• Sally Smith

i am

There is this really limiting thought out there that certain circumstances require a certain way of being. For example, when I first got into the yoga scene in LA, not only was I surrounded by a very particular west side, Los Angeles mindset that in itself could be toxic if valued too highly, but I was also under the false understanding that if I wanted to teach yoga, I had to exude a certain way of life. These two environments molded together turned me into a green juice drinking, insecure vegetarian, who looked outwards in order to find inner joy: a paradox to say the least.

From leading teacher trainings and being around other young yoga teachers, I know that I was not alone in this mindset. When we get caught up in a world, especially one that we identify with in many ways, sometimes the mainstream and materialism of the world sink through our skin, and in order to find identity within a world that we love, we choose to conform to it. Somehow, in trying to navigate our way through new environments, the way we stake out our identity is by trying to mesh into the fabric of the world; do what everyone else is doing and blend in. This may come as surprising, but maybe, in the beginning, do just that. Then, break free. Immerse yourself in your new environment; get to know it really well; go undercover; conform. Then, with your newfound knowledge of the inside, emerge with a belief system. Carve out your place through individualism, put your own spin on things and disrupt the framework.

There is absolutely no right way to do anything. To believe that there is one single path is a narrative that we really need to bust open; it’s too limiting. In yoga, we say that your practice is personal. Only you know how you arrived at your mat on any given day; where your particular headspace is; whether or not you need to move fast or take it slow. The teacher’s sequence is a reference, take it or leave it. If you’re in my class and you spend 30 minutes in the fetal position and the next thirty minutes crying, then I think you’re onto something. You clearly know what you need and how to get it. That’s the practice after all. What do you need? How do you get it? Your way is going to look completely different from anyone else’s.

I am only just now truly finding my own voice as a teacher and really, as a person. It took a lot of self-understanding, a lot of study, a lot of discovery within the topics that truly interest me, and figuring out where I want to focus my efforts. It took a lot of surfing, a lot of music, a lot of cigarettes, a lot of hiking, a lot of shunning, a lot of partying, a lot of reading, and a lot of yoga. It took hating and quitting yoga, moving to Idaho and ultimately rethinking my entire understanding of the practice and what it actually means to me. It took personal growth. Sitting here now, I feel as if I am at a page turn: a transition, the next thing. For the first time, I can call myself an adult; a women. I used to shy away from that term, knowing adulthood is not a finish line and that the learning never stops. I realized, however, that when someone truly owns their power and acts from a place of personal volition, then that is the true sign of maturity.

From becoming a yoga teacher to becoming a woman, I’ve carved out my own personal path in getting to where I am now. There is no one way to do anything whether it’s within the realm of your yoga practice, your career, or your role as a mother or a friend. Meditate in the way that works for you; make your bed in the way that feels the best getting into it at night; take long walks wearing Dansko clogs so that you can tone your calves (s/o k.m.); move to Idaho in order to call yourself an adult. I don’t know, do what works.

With yoga, I went really far in one direction in order to pull back and understand where my center is; that’s the best way that I, personally, can conceptualize it. I dove deep into a world that I wanted to be a part of; to understand, and then I sorted out my place in it. From understanding, I am able to give to it what I can best offer, and take whatever makes the most sense to me. Our aim is to find our center, because within center lies our presence and our power; our understanding of “I am.” Get to know yourself really, really well and give that person whatever they want. Don’t get me wrong, I drink green juice sometimes when I feel like my body needs vitamins and vibrance. I eat meat when it’s available and to join in on the fun. I never feel insecure when, (and only when), I am fully operating from my place of center. I love yoga for the spiritual lessons, although it’s not bad for a work out either. I ask myself what I want, and figure out how best to get it. I’m learning to know myself, and in turn, learning how I best operate. I get knocked around and thrown off balance all the time, but I practice coming back, and it gets easier every time.