blog Overtly Simple is dedicated to folks who also wish for a simpler, more sustainable way of life. Living in a 285 sq. ft. cabin, Lisa repurposes materials into hand-crafted items such as crocheted yoga mat bags. She offers life coaching to yoga teachers and students. To learn more, contact OvertlySimple@yahoo.com.

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

Under Armour Every Day

Name: Colleen Palmateer
Location: Ellicott City, MD, USA
Occupation: Yoga Teacher & Administrative Assistant at the Yoga Center of Columbia

 

Photo attributed to Flickr Creative Commons User Ozan Ozan.

Many years ago I went through a tumultuous time, as I grieved the loss of several people close to me, through death and broken relationships. I had two young children, and was struggling to find my way. My response to this enormous amount of stress was to put on some protective armor by closing myself off. I clung to my grief, anger, and fear. Emotionally, I shut down, and physically, my body became constricted and hard. This went on for some time, and my world became very small.

Through God’s grace and with the help of family and friends, I came to understand that this stressed-out, closed-up person was not the real me. It was just someone that I created to try and cope with a very rough patch of life. I gradually learned to trust, breathe, move forward, and take off that hard shell of armor I was wearing. I found new ways to cope, reaffirm my faith, and step back into the flow of life. I learned that sometimes holding on hurts more than letting go.

Yoga brought me home to my real self — and even now, whenever I struggle, the mat is a place of safety. My strength enables me to maintain the integrity of a pose, and then I layer on softness by using my breath. Where do I need to let my guard down a little, and where should I be more assertive? It’s a dance between the two. I love feeling the strength that the standing poses engender, the heart-opening of a beautiful backbend, a delightful twist, and finally, finally, softening into relaxation.

Photo attributed to Flickr Creative Commons User myyogaonline.

As babies, we are joyful and open, and we thrive when we’re nurtured well. Growing up, we learn that boundaries are appropriate and necessary, and a few shields go up. As life goes on though, sometimes circumstances beat us down. If we overprotect ourselves, we can lose that person we once were, and we become hardened both emotionally and physically. The harder we become, the more we withdraw. If we can break this vicious cycle and learn from it, we can recapture our true selves and maybe even a little bit of that childlike joy that was once so natural.

We need boundaries and softness. I can’t help but think of Under Armour Clothing – it protects athletes from extreme heat or cold, and yet is soft and allows free movement. It provides just the right amount of protection. Maybe we should all wear Under Armour every day!

Colleen Palmateer found peace and health through her yoga practice. She is a certified yoga teacher, registered with the Yoga Alliance at the 200-hour level. Colleen is pursuing her passion of helping people get out of pain through Doug Keller’s Swatantrya yoga therapy certification, and will pursue the 500-hour certification in 2013. Colleen is passionate about sharing yoga with others to help them relieve pain and live more joyfully. Her students learn good alignment, healthy breathing techniques, and how to relax. They also develop a greater awareness of the body-mind connection. In Colleen’s classes, students laugh, open their bodies, and find peace and rest. Colleen wishes to engage her students with the idea of having a strong body, sound mind, and open heart. Visit Colleen’s website and check out her blog! Colleen can be found on Twitter @colleenyoga.

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