I have a secret. I am a counterfeit. A fraud. My sordid secret? I seldom make it to my yoga mat. There, I said it. I can offer a million reasons why, but mostly, they will be make-believe half-hearted excuses to hide the real truth. The truth, for me, and I suspect countless others, is that the act of arriving on the yoga mat is a daily battle. It isn’t just my full schedule, or the countless pulls on my time and energy. No. It is much harder to admit that the act of showing up and being with myself, in that way, is what I find harder to confront.
There have been times in my life when I showed up to my yoga mat every damn day and felt transformed by the dedication, physically, mentally, and spiritually. During those years, I even began to teach, such was my devotion to my newfound passion.
I moved from California to Nicaragua, discovering, much to my delight, a mother/daughter team leading yoga out of their living room right in the center of town! I was elated. I had discovered yoga before leaving California and it felt good to move my body that way. What a blessing. Imagine – yoga in a small coastal town in Nicaragua! I showed up every day, 6 days a week. Some days the teacher looked disappointed. I was the only one there. Smiling. Keen as ever. ‘Come on in’ she would say, sweetly.
Then, without any warning, life changed in an instant. One morning, I arrived for class and my mother/daughter team announced that they were leaving San Juan del Sur. Shock. Horror. After class that day, my mind was racing. What would I do? How could I survive? The transition into Nicaragua from my pretty plush life in California had not been easy. In fact, some days it was downright impossible. Power outages, water shortages, parasites, heat, humidity, bugs, dengue fever. You get the general idea. Life was pretty third world. Add on first world complaints of missing my family, a warm bath, a Costco type store with all your consumerism needs under one roof and you have a recipe for discontentment. But I had yoga. Or did I? My teachers were about to leave Nicaragua and take my yoga class with them!
So, as you might guess, that is how I came to teach. I was never cocky enough or even trained enough to think I should teach. It just organically evolved out of necessity to keep up the practice. Being an extrovert through and through, there was no way I could do it alone. Especially at that time in my life. Everything was better with others! Before they left, my mother/daughter teachers handed me David Swenson’s, ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ Manual and there, the legacy began. I would go on to lead a modified version of the primary series with a whole ton of chatarangas and that was where it started.
I moved into the house my teachers moved out of and placed a sign on the gate to the house, offering yoga and a cup of tea for a few dollars. I quickly became known as the “yoga teacher” in town. Hotels would call me to lead private classes for their guests. For the first time in my life I was doing what I wanted, I was living a purposeful life. I still had that sinking feeling that I was a fraud. If a “real” teacher came through town, I would ask them to lead the class, as I was certain they had more knowledge than me. The strange reality was that I was starting to build a little following and my regular students would get upset when I would have someone else lead the class. They would say they came for my class. Wow, that was surprising!
Over the next few years, I became officially trained by a man named Vedantin out of San Francisco. He led several teacher training courses in Nicaragua and would let me partake as time allowed. Eventually he pronounced that I was indeed certified, from a combination of his teachings and the fact that I had indeed already been teaching for a few years. The majority of my learning though had been self taught, from books and life experience.
Over the next decade life provided plenty of excuses to forgo my own yoga practice. The most obvious was also the most challenging and without a doubt most rewarding role I had yet to take on. Motherhood. I had three babies in the last decade and I will not down play what that requires. In short, kids drain your life force, if you nurse they literally suck the calcium from your bones! Simultaneously they feed your soul and grow your capacity to love.
My yoga practice for the first two years of each of my boy’s lives was just that. Being their Mom. Working through the night. Nursing around the clock. Trying to keep calm and steady while they required so much of me. Even as I write this blog, my third boy (yes, all boys!) has been sick with diarrhea. He’s plain pissed off. My middle son has pink eye. Life is a barrel full of laughs at present. Which reminds me of something I always tell my students. Something I need to take heed of myself…
Suffering comes from resisting what is. When you want something to be different than it is.
It was true when my teachers were leaving and it is true now as my kids are sick. Wanting things to be different than they are is a great discontentment feeder.
The sweet reminder that I am doing the best that I can, can not be uttered often enough. My Mother-in-law told me once that she wants her headstone to read, “She done all she could”. I love this. Aren’t we all doing the best we can?
