By Laura O'Reilly
I came to yoga slowly and without even realizing it.
After years of living in active addiction, my life became so uncomfortable that I didn’t want to keep living. I contemplated suicide, but feared I’d either mess it up, or change my mind in the last fleeting seconds when it was already too late.
In hindsight, it wasn’t that I truly wanted to die, but rather that it was too painful to keep living.
I sought help in 2010 and part of my rehabilitation included a variety of forms of meditation.
Each morning I would wake up around 4 a.m. because I was too anxious to sleep. A few hours later we would have Qigong, meditation or yoga and I would bolt out of class within the first five minutes to vomit.
I was so disconnected from my body that this was its physical response to trying to feel and trying to be present. It took weeks before I could make it through class and while it was most challenging, it proved to be most beneficial.
I felt its calming effects and having lived with much anxiety, I longed for this sense of grounding comfort.
I started practicing an assortment of meditation techniques including guided visualizations, mantra meditations, chakra balancing and anything else I could find.
The millions of free resources online and in local communities introduced me to numerous techniques until I could learn to simply sit. I didn’t know that this was yoga, but feeling its powerful effects, I wanted more.
In my second year of sobriety, I suffered a lengthy period of debilitating depression. The host of medications I was treated with changed my body from a size zero to a size ten without aiding my ability to function in daily life.
I was now both unhappy and 45 lbs heavier than before.
As I considered my options, I thought, "I could continue to move through life in this dull, aching, disconnected lifestyle, or I could rip it off like a band-aid, process the pain and move forward in authenticity."
I made the decision to make drastic lifestyle changes to support my well-being and regain my health. I knew I needed to start an exercise regime, but disliked gym environments' fast-paced, push yourself cultures.
Having heard that yoga was meditative, I headed to the nearest studio. That night I had my first yoga class.
I did not mind being challenged if it was a slow and mindful self-inquiry into my own boundaries.
I felt sick many times during the first three months of classes, but I loved the silence, the repetition and the focus it required.
As far as I knew, I was the only person in the room. Everything else melted away as I focused on my breath, alignment and connection to self.
Soon I found myself attending kundalini groups - again not realizing this was yoga. My friend called it “oneness” and I simply liked that there was somewhere people gathered to practice together.
Soon I found myself moving to a yoga retreat centre to live in community and practice karma yoga.
This is where I received my first taste of the eight limbs of classical ashtanga yoga and the rich, elaborate systems that it encompassed.
The vastness and variety appealed to my desire to be always learning and the continued benefits on my physical, mental and spiritual well-being were undeniable.
After having a life changing experience at the centre, I returned to the city where I enrolled in a YTT program to keep myself busy while I looked for work.
I was full of nerves the night before, worrying about my lack of experience, that I would fail or drop out like many things I’d attempted before. I was terrified by my own insecurities and sense of inadequacy.
But from the moment I stepped onto the mat and into my warrior pose, I knew that was where I was meant to be.
For the first time in my life, it felt like I was home.
I had always given myself until the age of 30, to find the career I loved. I had made a silent pact to resign myself to making “a living” after that if I still hadn’t found my passion.
About one month before my 31st birthday, I had stumbled across it without even looking.
So I decided I wanted to be a yoga teacher. With no experience and a blatant disregard for all of my fears I began teaching four free classes a week.
I rented a tiny room with a bar fridge, hotplate and shared bathroom while making my best efforts to earn my keep.
I had no experience being self-employed and was unsure where to start.So I started where I was at, by putting one foot in front of the other.
Today I teach yoga full time and I love it! There’s nothing I’d rather do.
I specialize in working with people recovering from addictions and am truly blessed to help them in their journey to health and happiness.
I teach on teacher trainings and mentor other teachers in the community, empowering them to live their passion and find ways to create fulfilling and sustainable work.
My struggles both past and present, are valuable lessons that help me to help others.
They foster a connection to others that only lived experience and understanding can offer.
I’m grateful for everything in life and am excited for the future.
You can follow Laura’s yoga on Website, Facebook, and Instagram. She is hosting her yoga retreat in Jamaica this summer 2016. Connect her to find out more information about her retreat.
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