Finding My Path

North Carolina to NYC: A Story of Transformation Through Yoga

I grew up in rural North Carolina in the 90‘s, where there weren’t any yoga studios or classes to be found. But my mom did have a small shelf of fitness VHS tapes from the Jazzercise and Step aerobics era, including a couple of yoga ones. I was particularly fascinated by these, and even though I didn’t fully understand the movements, they mesmerized me. I watched those same tapes over and over again for years, using my parents’ living room carpet as a makeshift yoga mat.

By the time I finally went to a real live yoga class, years had passed. I wasn’t 12 anymore, I was 20, at college, and in the midst of trying to recover from anorexia. I was seeing plenty of well-trained professionals, but I still felt miserable and couldn’t figure out how to cope with my constant anxiety.

Eileen in 2003

Eileen in 2003

That September, I stumbled into yoga classes at a gym on campus. It was hard and awkward at first, but I just kept going. Those classes became an unexpected link towards my recovery - each hour of movement and breath became another chance for my body and mind to relearn how to work together. For a long time, the hardest pose for me was always Savasana - it’s the last pose of class, which involves lying still on your back for several minutes. For some people, it can involve deep relaxation, but for me, it was torture. My mind raced and my body twitched and I didn’t know how to be with myself in that silence. But slowly, very slowly, I started to learn. I started to learn too how to sit with all of the anxiety and the feelings as they came up, instead of fearing and running away from them the way I had before. It was a transformative lesson that I still hold onto today.

Yoga has been an ongoing and important part of my life ever since. In the twelve years since those first classes, I moved to New York City and built a career in technical theater. Although I was happy in the theater world, it also reflected the ways that I still struggled to take good care of myself. I worked long, physically demanding hours and stayed out late most nights. Yoga remained more of a special hobby than a way of life. It wasn’t until 2014 that I finally signed up for a 200 hour teacher training. I had been delving deeper into my yoga practice for awhile, and when a good friend of mine died suddenly that spring, I knew that something needed to shift in my life. It’s funny how the tough stuff can be the most powerful catalyst for change, can push you to seek out your deeper purpose and potential.

Eileen in 2016!

Eileen in 2016!

I’ve been teaching now for almost two years. I still remember how uncertain and awkward I felt at the beginning, how I wondered whether I would ever be "good" at teaching. But the deeper I went into my training, and the steadier and more regular my practice as a student became, the more that teaching made sense. By the time I became a full time yoga teacher earlier this year, everything about it felt right. When I think about my journey - from those first college classes to being a full time yoga teacher today, I am awed by the level of change and transformation that is possible. I am also grateful for the realization that our capacity to change and grow never, every stops; it continues on, as long as we stay open to it. It is my ongoing hope that through teaching, through sharing this powerful practice of movement and breath, that I might be able to help my students find a little bit more of their own openness - not just in their bodies, but maybe in their minds, hearts, and lives as well.