How Yoga Changed My Life

dancer poseEvery story has a beginning… and this is mine. It’s something I’ve been hesitant to share because let’s be honest, it’s very personal. But as I embark on this new chapter in my life and begin my yoga teacher training, I felt that it was important to share how yoga has shaped who I am today and why I’ve decided to take it a step further. The photos you see throughout this post were captured at a nature preserve in Florida where my practice began. I felt it was only fitting to go back to where it all started while taking you through the various “chapters” of my yoga life.

Whether you’ve been following “Headstands and Heels” since it’s inception or if you’re brand new to my page, I’m so happy you’re here. I’m truly honored to share my story with you.

Without further adieu, let’s begin.

Chapter 1: Florida

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How It All Started

It was July 2013. I had just turned 24 years old and my life had simultaneously turned upside down with it. My dog, a feisty and loving Dachshund of thirteen years, had passed away from heart complications just five days after my birthday. Only two weeks after that, I came to find out the man I was engaged to be married to had cheated on me. After calling off the wedding and breaking off my relationship, I was left completely broken.

I’m honestly not sure why I decided to go to my first yoga class. Regardless of the reason, I found myself at a local studio and after an intense flow, cried so hard during savasana that I’m sure the other classmates thought I was a complete weirdo. Despite the outpour of emotion (or maybe because of it) something inside of me lit up that day.

Why I Joined The #IGYogaFamily

After that day in the studio I started following a few inspiring yogis on Instagram including Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl), Laura Kasperzak (@laurasykora) and Kerri Verna (@beachyogagirl). I was in awe of the physical strength and flexibility that these yogis possessed but more importantly loved their positive messages of self-love and empowerment. They just seemed so incredibly happy and I wanted that for myself.

After about 8 or 9 months of following from a distance, I decided to create my own yoga centric Instagram account where I could participate in daily challenges and document my progress. @MelYoga1 was never meant to turn into a blog. And I think that’s the incredible thing… this one small step was the beginning of something bigger that I couldn’t even fathom at the time.

How It Helped Heal My Heart

I used my yoga practice as a physical outlet for stress and to channel my emotions in a positive way — but more importantly the time spent on my mat was also one spent in prayer. I attribute the healing of my heart to God, not yoga, but yoga was the vehicle that He used to help me through a tough time in my life. And for that I’ll be forever grateful.

Practicing yoga daily helped me become more self-aware. The positive affirmations and mantras pushed me to focus on the many blessings I had in my life instead of lingering on negative thoughts. Self-love and mindfulness were the themes of my first few months of practice and they have carried through in a different capacity ever since.

Chapter 2: New York City

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How My Practice Changed

December 2013, I met a man at a random bar in Brooklyn during an even more random visit with one of my girlfriends. Needless to say, we hit it off really well and it wasn’t long until we were in love. Bay (no, not b-a-e) and I dated long-distance, alternating visits to NY and FL respectively each month for a little over a year. Then in May 2015 I decided to make the move from a small beach town to the Big Apple for my career and for love.

Transitioning from the laid back lifestyle of Florida to the hustle of the big city was not an easy task. My first post-college job at a social media boutique agency allowed me to work from home every day and suddenly I found myself working at a global PR firm on the 19th floor of a skyscraper in Manhattan. My yoga practice came to a screeching halt for a good 5 months and I was considering deleting my Instagram account altogether.

Why I Started My Blog

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Instead a few colleagues of mine who happened to be bloggers convinced me to turn @MelYoga1 into a yoga and lifestyle blog. After some serious thought, Headstands and Heels was born, and with it a reignited passion for yoga.

I started making a point to get on my mat and practice after work a few times a week at home. Eventually I joined ClassPass and started attending various yoga studios in the city. I was incredibly excited for the small physical changes I started seeing as a result of a routine practice and other fitness classes worked in. It wasn’t long before I started to work with brands and more importantly, started to connect with various fitness enthusiasts. I honestly have to say that’s my favorite part about this entire yoga journey. The relationships I’ve made along the way have been invaluable and have kept me sane when life is the most chaotic.

Chapter 3: Yoga Teacher Training 

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What Inspired Me To Pursue My Certification

After nearly 4 years of practicing yoga on my own, I realized that I was craving the opportunity to go beyond sharing it on a screen. As much as I love solo practice, I get the most joy when I practice with other people. I love the feeling of walking people through a flow, demonstrating how to correctly do a pose, and watching their faces light up when they do something they’ve never thought they’d ever be able to do before. That’s probably why I’m so excited about my new Girlboss Squad series! It gives me the opportunity to practice partner yoga with some incredibly talented girls.

The feeling that I needed to take my practice to the next level has been lingering inside me for over a year now. That’s why on New Year’s Eve, I made it my resolution to make it happen.

Why I Chose Yoga Vida

I debated doing my training in some place tropical but in the end decided that staying in NYC was the right decision for me. After some extensive research, I opted to do my 200 hr YTT program at Yoga Vida. It was one of the first yoga studios I practiced at after moving here. I really love the style of teaching, the airy studio space in Dumbo, and the fact that it lacks the pretentiousness that some other studios tend to get.

When I saw that they were offering a Summer Intensive, I went straight to my boss to see if my job would be willing to let me take the month off. I’m so incredibly grateful that they did and am sure I’ll be returning to work with a new sense of invigoration in July.

After speaking with the kind folks at Yoga Vida, I officially enrolled and here we are! In less than two weeks I will officially be a yoga teacher in training.

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What’s To Come

As I wrap this post up I’m overwhelmed with emotion. Being on this journey has truly changed me — in every possible way. I’m nervous and excited for the road ahead and hope that as I document the upcoming month I’ll help other people who are looking to try yoga for themselves. This is what it’s all about folks. Inspiration. Connection. Motivation.

Be sure to follow along on Instagram starting June 5th for a daily account of what I’m learning and how I’m feeling during my training at Yoga Vida. And please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask any questions! I love chatting with you all.

Thank you so much for reading.

With lots of love,

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Special thanks to Athleta for styling this post and to Yoga Vida for partnering with me during this next chapter of my life.

2 Comments

  1. I’m SO excited for you — the June intensive last year was amazing and I loved being fully immersed into YTT. Can’t wait to read / hear all about it ❤️

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