Hey there yogi,
My name is Richelle. I am an adventurer. I am a wanderer. I am a warrior. I am a runner. I am a survivor. I am a student. I am a yoga teacher. I am a helper. I am the founder of Bloom Yoga. I have a Bachelor of Social Work. I am a born and raised prairie girl. I am an individual, as are you, with many faces and many hats to wear. I have found yoga to be the way for me to embrace my relationship with my body, mind, and spirit through movement and breath, although it was not always this way.
I am a runner and I have always been actively involved in endurance sport. I also come from a family where running is a lifestyle and not a hobby. It was through endurance sports that I began to break down my physical body. It started with a rotator cuff injury when I was a member of a competitive triathlon team and swimming constantly. I remember feeling an ache, which started out dull, but then stopped going away and increased in magnitude. When I brought this pain to the attention of my coach at the time, I was told I was making it up and was using it as an excuse to “get out” of swim practices. I began to doubt myself at this time and continued to push through the pain.I knew something was not right, but I also knew that I wanted to be on the team and I wanted to compete. This is my first vivid recollection of silencing my inner voice telling me something was not right.
My next injury was a compression fracture in my lumbar spine after a cycling accident left me in a ravine in rural Arizona. This was a horrific, freak accident that I am so fortunate to have walked away from. However, this injury was not taken seriously by my coach at the time and, at the urging of this coach, I attempted to run a five kilometer race a week following this accident. I was so scared of not being good enough and, again, I doubted the signals my body was sending me and continued to push through. This was another moment where I silenced my inner voice telling me something was not right.
With this injury, despite my best attempts, I was unable to return to my previous level of competition and my weight began to fluctuate. There were weekly weigh-ins for our team and I remember watching the numbers. I can recall the hatred for myself that bubbled up with these changes. I continued to attempt to push through, pushing my body through exercise and food restriction. I began to tell myself that I was ugly, that I was not an athlete, and that I was a failure.
Each time I silenced my inner voice telling me something was not right, I felt increasingly alone, isolated, and lost. There was one morning when I was on the bus to swim practice at 5:15 am and I was looking out the window at a bleak winter sky and I thought to myself-what would happen if I just disappeared? I considered getting off the bus in the middle of downtown and disappearing. This was my first suicidal ideation. My first thought of no longer being in my body. I eventually learned that I was living with situational depression.
I began to look to others for the validation that sport had once given me. I began to chase and stay in relationships that I can now only describe as toxic and abusive. I did not believe in the value of my self, so when others treated me poorly this is what I thought I deserved and this is what I sought out. My relationships with female friends involved putting each other down, competing, and gossiping behind each other’s backs. My romantic relationships, and non-romantic relationships, with men involved placing myself in a position to be desired. When acts of violence were perpetrated against me, I often told myself that I deserved them because of my behaviours and because I was of little worth. I felt alone in my experiences and I felt like they were my fault. I explained away bruises. I justified controlling and manipulative behaviours. I pretended names and verbal abuse did not hurt. I found myself fighting to maintain romantic relationships and friendships that made me feel unimportant and small because I believed I was worthless and because there were moments within those relationships where I did not feel worthless. I felt loved or important or desired. It was a confusing pattern-I felt like I deserved to be treated like shit, so I sought it out. But I also believed I deserved better, so I sought out those moments within the relationships that treated me like shit. I felt alone and was afraid of being alone.
My relationship with alcohol began changing at this time and I began to consume alcohol to fit in with the people around me. I then found that I could numb myself through alcohol. I can vividly remember describing an evening of alcohol use and waking up with little recollection of the night to an acquaintance. I was laughing about the ordeal, but my acquaintance told me that she did not think that this sounded like fun and that she was a little worried about me. I remember pausing in that moment and realizing that she was right, but I pushed this feeling aside and continued to seek out numbness. I, once again, silenced my inner voice telling me something was not right.
I was a fiercely independent child, often making up songs and dancing in the front lawn while my parents watched on, my father often videotaping my latest creations. I am the oldest of four and I have held my own in many sibling rivalries, as well as instigated many tiffs. I was, and still am, stubborn. I would often fight relentlessly for what I wanted and what I believed in. I would befriend lady bugs and children that were teased on the playground and I would stand up for what I thought was right. I wanted to help and dreamed of the Olympics, being a marine biologist, and making a difference in the world.
As I moved through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, my confidence in myself decreased. When my Olympic dream was scrapped, I lost a huge piece of my identity, my purpose, and my drive. When I could no longer claim my identity as high-performance athlete, I did not know how to identify. I felt lost and uncertain of my path. This loss of identity and resulting self-doubt deviated my independent nature. I sought out relationships that moulded me into something else.
