“My yoga journey did not have the most profound start in the world. I started doing yoga because I was a runner and had really tight hamstrings… I couldn’t physically touch my knees and so I’d start doing yoga to get a “good stretch”. I vaguely knew that there was a spiritual element to it, a meditative element to it; but I didn’t dive into that at first. It really was about the physical poses for me. With time and doing more and more classes on YouTube, I started thinking, “Okay, there is more to this. I want to take a full class. I want to go to a studio.”
Lying in Savasana in my first studio full yoga class, I remember having this innate feeling of that the body that I was in was nothing compared to the dynamic spirit within me. It was this amazing moment that brought me to the realization that I absolutely needed to do this more, and dive into this more.
It was that moment that shifted everything for me. I found that I could use my yoga practice to keep my head above water when it came to my day job — because, before I was a yoga instructor, I was a preschool teacher. While I loved the kiddos — and I really did love getting to teach them all these amazing things and help them learn and grow — at the end of the day, it was not the right environment for me. I was burned out. There were plenty of times where I would just say to myself: ‘Just get through the day and then you can go to yoga and everything will be better.’
I remember, after a particularly horrendous day, I entered my yoga class and I just looked around the studio and just knew that I was going to quit my job and would someday be a yoga teacher. It didn’t happen as quickly or as rapid-fire of a succession as I would’ve liked. I ended up getting so burned out that, at the end of the school year, I just put in my letter of resignation without a single job lined up. I was so burned out that just the act of job searching filled me with dread. It was a sensation that I was not used to at all. I’d go on job search sites and, within five minutes, I’d become useless. I’d have such anxiety that I’d need to sit down and close my laptop and just veg out for an hour or two.
This all showed me just how burned out I was. Ideally, I should have left earlier, but I truly believe that timing is perfect in all things — and that included being in that job until I burned out. And the entire time, yoga teaching is in the back of my mind. There was a yoga teacher training that was going to start at the studio I took classes at. I really wanted to do it, but I was unemployed. My husband was supporting me; I already felt bad being kind of a ‘freeloader’ since he was essentially paying all the bills. The last thing I could do was justify him providing the $2,000-$3000 for teacher training.
That Christmas — one month before the teacher training was going to star — I opened up a box from my husband that had a bunch of yoga books and a yoga syllabus in it… and my jaw just dropped. I started crying. It was an amazing moment. He just jokes it off and says that he gave me homework for Christmas.
It’s been the best Christmas gift I’ve ever received; it completely changed my life. It shifted everything. I knew that this was right for me, even as I was going through the 200 hour training — which any newbie teacher in a teacher training can tell you how scary it is to try to teach for the first time. Even during those first classes, I had that feeling that this is what I’m supposed to do.
The stars really just aligned for me in terms of teaching. By June, two months before I was to graduate, I was already a substitute instructor at one place and I had a weekly class at another. When I fully graduated in August, I had three separate studios — including the studio that I did my teacher training — asking me to come on board as a regular teacher.
I had four classes right off the bat! That was my sign — this is what I was supposed to be doing. The Universe was basically like, “Yes, finally you are listening to us, here you go.” Again, I always think that timing is perfect in all things, because this is where it gets a little bit more on the darker side…
….About four years ago, right as I graduated teacher training and started teaching, my Saturn Return happened. For those who don’t do astrology, a Saturn Return happens every 29 years when Saturn returns to the spot it was when you were born. It’s a time of great change, great transformation — and usually transformation through upheaval and very difficult things. If I didn’t believe in a Saturn Return before, after going through it, I’m a full believer. Around this time, when I was 27 turning 28 and just starting out as a teacher, my father’s health completely spiralled out. He’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s a couple of years prior and he’d also had lifelong issues with alcohol addiction. The combination played off each other in really bad ways. One year after I graduated from teacher training, he passed away.
As his health was failing, the family dynamics that I had known through my entire life either shattered or got redefined. I saw a lot of ugly sides come out of family members — I saw other family members change in their personality — and the way we’d interacted before couldn’t be possible now. On top of that, I was really coming to terms with how I was raised; when you lose a parent, it’s the end of any new memories you’ll have with them, so you have to look back and go, “Okay, so who am I because of the person?”
I was also dealing with some interpersonal crises, and trying to understand my motivations for why I did the things I did. I realized that I was the textbook child of an alcoholic. All the behaviour patterns I was exhibiting and tendencies I’d acquired — I was honestly at the risk of ruining my life. This reflection really forced me to look at who I was and to do the things that were needed to become a more healthy person.
On top of that, the woman who was for, all intents and purposes, my stepmother passed away unexpectedly almost exactly a year after my father. A month after that, my brother-in-law lost his battle with cancer. Then, on top of that, I nearly lost my little brother to a really severe motorcycle accident. It so severe that I was glad that I saw him in the hospital and was able to talk with him before I saw the pictures in the news. When I did see those pictures, I thought to myself there’s no reason he should’ve survived that; there’s no reason he should be alive.
