It wasn’t until I found yoga that I started to heal a deep sense of not belonging in this world. If it weren’t for yoga, and the way yoga compelled me to clean up the totality of my life, from what I eat to what I do for living, to how I treat others, I’d be a hot mess workaholic, alcoholic, pack-a-day-smoking party girl. I’d be trying to look good and hold it all together on the outside, and broken hearted and soul sick on the inside, because for more than 20 years, that’s how I lived my life.

I remember the first yoga class I ever attended. I went because I didn’t know where else to go with my revved-up nerves and insomnia. I was a burned out investigative journalist covering soldiers who were coming back from the Middle East with PTSD and all sorts of other untreated wounds of war. Their wounds were triggering my wounds, and fueling my coping mechanisms. I was drinking two bottles of wine a night and sneaking smokes whenever I could. But that night in a room with a giant, kind, Buddha face painted on the wall, prayer flags covering the ceiling overhead, and the scent of incense thick in the air, I sat on my orange sticky mat and felt warm tears of a homecoming long overdue stream down my face. I knew nothing about what was about to happen, and I blundered and fumbled through the whole thing, looking around and giggling with the friend I’d come in with about how awkward we were.  I’m sure I was a total distraction. But the teacher was kind and accepting in a way I had rarely encountered, and I felt a sense of belonging and total comfort and familiarity deep down in my bones. That sense of belonging is still there for me to this day, every time I step onto my mat.

I am perhaps an unlikely yogi. I’m a pretty typical American Gen-X-er. I was born in Kansas City, KS to two young, Midwestern parents. When my dad finished graduate school, he joined the Navy and we moved to Maryland. I grew up around the Naval Academy, sailboats, crabbing and riding bikes to 7-11 for Slurpees with my friends. We were kids of the 80s. I idealized Olivia Newton John, Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson. I wanted nothing more than for my parents to get us a T-top Trans AM and a maybe a roller rink in our family room.

Then, when I was seven my dad got stationed overseas, my parents divorced, and my Mom moved us back to Kansas. I didn’t see or hear from my father for the next decade, and I was the epitome of the awkward, shy, totally out of place new kid in town. I was the only girl in 6th grade who shaved her legs and wore a bra, and, it seemed like to me, didn’t have a dad. To make matters worse, my mom had gone back to school and we lived in a tiny run down apartment that I was too embarrassed to invite friends over to see.

I decided then that it would be far easier to learn how to pretend to be cool, beautiful, rich, smart, whatever the people around me seemed to want, and to shove my actual self down deep out of sight. So I spent my teens and young adult years masquerading and soothing the gap between who I showed to the world, and who I was inside, with all sorts of closet addictions.

I was what you’d call a functioning addict. I was born with a pretty good metabolism and I was what you’d call “skinny fat.” I looked like I worked out all the time, but I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym since High School and I was borderline anorexic and existing on mostly caffeine, nicotine and my choice of daily fruit was white or red – wine. I had regular anxiety attacks where my heart would beat out of chest, my palms would sweat, I’d get overwhelmingly dizzy have to lay on the floor until I could stand again. The outside façade of traditional beauty made my addictions worse, because they were hidden in the thick secrecy of shame. Meanwhile, I turned my lifelong love of writing into two successful careers, one as an investigative journalist, and later, as a corporate marketing executive. I was burning the candle at both ends. I worked hard, and I played even harder. Newsroom adrenaline by day, and dance club VIP room mayhem by night, extreme skiing and backcountry adventures on the weekends. The undercurrent of having to prove something to the world, desperately needing the acceptance and approval of everyone around me, especially men, and at the same time being mad as hell at the whole system, and secretly soul sick inside from betraying myself over and over again, was driving me into an unsustainable insanity on all fronts. I was bound to hit bottom, and hard.

I remember looking out the window of my office one day into a the gray steel and glass of the high rises all around me and thinking, WTF?, I spend 90 percent of my life in here and I don’t even like it. In fact, I can’t wait to get out of here every night. I spend two hours in traffic getting in and out of here every day. I’m too tired to do anything by the time I get home but open another bottle of wine and light up another smoke. I spend Saturday recovering and Sunday being anxious about Monday. What am I doing?

