Undiagnosed as a child, I struggled with anxiety my whole life, and things got worse in high school and college. During that time, I was hospitalized twice for anxiety attacks that exhibited hyperventilation, spastic muscle rigidity, with severe neck and chest pain. I was scared, not knowing what was happening to my body, I felt out of control and disconnected.
The medical community worked me up, telling me I might have meningitis, blood clot, and/or heart conditions. The diagnosis and treatments felt invasive and only intensified my fear. Pushing through with steady perseverance, family support, and devoted friends, I managed to obtain my bachelor’s degree in nursing six months before I turned 21! It was a stressful experience to say the least, cramming so much education into a short span of time.
After passing my nursing board exams, I immediately started working the night shift right out of college! Within two years, I wasn’t sleeping, I lost weight, and the anxiety escalated. Thankfully, my doctor listened to me. She guided me towards improving my overall health through nutrition and exercise and she also suggested yoga. I found the only yoga studio within 20-miles of my home and dedicated my days off to practicing.
In 2005, I went to Kripalu Center to do my Yoga Teacher Training! I was excited to experience new and different modes of healing: Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga), meditation, breathing practices, and yoga postures. These amazing activities filled each day for my whole month-long training.
I was reawakening, slowly coming back to life! Living in the transformative beauty of western Massachusetts during autumn, I could feel my emotional resilience, physical strength, and my mental perspective shifting. Connecting mind, body and breath was the best gift I could have given myself. And now I get to share that with others.
Being a natural introvert at heart, the teacher training challenged me because it felt uncomfortable and unpleasant to me to speak in front of others. Thankfully my bunkmate had my back. She gave me a card with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” I think of that quote everyday. It reminds me that I have the freedom to remember my power, while feeling out the limits of my courage.
Throughout the years, I have had the pleasure of refining my practice with specialized yoga courses. Returning back to Kripalu many times has been a blessing, and each time I returned, I sought out Jennifer’s classes. I was drawn to her fluid, graceful style of yoga combined with her ability to access a profound state of relaxation. In her classes, I experienced a pilgrimage of body, mind and spirit, activating hidden energetic layers I didn’t know existed. I felt whole and complete within myself.
Jennifer’s voice is clear and calming, allowing my body to relax, and my mind to let go, sealing in healing and wholeness throughout my whole self. And they have been especially supportive for me as my life continues to unfold and grow with a family.
In Jennifer’s Yoga and Deep Relaxation Retreat: the Gift of Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra at Kripalu, I learned about the science and philosophy behind Divine Sleep. I also learned the evidence-based research to help me cultivate a balanced state of mental health and harmony in physical health. For me, fully embodying yoga nidra is a true gem of an experience! During the retreat, I connected with my inner wisdom and intuition.
This year marks 20 years as an RN, and I am in my 14th year of teaching yoga and meditation! My healing path has come full circle. I have successfully adapted calming techniques, breath awareness, and guided meditation into the delivery of my nursing care.
‘Living’ our yoga by breathing, moving together, and by simply being, has opened up a world of effortless enjoyment for me. As I continue to heal, and help to steer the course guiding others in yoga, I recognize the importance of having patience for the practice to unravel. I do not know what the next steps in my yoga teaching path will bring, but witnessing my students’ moving freely, breathing peacefully, and deeply resting swells my grateful heart.
Anxiety is still present in my own daily life – it doesn’t really go away. Life can be a struggle, especially during times of overwhelming stress, sadness, grief and tenderness. But by prioritizing self-care with yoga, rest and relaxation, I now have practical tools to assist me with anxiety and the rise and fall of emotions, thoughts, sensations, behaviors and actions. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your passion for health through yoga and yoga nidra – it continues to be an inspiration for me on my life journey!