I didn’t find yoga. Yoga found me. At a time when I was sinking. In 2006 my oldest brother passed. I was 33. He was 43. In that instance the way I saw my own mortality changed. Who am I? Why am I here? What does God want me to do with my life? Those questions yelled louder than ever before. I was trapped in the dungeon of depression. I didn’t know how I was going to get out. My doctor recommended yoga instead of a pill. “Deal with the emotions, Julia. You have to learn to ride the waves and stages of grief.”
He said everything I didn’t want to hear. “No, doc. I’m a runner,” I said. We eventually came to a compromise. If I tried yoga for one month and it didn’t work out, he would give me an antidepressant.
With my newly agreed upon verbal contract, I set out to find a studio. I didn’t want anything too new age-y. I needed a community. I was away from my family, few friends, and had only lived in DC for ten months. I did what anyone in my situation would do and Googled in search of a studio. I typed “yoga and tranquil.” This led me to Kimberly Wilson and Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, DC. There was no time like the present, so on a Saturday in March of 2006, I found myself on a yoga mat.
Needless to say, the class kicked my ass, literally and emotionally. How had I spent 33 years not knowing how to really breathe? I wasn’t good at going inward, rather I wanted to wallow in the bowels of self-pity. At the end of the class I was spent. What had just happened to me? As tears flowed down in savasana, I had one thought – yoga will forever be a part of my life.
That was seven years ago, before two yoga teacher trainings later and countless hours on the mat. Through yoga I found my dormant creativity. I started blogging, eventually left corporate America to freelance, and haven’t looked back. Yoga helped me realize what made me happy so I could live in authenticity.
Every time I step on the mat it’s a time of reflection and a way to start anew. Yoga changed the entire trajectory of my life. It has allowed me to open myself up to a new way of thinking and being.
My favorite pose right now is pigeon. I used to hate pigeon. So many emotions and negativity used to come up for me in the pose – “my hips are too tight, my ankle feels funny, my head can’t touch the floor and why can’t I melt into this pose.” I beat myself so much in the pose. I stuck with the pose despite my feelings. A few months doing a class I actually smiled for the first time ever in pigeon. I surrendered to the pose. I didn’t get my hips to the floor, but something relaxed in my body. Now, I make pigeon a daily practice. That’s what yoga does. It allows you to breakthrough in areas you didn’t realize you needed opening.
*Welcome to my new blog series, Yogi in the City. As you folks know, I’ve returned to the mat this year, with vigor. In celebration of a practice that teaches us to look inward and find strength from within, I wanted you to meet women I love and respect, and learn how yoga has transformed their lives, albeit in the smallest of ways. Julia is a dear friend of mine — I owe her a tremendous amount of debt, because our friendship altered my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Even a moment in her presence, you feel a woman who is honest, strong, unapologetic, confident and proud. I hope Julia’s piece inspires you in the way that she’s inspired me all of these years. In the coming weeks, you’ll hear more stories from friends of mine who have found their way onto the mat. Namaste. – Felicia
Photo Credit: Julia Coney