I had started training with Baron Baptiste, my primary yoga and spiritual teacher. After I’d come home from each week-long intensive with Baron, I knew with increasing clarity that the gig was up. The old ways just weren’t serving me. All the trappings of success that I’d come to believe were the only way to happiness, I finally saw as the main things that were making me miserable. I was living a text book life, but it was someone else’s version. My authentic life was going to be a whole new adventure, starting all over from scratch. Blank canvas. Scary unknown. Doing things other people thought were nuts. And I knew deep down it was the only way I’d have any chance of happiness and peace. And it still took me several years to let go and take the leap of faith that I eventually did, and begin my journey as teacher and healer. I had to go through a really dark night of the soul to break free.

I hit big bottom on New Year’s Eve 2009. I’d gone with a girlfriend to a party at the museum of modern art, where I knew that a man I’d been seeing would be. He had been hesitant to keep dating because he was concerned about my lifestyle, but I was sure that I’d win him over. I was dressed to the nines and was drinking away a hangover from the night before on a empty stomach, a pretty typical pattern for me. By about 10 pm I was so sloshed I fell down the museum’s main flight of stairs, and protesting that I was totally fine, proceeded to crawl around in my super short skirt on the floor under the coat rack, then sit on an exhibit stand and fall in, having to be rescued out by the very man I’d been attempting to impress. Needless to say, after that, he called it all off. The very next day I drove up to a mountain resort town to beg the only sober person I knew to take me to a recovery meeting. It took me longer to throw the cigarettes out for good, but that was the day the bottle and a lot of my self loathing, went bye bye. In the months that followed my newfound sobriety gave me a clarity and focus that I hadn’t had in years. It was a long road back, but finally, I was on the path.

Each day, each month, each year, little by little, I started to trust my own inner knowing and my craving for the teachings of compassion, kindness, authenticity, integrity, passion, love, aliveness, stillness, peace and ease. It hasn’t been easy, but there was no way I was going back. Yoga gave me the courage to come out of the closest as the spiritual being that I am, and have always been. Suddenly I had a way back to myself. My body, mind and spirit began to heal. I started juicing and eating mostly vegan and cut out caffeine. The man from NYE gave me a second chance, and we got married. I opened my yoga studio. I started running. I had my daughter. Life was more about hope and less about despair. Now, my life is about sharing what healed me. Because if I can make back from the dark hells I’ve found myself in, you surely can too

The Yogi Life is the culmination of many of the practices big and small that I’ve developed over the years to keep me honest, sane, and as healthy and vibrant as I can be. I’m by no means perfect. I still have days that bring me to my knees, crying on the floor. I catch myself complaining, judging and criticizing myself and others. I comfort binge on potato chips, pizza and chocolate. But I don’t go back to the poisons that nearly killed me to numb out. I don't abuse substances or myself. I now know how to pick myself back up, get out of the rut, not beat myself up (at least not too much), get on a mat or out on run, and spiral up and out of the funk instead of down the drain towards that lie of addiction and depression.

The Yogi Life is my gift to you. It’s my way of reaching out and saying, I’ve been there too, and you don’t have to suffer. There is another way. You don’t’ have to believe all the marketing and the lies that are so rampant out there that would have you believe that you’re not enough and different and unwanted. The truth is, you are a magnificent, whole, complete and miraculous being exactly as you are. You may have some nasty habits that have brought you down. You may need a whole lotta extra support and discipline and help right now. But I know that inside there you are awesome and love worthy. As I like to say, you can’t not be loved. You ARE love! I've found that the truth is always super simple. And what continues to heal and support me is to take ever day, one moment at a time, and focus on living each of those moments with purpose and integrity. You will find that I am raw and I am honest and I am imperfect.

So together let’s do this thing called yoga, and get you feelin’ the love!

Certified Baptiste Yoga Instructor, RYT 500