Don’t worry, be happy. Let go, let go. One Day at a time. Let it be. Be Present. Stay Calm. You see the bumper stickers, you hear the sayings, but what exactly do all these affirmations mean? How can you apply them to your life? Should you try to live your life through Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy?? What are you trying to let go? Why is it wrong to think of the future or remember the past?
Being a “recovering” type A personality, I struggled with all of these questions and feelings for a long time. I grew up in a household with a lot of arguing, chaos and instability. My defense mechanisms as a kid were to excel, be perfect, and turn inward. If my room was organized and spotless then the chaos outside of it didn’t seem so bad. I was a reader, looking for another world in which I could retreat. I had imaginary friends and loved all of my dolls and stuffed animals, they were my support and I offered them unconditional love. Ernie and Bert were my buddies. Don’t get me wrong, I was never abused or neglected as a kid, I just had to have my own inner peace and quiet when everything around me wasn’t. My parents divorced when I was 14 forcing me into growing up quickly and looking after my 2 younger siblings. My Mom’s father had just died and she was a mess. So I did what I knew best, excelled in school, worked 2 jobs, and kept striving for that perfection.
So many years later I’m writing this blog and all these feelings come back to me about my past, shouldn’t I have let go of all of them? The answer I believe is no. You are who you are today in this very moment because of all the events that happened to you in the past, good, bad, or indifferent. They have shaped you into the person you are today. I am an organized, clean, detail-oriented, and particular person because of my past, but I have let go of the reasons I am this way and have just accepted who I am and where I came from. Aside from some therapy long ago I attribute this letting go to my yoga practice. I was always on the go, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t quiet my mind until I found yoga. It is my therapy, my church, my retreat.
People that don’t know me could look at my life and say, geez, she has the perfect life, a beautiful daughter, loving husband, 2 successful studios, nice house and you know what, they’re not wrong, I love my life and everyone in it. The difference now as opposed to many years ago is that I have let go of a lot. I have let go of trying to control every little detail and have trusted in a loving universe to guide me. I have let go of people in my life who don’t support, understand, or love me for me. I have let go of my ego and worrying about what people think. I have let go of all the old wounds and have forgiven.
After Zoe was born I was away from my practice and the studio for a few months. Talk about having to let go!! I felt disconnected from everyone and everything as I was engrossed in taking care of this baby. One of the comforting things was knowing that we had hired a great staff to continue to bring our mission of yoga to our community. I had to let go of worrying if the studio was clean or if the classes were executed properly. I was present, in the moment, letting it be, taking one day at a time, being happy.
This blog was inspired by one of our newer additions to our 3 Bridges Yoga family, Ashley Wade. Ashley is our first work/study person who helps us keep 3 Bridges Yoga clean, organized and present in the community. We chose her because of her desire and commitment to practice yoga and her humble and quiet presence at the studio. Please thank Ashley for the great job that she does keeping 3 Bridges Portsmouth clean as can be. I will let Ashley tell you the rest!
Here is Ashely with her husband Olin. Beautiful couple and we bow deeply for your efforts, Namo Namah!!
1. What brought you to yoga and how long have you been practicing?
I was drawn to yoga because I needed community. I moved out of Boston after several years because my partner was beginning grad school. I was living and working out of our home and started to feel pretty isolated. Additionally, I wanted to find an outlet that was good for me – mind, body, and spirit. Right around the corner was a Bikram studio, and since I had been to a couple Bikram classes over the years, I knew what I was in for. This was in September 2009. In the beginning, I forced myself to go regularly, but soon I befriended my new yogi friends and I started looking forward to my daily practice. After about a year and a half of strictly practicing the Bikram beginner’s series, I started to feel myself drawn to other styles of yoga. During the summer of 2011, I continued my Bikram practice, but started to practice at another studio that offered a variety of yoga styles. I was able to keep up my “hard core” hot yoga practice, but also find new poses and teachers and approaches that really offered something that Bikram did not. Upon moving to Portsmouth I searched for a new yoga “home” – another community that would serve a similar wholesome function as the Bikram yoga studio in Northampton MA had served… but I was not solely looking at the Bikram studio. I did attend a couple classes – Bikram and otherwise, but 3 Bridges really seemed to fit me now – as a yogi and a whole person.
2. What pose has given you the most benefits either physically or mentally?
This is a hard question! I am SO grateful for downward-facing dog. This is a pose that is not practiced in the Bikram series – in fact; I had not had much experience with any postures that required weight bearing in the upper body (shoulders, arms, wrists). Because the Bikram series is meant to be a healing practice, it is designed so that anybody can do any of the postures. This excludes any down-dogs or arm balances. I have really noticed a lot of strength and length come into my upper back, shoulders, and neck since incorporating these postures. And I must say – I LOVE me some high-lunge back bends, side bends, and twists!!! Any time I’m in one of these postures, my whole body and brain sing the hallelujah chorus. (Maybe not EVERY time, but I love ‘em!) Actually, I think I’m a twist-fiend. I love twists standing, in lunge, in warrior two, in chair, on the floor – I can’t get enough twisting. And when its combined with a side stretch… ahhhh, its so good!
3. What has been the most challenging aspect of your practice?
The most challenging aspect of practice changes for me – sometimes on a daily basis. However, if I were to look at the ENTIRE life span of my yoga practice, I would have to say releasing self-judgment and trusting my breath were two life-changing challenges I have realized. I used to be so focused on the physical benefits of yoga and try to compete – with myself, or with the person standing next to me. Slowly, I understood that everyday is different. Slowly I started to embrace the spiritual and mental benefits of yoga. Slowly I understood the strength of my breath. And slowly, all these things began to equate to self-loving. THIS has been the most powerful benefit that I have received from my yoga practice.
4. What was your first ” ah-ha” moment in your practice, or maybe it hasn’t happened yet?
My first MAJOR ah-ha moment was when I really understood what it meant to listen to my breath and let my mind empty of everything else. Embracing the moving meditation and giving myself that much needed release from the constant voice inside my own head was huge! (Does that make it sound like I have “voices” in my head?) It’s still something I work for every time I practice – finding laser focus in the moment; letting everything else fall away; allowing my breath to guide me; making no assumption about what should or should not happen; passing no judgments.
5. What would you tell a person who hasn’t made it to the mat yet?
I have talked to lots of people that have either never practiced, or have very limited experience. I just urge my friends and family to stay open to the idea. To receive the many wonderful benefits of yoga I feel that individuals have to find their own motivation and open themselves up to the possibility of transformation (as opposed to being told how wonderful it is for them, etc). Mostly, I just share my own testimony and hope it inspires others to check it out.
6. Feel free to give a little info about yourself, hometown, occupation, fav. music, movies, etc.
I am from Harwich, MA (on Cape Cod) and most of my immediate family is still living on the Cape. I just got married (January 19th) to my best friend – we planned our little wedding in under a week! I’m turning 30 March 9th. I work at St. John’s Episcopal Church as the Director of Children’s Music and Ministries, as well as perform and teach voice privately. My husband is the choir director at Portsmouth Middle and High Schools and our lives are very busy and very full with this amazing community! We both just started Weight Watchers together (yeah swimsuit season) and he can eat almost twice as much as me every day – I think it goes without saying that is completely unfair!
I am SO grateful to have the work-exchange position at 3Bridges in Portsmouth. Its incredibly satisfying to help beautify the studio every week, and it certainly has helped to build relationships with the other teachers and studio managers/owners – relationships I value deeply!