Deep down I knew something was wrong. I knew that this was not the life I was meant to live. Pieces of my spirit lived on, I succeeded in school and university and completed my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I knew I wanted to assist others. I eventually found Social Work to be the path I wanted to follow to help others. I completed my Bachelor of Social Work, while throwing myself into research on domestic violence and sexual violence. I feel that this was my spirit’s way of trying to regain control over everything that had happened to me. The fire within me had not been extinguished completely, and my spirit continued to guide me towards helping others. I began working in the role of a social worker, working to protect children and youth who were or were suspected of experiencing abuse or neglect. I eventually specialized in working with families who were experiencing domestic violence and worked to attempt to shield children from the impact of domestic violence. I began to feel confined within the system I was working in and my inner voice was telling me something was wrong. I took this opportunity to listen.
As I was forcing myself to attempt to “get back into shape” and “push through” while beginning university a dear friend of mine invited me to try yoga and I went along reluctantly. And to be honest, I did not love it. It was hard. Different than what I was used to. I remember feeling so frustrated that everyone else was so much more advanced than I was. The entirety of my identity hinged on being a competitive athlete and I could not successfully enter the poses, and the teacher had to continually correct my postures. It was frustrating and infuriating to be bad at something related to athletics. So, after that class it took me a long time to take another class. And then I found myself taking another, and another, and then recruiting friends and family to go with me. I think at first it was my competitiveness that brought me back to yoga. I could see myself physically improving in the postures, I began to accomplish advanced postures, and I was receiving validation for my physical exertion. My relationship with my body began to change, as I began to understand how breath worked, how movement helped and hindered. I slowly became proud of my body again. I remember being elated when I slowly and awkwardly brought my toes to the sky in a headstand. I returned to yoga repeatedly, developing a weekly practice, pushing the limits of my body, and seeing its improvements. I rediscovered respect for my physical body and its accomplishments.
I then began making connections at studios and with teachers and settled on a studio to grow my committed practice. I developed patience in my body when an advanced posture was not accessible. I continued to come to yoga because it was a safe space for me to be in my physical body, which allowed me to slowly feel safe being in my head and heart.
I became a yogi. I am a yogi. Yoga became my normal and an aspect of my identity. It is there for me on the good days, the not-so-good days, and the downright terrible days. For however long I am on my mat, it is okay for me to just be there. No other responsibilities. No other worries. Just me and my breath and my movement-or non-movement (because savasana is still an asana!). I began to understand the meaning of the saying “no mud, no lotus”. I understood that the shit that I had gone through was helping me grow, was helping me understand others, was making me more compassionate to others, was encouraging me to be more loving towards myself. I am resilient. I am aware of my dark moments, and aware that there may be more dark moments to come, but I also became aware of my lightest moments. The moments of joy, growth, beauty, and good. I began to understand that without darkness, there is no light.
I then began to ponder what it would take for me to become a teacher. I doubted myself and the darkness crept back in. I was invited to go to a teaching training with a friend shortly after becoming more comfortable in my practice and I declined. I made excuses and my patterns of self-doubt crept in. Almost two years after that invitation, when I decided to do my training, I did the research in secret, I booked the trip in secret. As confident as I was in my yoga practice and its importance, I was still living in doubt of my own abilities and my dreams.
But then I took a deep breath…
I took a deep breath and I remembered adventure. I took a deep breath and I remembered creativity. I took a deep breath and I remembered independence. I took a deep breath and remembered courage. I took a deep breath and remembered wanting to help. I took a deep breath and remembered compassion. I took a deep breath and I remembered who I was. I took a deep breath and I remembered the importance of yoga in reconnecting me with who I am. I took a deep breath and acknowledged the gift that this reconnection is. I took a deep breath and recognized the shit and the mud that creates growth and the lotus. I took a deep breath and realized I needed to share yoga with others.
I decided to complete my yoga teacher training in Northern Bali, on a month long solo adventure. I travelled alone because I knew I had to reclaim my ability to be alone and be comfortable in my own company. I wanted to reconnect with feelings of magic and freedom more than anything, and Bali was my answer.
I also knew that the yoga I wanted to offer was softer than the powerful yoga I had engaged in during the beginning of my yoga journey. I chose a training that encouraged exploration of spirituality, connection with self, and slower energies. I felt called to connect the practices of yoga with my knowledge of social work, psychology, and trauma and create an experience of yoga that acknowledges and accepts the darkness within the body, the mind, and the spirit.
My breath comes easier to me now. There are still bad days, and downright terrible days. But there are also good days, and there are beautiful days filled with joy and fulfillment.
My hope for you is that yoga can be a part of your journey. A journey where you too can learn about yourself, connect with your body, mind, spirit, movement, and breath. A journey where you too can grow through the shit and bloom through yoga.
In darkness and in light,