Growing up I was a terrified child. As far back as I can remember I had fear. And not just an irrational fear of a monster hiding in my closet (although that fear was very real to me too), but the whole spectrum, including an irrational fear of normal, everyday activities. I’m talking about being afraid to ask my dad to change the radio station in the car when I was 11; afraid to call family on their birthdays for fear of that awkward silence when there is nothing to say; afraid to ask clarifying questions in class because I would flush and of course the whole class would be staring right at me. Of course!
I struggled with building up a social circle, always feeling uncomfortable, like i had to put on a show. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t feel like I could be myself; It was that I didn’t even know who I was. I struggled with depression in high school, more deeply than I ever let anyone know. I was afraid to let anyone in. Ultimately I ended up in therapy with a woman who helped me to see that there wasn’t anything wrong with me, and taught me that I deserved to be happy. I began to delve into self-help readings of Cheri Huber and the brilliance of Thich Nhat Hanh and it helped. I started to gain confidence and life skills, and studied for the ultimate life lesson: Who is Brenna?
Then, I had ligament replacement surgery on my ankle. What I was told would be a 3-4 month recovery, turned into a year. The fear flooded back into my life followed promptly by depression as I relocated and started college in a new town and was unable to find work. But this time the depression and fear was amplified. I began to dread having to stop at the gas station and the grocery store. I was just so consumed with the terror of making eye contact with strangers, or worse, people I knew!
And, then in an attempt to expedite my post-op recovery, I decided to try yoga. I walked in to this tiny cabin in the small town of Wrightwood, Ca and was greeted by the wonderful smiling face of Cheryl Boyles, the owner of Wrightwood Yoga Shack. I immediately felt this sense of welcoming, acceptance, and love. I was allowed to zone into my practice and escape the world. The escape is what hooked me – I showed up so that I could disappear for 75 minutes a couple times a week in a dim, cozy cabin in Wrightwood and know that no one was watching me.
But soon it became more than that. I still looked forward to escaping the terrifying world outside, but I also began to look forward to learning more about myself and to working on myself. The yoga studio was my study hall – I came to learn about myself. I started to strengthen my body and my resolve; to stretch my muscles and my mind; I learned to control my breath along with my mood. I learned so much about myself, and ultimately learned how to heal myself, how to be happy.
And this is how yoga changed my life. Yoga has given me these tools that I use to get through everyday. Sometimes I use just one- just the steady breath. And some days I need the whole toolbox. But everyday, I am comforted and soothed by the fact that my mat is always there. It’s my retreat, my safety zone, my cocoon. It’s the place I can always return to, both to escape the outside world, and to find myself. My yoga practice is the place I go when I have nowhere else to go, when I can’t bear to face the world. It greets me with no judgment – only that same welcoming, accepting, genuine love. I will be forever grateful for this practice.
I’d love to hear about what brought you to the yoga practice and how it’s affected your life in the comments.