Lain Mackenzie: Teacher

One of my last assignments for my yoga teacher training is to talk a little about myself. A personal introduction to my future students. Before sitting down to write it, this felt a little strange to me, almost too self-centered and it made me uncomfortable. Once I sat with it a little longer, I realized that I need my students to know my journey and how I might best help them in theirs. I needed to give them my tattered road map so they could learn from my own experience getting to a place of peace and oneness with life. I feel like I am now brimming over with ideas and experiences that I wish to share with whomever needs it.

I have always felt like I needed to be of service. Even as a young girl in the church and girl scouts, I really loved working for the community and feeling like I was doing something for the benefit of others. It made me feel good. Even working in management in my adulthood, I tried to help my employees in whatever way I could, be it more training to get them promoted or to be a shoulder to cry on when life kicked them down. I tried to stay available to them and be a source of comfort. Sometimes that was my downfall, when I cared so much and it was still ‘just business’ to some.

The stress of corporate life had swallowed me up for ten plus years and I had always wished I could try something new. I found yoga when I most needed it. I started to go regularly to my local studio within walking distance and it felt so good and right! But life kept going and I fell off every couple months, citing my 50+ hour work week as the problem. The real problem was I wasn’t ready to go all in with my practice. I still held my self loathing above my self worth.

Growing up, I had found it difficult to open myself up. I suffered from a deep depression in high school, being scared of who I really was. In constant fear that my loved ones would stop caring about me if they knew the truth. The realization that I was gay was a hard one for me, knowing that it would make my life harder to navigate coming from a very religious background. It solidified my teenage brain into a cycle of depression, self hatred and secrecy. It took a long time to feel okay in my own skin. I had never loved myself, and my yoga practice forced me to begin knocking the walls down and look deeper.

One day when I was really unhappy at work, I started taking some college classes for a future that I wanted to move toward, going into Hospitality Management. I only got through two semesters before I felt pulled toward another certification, my yoga teacher training. I had wanted to start my own business where I would teach yoga, run retreats and serve my community with a place to gather. I was going to wait to do my yoga training after my degree was completed, but one day I found an online training called ‘Yoga 4 Love” and pulled out my credit card immediately without hesitation.

There was no question I needed to do something. To shift my life toward another purpose. I felt it in my bones. Within two months of starting my training online, I quit my job and decided that I was not okay allowing stress to dictate my well-being anymore. It was a very emotional decision, losing the image of myself that I held so tightly for so long, but I knew that I could no longer put myself through emotional torture for a fat paycheck. I’m lucky to have a partner that really understood my suffering and gave me the permission that I felt I needed to save my sanity. She gave me the strength to take the leap. My fellow yoga teacher trainees also showed me a way of life that I yearned for. One of self care and self love.

It has been a year of major transitions, the biggest being our move three hours away from family and friends to open our own retreat center. It has not been a smooth road, and I have questioned our actions many times, but I knew that if I kept listening to my heart that it would never lead me astray. I began this journey to self love and I now feel confident that my story and knowledge can be what I share to help others.

Please contact me if you feel pulled to. Know that you are worth loving and worth the journey.

Love & Light!

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Joy in movement

Whenever I feel stuck or stagnant in a pose, I tend to make it a dance. At first I held it back and told myself that there is a reason you are meant to hold the pose for three to five breaths. But sometimes you just have to feel what’s in your body, and flowing slowly through the poses in dance feels so good! I have decided that my practice is just that, mine! When teaching a specific Vinyasa style or sequence, that is the time to listen to my teachers and my training. I find joy in both ways of yoga expression.

I have had many body image issues throughout my life and my yoga journey, but when I feel the strength of my body in a pose or dancing by myself I feel beautiful and tapped in. The energy flows through me and I feel alive and worthy.

Yoga unfortunately has become mostly for the rich who can afford a 15+ dollar class three times a week with perfect abs and amazing headstands. I want my center to be for everyone, at a price point that is manageable and all inclusive to my community. This means that woman who really wanted to try it will hopefully take that chance and join us.

I hope more plus size people can tap into that flowing energy of knowing that you are not your body, and you are not your mind. You are eternal and you are magnificent! Can’t wait for the Yurt to be build so I can start teaching and dancing with my new yogi family!

Self-love for the Self-loather

I am reading “The Path of the Yoga Sutras” by Nicolai Bachman and I am on the Eight Limbs of Yoga (Astanga). The Yamas and Niyamas in the eight limbs are like the yogi’s equivalent of the ten commandments, the ethical practices and personal self-care to have a more pure and happy life.

The yamas: 1. nonviolence, truthfulness. 2. not taking from others. 3. conservation of vital energy. 4. nonpossessiveness

The niyamas: 1. cleanliness of body, heart-mind, and surroundings. 2. contentment 3. practice causing positive change. 3. study by and of oneself. 4. humility and faith.

The yamas were pretty clear to me, having been raised in a Christian household. The niyamas were a little different. I had really never learned about self-care growing up. I knew that certain unhealthy foods that I ate would make me gain weight and that smoking was bad for you, but delving deeper into my psyche and my inner goodness was somewhat foreign. This was no fault of my parents. They had given me a good moral backbone and kept me on a virtuous path the best they could.

My journey of learning more about yoga has been fast tracked by my work with self-care, thanks to my teacher Lisa Ware and her teacher training. At first I didn’t understand why I had to do all these self-care assignments about affirmations and taking time for myself. I was there to learn the poses (asanas) and teach it to others, that’s it! But I didn’t realize that most of yoga IS that self reflection and meditation. The physical asanas are grand, but all they are intended for is getting the body ready for deep meditation. I was blown away by this.

I had a lot of years of self-loathing under my belt and at first this process did not seem like something I could do. How could I look in the mirror and say ‘I love you’ while looking myself dead in the eyes? The thought almost made me sick to my stomach. I wasn’t even in one of my depression spells and this seemed impossible to achieve. I had put myself down for so long that lifting myself back up out of the blackness seemed like a herculean feat that I couldn’t do on my own. But with some guidance from the sutras, my teachers, my wife, my friends and my yogi tribe I have come a long way to crawling out of my negative headspace to a place of hope.

I think the first step was agreeing that everyone is made of goodness, and if that was true, I was too. No matter how many dark patterns (samskaras) I found myself in over and over again, I could break the cycle and start fresh. I was never a lost cause and I was worth finding. Once I truly believed that, so many of my samskaras were glaringly obvious to me and I was able to counteract them and breathe through my normal patterns to make a better choice. It felt like I had control for the first time in a long time, but looking deeper at the feeling, it was surrender.

There is so much in this world we cannot control. The more we try, the more helpless we feel. The real way to contentment (santosa) is to discern what we can do ourselves and what we need to let go. Just like the serenity prayer ” God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It makes perfect sense that it is the prayer used for people who are plagued by addiction. We are addicted to our patterns, they make scars from their constant use and it is hard to get out of those ruts. We have to take the time to search inward to see that we are magnificent and deserve happiness.

The universe (god) will send us what is needed on our path to grow and learn so that we can give our love and gifts to others. We also bring into our lives what we attract. If we are clouded by hate and negativity, we will bring more of that into our lives. We need to start with a strong foundation, and that is fed by loving-kindness to ourselves. A quote I love and try to live by is from Rupaul “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen?” Truer words have never been spoken!

Please try and take some time for yourself, especially in this hectic holiday season. Feed your soul first, so you can be present and give to others in your life. You are the jewel in the lotus, growing from the muck and shining from within. You are worthy and you deserve it!

Love & Light!