Feel it to Heal it: Claire Bowen Congdon 

“Years back, I witnessed my good friend’s transformation through yoga. As she dove deeper into the self-inquiry part of the practice, her life changed for the better. That’s not what yoga was for me…at first, at least. When I first walked into Yoga Body Shop, all I really wanted to do was stretch out my overused muscles. 

When I first started my yoga practice I was running marathons, which was beating up my body. Although I had torn both ACL’s as well as had past meniscal tears, I just kept on running. It was my escape from all the stressors of life and it was easy! All I had to do was open my front door and go. I could get myself to pure exhaustion and it served as a means to escape from the craziness of my overactive mind. 

I had ran since my babies were little. Then yoga came in. I truly fell in love with it when I found a way to bring ease into my practice. 

I found this ease when I realized that there is never a perfect yoga pose. I love being on my mat because it’s never going to be perfect. 

The pose that I feel best in now is child’s pose because it represents my development in my practice. When I look back and think about the first couple of times I ever went to the studio, I hated this pose! I didn’t like being still and I didn’t like the pain I felt in my body from child’s pose. My hips were tight and unaligned, and my knees were so inflamed that I couldn’t even get close to touching my butt to my heels. 

Now, it’s my favorite pose. I love the deep stretch and the feeling of being grounded. Right there in that pose, I fall in love with my mat over and over again. Looking back at how far I’ve come, child’s pose is such a victory for me…one of many victories. 

One of the most powerful gifts that yoga has given me is a quiet mind. Before finding yoga, my negative self-talk was almost debilitating. A huge obstacle in my life is feeling like I’m a failure. Coming from an abusive home, I felt that nothing I ever did was good enough. My mother was very demanding and always wanted more from me. She was an incredibly hard worker and expected even more from her children. I was a wild teen and escaped feelings by drinking. 

College fell into my lap. I had no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. My first attempt at college came to an end, when I became pregnant. My baby created a pause in my life; a time to reflect on what was truly important to me. I realized that if my little baby could love me more than anything else in the world, then I had importance. I thoroughly loved being a mom and staying home with my babies, but I discovered I was more than just a mom. After divorcing my older children’s father, I went back to school for my Bachelors Degree in English Education. I remarried and had another baby while in college. As a mother of six, I graduated with my Master’s Degree. However, when I graduated the jobs were scarce. Instead of recognizing that hardly any teachers coming out of school at that time were getting jobs, I took full ownership that I couldn’t find a job because of something I did or didn’t do. I felt like I couldn’t find a job because I wasn’t good enough, and the vicious cycle of feeling like a failure weighted on me. 

Eventually, I stopped looking for a full-time teaching position and started working as an assistant to my husband in a business we own. The switch was very challenging. I’m in love with being in motion. The more motion the better. My new profession forced me to find stillness behind a desk where I had to sit and be comfortable with whatever task lay ahead of me. Five years later, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with my husband. I am able to work from home, create my own hours, and spend time building our business (and a strong marriage). 

Working at my desk, I have nowhere to run. It’s just like child’s pose. Before yoga, I hated sitting still because when I sat still I couldn’t escape my negative self-talk. However, after I went through Yoga Teaching Training, I learned how to invite in the yin; the quiet darkness, and feel. Really notice what it feels like. 

A very wise person said to me: “You have to feel the pain to heal the pain.” Yoga has allowed me to sit with pain, to sit with the scars from my childhood, feel them and let them go; letting the pain turn into a memory that has lost its emotional charge. I have learned my journey was exactly what it should have been and what it continues to be. Everything happens to you for a reason. I would not be the person I am today with all the experiences of my life. I am a survivor with scars. Those scars are visible for the world to see, and that’s okay. It’s okay not to be perfect. Life is like a yoga practice, it will never be perfect. You can only become stronger and commit to growth. 

The most important lesson: With breath you can get through any uncomfortable situation.” — Claire 

This interview was conducted by Jen Morabito of The Self Stories; providing yoga practitioners with the opportunity to share their stories as they realize and live in the infinite benefits of the physical asana practice of yoga, meditation, self inquiry & realization. Read more of The Self Stories here.