All of this happened in a span of basically three years. It was insane. Saturn returned, and I saw it as basically a rebirth. It felt like the Universe showed me the way that I was living my life and said, “We are going to shake this up and it’s going to mean a lot of loss. It’s going to mean you are going to have a lot of anxiety and stress, but you’re going to come out of it a better person, you’re going to come out of it a more self-actualized person, you’re going to realize your unhealthy coping mechanisms, and you really are going to be a better person.”
This is where the yoga really kicks in. I wouldn’t have been able to do any other job during that time.
When I started teaching full time, there would be days that I would come into the studio with an anxious heat within me — like I was blazing with anxiety. But then I would affirm myself, “No, I’m here to make that space for my students. I’m here to lead their yoga class.” I believe that going through all of that while I was a yoga teacher completely changed how I taught. Very quickly I dropped what they call “positivity cheerleading”, which is sometimes seen in yoga teachers. It’s a naïve positivity. It feels like a blind cheerleading something superficial. That disappeared quickly for me, because my life experiences made me really recognize that we are all coming to the mat with some serious baggage, some more severe than others.
And we were all coming to the mat with something. I noticed that I was leading my classes with an understanding that these are people with anxiety, these are people who probably have family members who have either recently passed or were going to pass away, these are people who might be going through a divorce or going through a breakup, or maybe something is happening with their children — we are all bringing something to the mat. I really started conducting my classes and holding that space from a, “Hey we are here to become more resilient, we are here to tap in and find that inner strength, that inner wisdom, to learn to breathe through these things.” It transformed me as a teacher as well as transformed me throughout my day-to-day life. As difficult as that time was, I again believe the timing is perfect in all things. I was supposed to burn out from my job when I did. I was supposed to do that yoga teacher training exactly when I did. All the negative things that happened in my life were supposed to happen when they did.
One of the things I was able to spend more time on after leaving my preschool teaching job was writing — something I’d done and loved my entire life. But now, I noticed that my writing was coming from a more authentic place… Because of yoga world and my Saturn Return, I found that I was writing from the heart a lot more. I was not writing to please anybody and I was not writing to get an audience. I credit yoga for this, because yoga is all about not worrying about how a pose looks. Your focus is more on, “I’m doing it because I need it.” Likewise, if you are in a class, you’re not doing the pose just because the instructor tells you to do it; you are doing it because it serves and it feels right. I really credit yoga with getting me to write not because someone told me that this is how I’m supposed to write or because I think it will get me attention or anything like that, but to really write from my heart.
My writing blossomed under that. Since I quit preschool teaching, I was able to publish four books total; a collection of poetry, a collection of essays, and two fiction books. On top of that, I have an additional two fiction books that I’m hoping to get published within the next five years.
It’s been a very prolific time, writing for websites, and even just writing for my blog, That (not this) Abby Rose. It’s one of my favorite things to do because I feel like that’s where I get to be the most authentic and bleed out onto the page whatever is in my heart or in my mind.
I think one piece that always stands out to me the most was an article I wrote for The Huffington Post which was titled After Your Father’s Death: A To-Do List for Myself. It was basically a list of 10 things to do after my father’s passing. The Huffington Post featured it on the Women’s page and I burst into tears when I found out that they were translating it into multiple languages. I think it’s always those raw pieces of writing that always stick out to me and those are always the ones that I often know other people resonate with the most.
Very similar to my yoga teaching, I want to make sure that reading my writing is a place where people can feel ‘whole in their brokenness’. In yoga, I want to hold a space where my students don’t feel like they have to feel super thin and spiritual and everything is positive and nothing is the matter. I want people to come to the mat knowing that we are all dealing with things, we all have our own journeys. I’ve touched on some very tender topics throughout my writing career and I want people to see that and realize, ‘wait a minute, other people are dealing with these things too; I’m not the only one who has these emotions.’ That is definitely where there is a huge overlap between my writing world and my yoga world, because I always want to make sure that people feel that they have that space to feel whole in their imperfections, that it’s not just themselves with those imperfections — because, man, we all have them. Big time.
I feel the biggest thing is that it’s okay for you start yoga for the superficial reasons. It’s one of the first things I try to tell people about my own yoga story — because mine went in such a profound direction, I think it would be very easy to for people to think, ‘oh, it’s always been profound for her.’ The reality is, I went in for a good stretch and it built from there. You can start for any reason; just let it unfold naturally. Maybe for 10 years, it will be nothing too special and then right when you need it to be more profound, that’s when it will shift.
I genuinely believe the timing is perfect in all things, even when it doesn’t feel perfect. It’s something I always remind myself, even when it doesn’t feel that way. I have to have faith that the timing is actually perfect. Usually it is in retrospective and we look back and realize why everything happened the way that it did.” — Abby Rosmarin
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