I suppose, the truth is that I can teach even without my own consistent practice. For at the end of the day, I am practicing. I am showing up every day to my life. I am breathing, moving, loving, crying, laughing, growing, shrinking, “MOMing”, reflecting, meditating, being still, running in every direction, in short I am doing the best I can.
Eventually, my path led me to open the first “official” yoga studio in San Juan del Sur. Although for me there was and will always be the memory of our first little studio right in my living room, in the middle of the market square in San Juan del Sur, where it all started. When life was so much more simple. When my day required only that I show up to my mat and nothing more. I can not say I miss those days. How can you miss what you were fully present for? Rather, I am grateful beyond measure that I had that time. It allowed me to really know myself. It prepared me for what was to come. It stamped the memory on my heart of the sweet self care time. It gave me a home to return to, time and again, as life became more complicated.
I guess I am not a fraud after all. For a fraud sets off to fool you. I never meant to do that. I only ever wanted to learn more and give my best. Fourteen years and multiple certifications later, that is still true. Maybe more true. Maybe the definition of a fraud is one who thinks they have it all figured out. If that is the definition, then I could never be a fraud because the longer I teach the more I understand how much I have to learn and then the process starts all over again.
Started writing this 2017, just reread and published 2019 ~ Vanessa Pattison
Michael Greger, MD, recently wrote for NutritionFacts.org about the many benefits one can experience when eating a plant-based diet. The list is so incredibly long and well-researched, you might be convinced to give up meat altogether; however, if you’re not, you can at least learn about these many benefits and consider going veggie just one or two days a week!
Learn more about hosting your own plant-based, raw food detox yoga retreat with us!
A significant convergence of evidence suggests that plant-based diets can help prevent and even reverse some of the top killer diseases in the Western world and can be more effective than medication and surgery. See the following topics for research findings relevant to the most prevalent chronic conditions.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Parkinson’s disease
Additionally, plant-based eating may have a positive effect on reducing abdominal fat and acne, reversing the effects of aging and reducing the effects of allergies and asthma, and combatting overbearing body-odor. A plant-based diet can also positively impact cellulite, childhood IQ, cognition, eczema, gut bacteria, kidney stones, mood, oral health, waist circumference, and weight management – we were not kidding about how long the list of benefits is!
Plant-based eating also appears to help prevent:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Crohn’s disease
- Hiatal hernia
- Kidney stones
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
Eating meat and other animal products may be associated with weight gain and a shortened lifespan. Meat also contains a high amount of saturated fat, trans fats, sulfur dioxide arachidonic acid, and heme iron. Meat, fish, dairy, and eggs may also increase our exposure to dietary antibiotics, industrial toxins, mercury and other toxic heavy metals, advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), cadmium, xenoestrogens in fish, and estrogenic meat carcinogens.
A plant-based diet can detoxify the body of these pollutants. Even just a step towards eating more plant-based might lengthen lifespan.
Contrary to popular myth, vegans have healthy bones and higher blood protein levels than omnivores, and most vegans get more than enough protein. In one study, within a matter of weeks, participants placed on the plant-based diet experienced improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels, insulin resistance, and C-reactive protein levels.
Vegans may have fewer nutrient deficiencies than average omnivores while maintaining a lower body weight without losing muscle mass. Those eating plant-based diets appear to experience enhanced athletic recovery without affecting the benefits of exercise. The arteries of vegans appear healthier than even long-distance endurance athletes and those on low-carb diets. In fact, the Paleo Diet may increase the risk of toxin contamination, DNA damage, and cancer.
There are two vitamins not available in plants: vitamins D and B12. There is a serious risk of B12 deficiency if no supplements or B12-fortified foods are consumed. Two other nutrients to monitor are iodine and zinc. Yeast- or algae-based long chain omega 3 fatty acids may also be beneficial.
Medical training continues to underemphasize nutrition education, meaning patients often do not receive information about all of the options for treatment. Doctors report they don’t practice preventative cardiology because they fear their patients won’t change their diet. Kaiser Permanente has begun more aggressive efforts to apprise patients about the advantages of plant-based diets.