I went to the University of Ottawa for 4 years after high school. I loved everything about Ottawa and still do – I love visiting those places that carry memories in a way that put a smile on your face before you even realize you look like a happy goof to the world around you. Those are the places I miss, but I suppose it’s really the memories from those places that I miss.
University is certainly no walk in the park – growing from a teenager to a young adult is not an easy feat, and though I’m now 25 and perhaps considered a “real” adult, I am still growing and always will be.
In my second year of university I couldn’t do a lot of things I wanted to. Nothing was physically holding me back, except that it was. I was diagnosed with Anxiety when I was 11 years old. Though it’s considered a mental illness, I don’t consider it as such. Anxiety is not an illness to me, but a part of of who I am. Having anxiety is technically something off kilter with chemicals in my brain, and let me tell you it is certainly a struggle to live with. But you do. You just do.
In my second year of university my anxiety was the most intense it had ever been up until that point. I had my first panic attack and I am forever grateful for my darling roommate at the time for spooning me that night until I stopped crying, fell asleep, and as my alarm went off the next morning.
But there is so much more than just the bad stuff. The personality traits that I love most about myself come from my anxiety – my outrageous sense of humour, my unbelievably realistic ability to stand in anyone else’s shoes and feel with my whole heart and soul what they’re feeling, my uncanny ability to observe and respond to people’s feelings without their saying anything at all, and my ability to feel and explore every feeling of my own, to live every moment, and to appreciate the simplest things – such as waking up in the morning and feeling normal rather than feeling as though I will vomit at any moment, or waking up and actually vomiting.
Yes, life is tough – and don’t we all know it! But we find ways to get through. And for me anxiety has been, and most likely always will be, my hardest battle.
So – in my second year of university my beautiful, supportive mother gifted me a yoga mat during the holidays that came with a miniature DVD which had an extremely basic 20 minute yoga practice on it. As cheesy and drastic as I know this will sound, this little DVD and yoga mat changed my life.
I used to squeeze the mat diagonally in the small space between my bed, door, and desk, and I would place my laptop on the end of my bed for optimal viewing. I went through the practice and felt more calm than I had in months. I decided in that moment that I would do this 20 minute yoga practice every night before I went to bed. I promised myself that even if it was too late to function anymore, I could certainly spare 20 more minutes of sleep to feel this sense of calm.
A couple months later the panic attacks had subsided, I was less of a hermit and able to enjoy social gatherings again. As a bonus, as I resurfaced in my friend groups people were complementing my physical appearance left and right. I felt better than ever.
And thus began my yoga addiction.
Two years after graduating, and having caught the travel bug, I ventured off on the trip of a lifetime (though I didn’t know it until I came home) to Montezuma, Costa Rica where I lived for one month among the most amazing group of women, and the most knowledgeable, inspirational, energetic, determined yoga instructor and teacher I have ever had.
Every single one of those people left a beautiful mark on my life, and after gaining many friendships, a ton of knowledge, a certified yoga teacher certificate, and an appreciation for the talent monkeys have for stealing objects from humans, I was off galavanting the Pacific coast for a couple more weeks before I returned home.
Everyone said I would come back to Canada and be “all zen-ed out”. In fact I felt a little bit sick of yoga, having done it for at least 6 hours a day for 4 weeks straight. I went back home and went wholeheartedly back into the exercise routine I had left behind – CrossFit and boxing. After about a month I started going to yoga classes again and that’s when I realized how well yoga co-exists with life. Rather than returning home in a zen state, I came home changed. I had found an even deeper appreciation for the practice, and had such a full brain but I didn’t know where I wanted to go with everything just yet.
Another year and a half later, I am now living in a different city than the one I grew up in, I have new friends, a new community, a completely different job, there have been changes within my family, I have more experiences under my belt, and I am finally really excited to announce that I will be a regular, 3-days-a-week yoga teacher. As I continue to explore life as a 25 year-old woman with much behind me and even more in front of me, I look forward to sharing my story with strangers and friends, and strangers who become friends, in my own yoga classes.
My main goal in life is to help people in any way possible; to be part of the reason someone’s smile appears on their face. Through Just Breathe yoga I intend to do so as often as possible. And who knows, maybe even be an inspiration to someone out there!
I hope to see you in my classes soon! Just Breathe.
From my mat to yours – Namaste.