everything changed. I do mean everything.
That was the year of my teacher training. I leaned on the knowledge and emotional support of my fellow students and teachers. My body and emotions often felt like I couldn't go on, their love and the breath helped me to keep going, moving , trusting.
That was also the year I became single. I learned that you can't go home again. That was the year that I got sober and went through menopause. That was the beginning of 18 months of fighting for my life, crying and purging all the old beliefs that I had about myself.
The crying wasn't a bad thing, it truly was a purge. The foundation that was being laid was one that my life is still built on today. Simplicity of prayer, meditation, breathing, movement and self love.
I think that is why I am so focused on teaching students to stay in their class, with a teacher. I stayed. I cried on my mat, laughed, got mad, detoxed and prayed. Since that time I have processed all the hurt and anger, pain of loss, dreamed bug dreams and moved in gratitude when they came true.
You see, yoga is one of the pieces of the life I have rebuilt and it is sacred to me. This is why I won't do the gimicky yoga, why my classes have been consistent all of these years. I would not be able to add anything to yoga, the beauty is already in the move, the breath, the prayer and meditation.
And I never know who is coming to my class that just needs yoga. Not cute, not my ego, just love and yoga.
I didn't realize that my decision to take my teacher's training would change my life and am just realizing how it began a life that I only dreamed of.
I am grateful to those who went before and those who will carry it forward. Thank you for saving me.
would be making. I cried and prayed and it was one of the most sacred yoga classes I have ever taught. ( Both babies were born healthy and on time. They are now old enough to be in school and they are amazing!)
The most stunning and heart wrenching, gratitude filled session was a private session that I taught. There was a family whose son/brother had been killed. This tore the family apart. I was the teacher of two of the family members. There were no words to say, so we got our yoga mats, placed them across from each other and began the session. The family processed the pain and with their souls reached across the studio to each other to move in unison. While I cannot tell you that was the moment the healing began, I can tell you there was a light in the room, a feeling that I may never be able to put a name to. The presence of grief and love , blending together to hold two souls.
My students have been there for me when I was going through so many life changes. Times of physical injury, emotional pain. Times when I didn't know how we were going to eat that week and just the right amount of students came so that I could buy groceries. ( and my kids and I would pray for you as we ate. )
Thank you for being the bread on my table, the sustenance of my breath and a light in my soul. I hope that you have come to love yourselves as much as I love you.
And I truly do.
"Most people are too polite to say, " are you the yoga teacher???". Many times I can win them over for at least one session, some times they surprise both of us and become one of my regular students.
Ok , sounded like I was up on my high horse, huh? Now here is the other " shoe drop". I did it too. YUP, I admit it, in my early days, I did it. If someone walked into my class and they weren't " my demographic," I immediately became defensive and passive aggressive. Never rude ( oh gosh I hope not) but internally judgy. Then a beautiful woman walked into my yoga class. This woman really intimidated me, more from my own insecurities than anything she actually did. She rolled out her mat and we did the class introductions.
Why are you here ( intention)
What do you need ( attention)
This amazing woman shared with us her story of extreme back pain issues that were disabling. She felt often minimized because she was able to " put herself together well" and no one believed that she was in pain.
I was crushed. Crushed under the weight of my bias and judgement. Never again after that wonderful woman ( who ended up being a long time student) did I see "My demographic". I saw students. I shared yoga.
I am proud of my culture and love the diversity of my classes. My classes are filled with all body types, abilities, color, gender, sexual orientation and all people get to define themselves as they wish. I do not love labels ( I may share why sometime) and deeply resent when I am given a label I find objectionable. That is why My Real Bodyoga exists. For each of us to define ourselves and have a community where you are completely accepted just as you are. And that community is growing. Every year, I find another place where I need to put more heart and less judgement. Every year, I fall deeper in love with my students who teach me about what service to yoga really means.
I choose to be vulnerable about my lessons to show you that no matter how you come to the mat, imperfect, searching, angry, judging, Yoga will show you a different path. Stay open, move with breath and you will be forever changed.
Learning to move my body in a meaningful way and having yoga love me when I didn't love myself opened my heart to love others more deeply.
Thank you for teaching me to be more loving, more accepting, to be real about my struggles in acceptance and learning more what inclusion is. If it weren't for all of you, I would be a lonely woman. Your lessons daily fill my heart.
Please check out my other work at www.thehousethatsoapbuilt.com
I tried first teaching in a gym environment. ( actually I have tried it twice on my career, both times with the same result. The pounding of the music was off putting, the floors could never get clean enough, a fine grit when we placed our hands outstretched.). While my early students tried, and the classes were well attended, there was no good yoga experiences for us.
Then a very brave woman from South Puget Sound Community College named Forrest saw the vision. She helped me to formulate the class and found room for us at the college. In the sports lounge , we would roll out our mats over popcorn on the floor and the stinky smell of socks. But there we learned. And Played. We found our way to working with the exercise ball, inversion poses and allowing yoga to change use from the inside out. I taught there for 10 years, through several changes in leadership until value of body positive yoga was no longer supported.
My dearest Wild Grace Arts invited the My Real Bodyoga community in. I have to say that I really found my niche there and was so very, very happy. Many, many students followed me to Wild Grace and I continued to challenge my own heart to grow in new ways as a yogi, digging deeper into what a yogi was, the teachings as well as the poses.
I remember the day I found out that Wild Grace was closing, my heart just died inside. I cried through that last class.
We tried other places, none seemed to fit, yet my students kept following me, believing in the community we have built.
I was beginning to question if I had any value as a yoga teacher at all and I found FireFly Yoga. Lisa was so kind to help me to pick up the pieces of my broken heart, a body that became injured , needed to heal and allowed me space to get better. My students were kind and I have been able to heal enough to find that absolute passion of yoga again.
I have been also blessed to teach at a men's inpatient treatment facility. Over 600 men have been introduced to recovery yoga and it created gain. To see the faces of those who have been long term incarcerated or homeless finding out that they have worth was and continues to be my favorite moment. A couple of yoga teachers have come from those classes, many more are continuing the practice. Even the guys who have no interest in yoga have found a way of living in and loving their body, embracing the body positive concepts.
Yoga has also given me a voice in workshops, professional recovery events and in a seminar of entrepreneurs.
To this date, I sneak my teaching in wherever I can. I lead a treatment group in both chemical dependency and mental health. We start out every session with a few moves and some meditation before we delve into the hearts.
There isn't a place that yoga can't be taught. I carry my mat and the "traveling " singing bowls in my car, ready to teach at a moments notice. I love that, being willing to share yoga is more important to me that the where. I love sharing freedom. love and acceptance with all kinds of people.
My future goal is to continue to teach at Firefly as long as Lisa will have me. I would like to buy a house and open a small studio in my home, where I can create small vignettes of my practice, one student at a time.
I hope to be that person who can actually say, has mat will travel well into my old age.
It has been a pleasure to create products that support the beliefs that I have in yoga and I hope you will enjoy!
Sandra Kozlowski, CDP, CAAR, AAS, RHY 200
Curvy Yoga Certified, Y12SR Certified, Yoga for All Certified
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