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  • Alicia Waters

In My Darkest Moments, My Yoga Came to Life

My friends! Just like that, 2017 is over. It's been a wonderful year. And a rough year. And then a fabulous year. And then rocky, again. To sum up: it's been a very human year for me...anyone else?

The end of the calendar year is a natural point to pause and look back at the previous 12 months. Taking stock and setting your sights for the year ahead. For me, this year felt a bit like the sharp ups and downs of my ring that I bought this summer in Bali and have been wearing ever since. In fact, I bought it for that exact reason.

My time in Bali was an absolute joy - growing, learning, sweating, and connecting with an unforgettable group of 19 yogis. It was the first 200 hour teacher training that I planned, organized, and lead on my own and it was a personal triumph in more ways than one. It was work, as all trainings are work, but it was some of the most rewarding work I've ever done. My heart will never run out of gratitude for those 19 beings (and my two amazing co-teachers!) who showed up with faith and trust, and created a space of encouragement, inspiration, and healing with me.

I needed that space more than they knew.

Before the high came the low. A few weeks before I traveled to Bali, I experienced a difficult miscarriage. Every miscarriage is difficult, of course, no matter how common they are (and they are common - some estimates say that only 40% of conceptions ever become births). Mine was a physical and emotional rollercoaster over the course of almost a month. I had internal hemorrhaging which threatened the baby's life and mine, with no apparent cause. I had none of the "risk factors". Some days the pregnancy looked miraculously healthy, but most of the time I was in and out of the hospital and on bed rest.

I prayed. I meditated. I chanted mantra. I cried often. I read all that I could about my condition and followed every piece of advice I could find. I was lovingly supported by an amazing troupe of soul sisters and my incredible husband. I sent loving energy to my belly constantly - I wanted this baby to know that no matter the outcome, it was loved and wanted and that I was doing my best.

In the end, I lost the baby and a little bit of confidence in my body, which I have always known to be strong and capable - almost invincible. But not quite. It was an incredibly challenging time, and I leaned hard on all my sacred practices.

In my darkest, most uncertain moments - that was when my yoga came to life.

So many profound truths become empty cliches when they're merely words: love yourself, choose compassion, let go of limitations and be infinite, trust in the inherent goodness of all things. These types of phrases are hollow and even patronizing, until they're lived out by a real, genuine, perfectly imperfect human being.

When I felt untethered and powerless, I chanted AUM to affirm my life just as it was in that moment, with no expectations. When I could feel my mind spiraling into negativity and self-pity, I recited mantra, working my way across the beads over and over, until my mind became steady. When despair started to creep in, I would close my eyes and let go, let go, dissolve, let go, relax, let go, until I could see beyond my limited situation and experience the bliss of just being.

It wasn't easy and it definitely wasn't pretty. Not every effort was successful and many times I got stuck wallowing in my emotions and feeling sorry for myself. I dissolved in a puddle just as often as I managed to guide myself back to some semblance of peace.

And that's okay. No effort is ever wasted. To me, that's not an empty cliche because I truly believe it and I've lived it.

I've lived it in times of deep need, when I'm doing the real, gritty work of yoga: wrestling with my mind, my perceptions, and my reactions on the battleground of my daily life.

As Ashtanga yogis say - "yoga is 1% theory, 99% practice" - but not just the physical practice. It's choosing to put the philosophy into practice moment by moment by moment. There are so many ways we can choose to live this thing called "being human". To me, choosing the path of yoga means giving my best effort to embody compassion, joy, freedom, and oneness. Literally, to give those qualities a home and expression in my body, in my life, in my uniquely human way.

The real gems of yogic philosophy are found not in the intangible concepts, but the tangible middle ground of human life where the ideal meets the real.

Which is why I wanted to share a piece of my story with you lovely readers. I know it's personal. I know some might think it's too personal for comfort. But I'm okay with that discomfort because I know how much the unfiltered stories of others on the path have helped me over the years. Through the lens of other's experiences I have focused my own definition of what yoga looks like when it's lived. I have gained endless insight from the way others embody the theory - the myriad of meeting points between timeless Truth and individual beings bound (at least for now) by time and space.

At the close of the year, I bow to all the beings (yes you!!) who have shared my path, giving and receiving inspiration and creating this being human together. We couldn't do it without each other. Thank you. I see you. I honor you. May I always remember that the same eternal spark that lives in me, lives within you. May we always recognize the Truth in each other. Namaste.

With love,

A xoxo

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