Student Spotlight with Michalina
B for Berlin and New Beginnings
My trip to Ohio started a long time before I even thought about buying a plane ticket to the U.S. I first met Taylor in March 2017 when I went to his workshop in Berlin. I already knew a bit about him from reading his book and being "friends" on Facebook and Instagram. But, I never expected that he would become my Ashtanga teacher and change my life so much. Berlin was difficult on many levels not only because Taylor was asking more of me in my practice, but also due to dealing with some serious stuff from my past. I felt like I was falling apart. Taylor recognized this immediately, and from the first class I felt a teacher-student connection that I had never experienced before.
I remember listening to his Dharma Talk and how it touched me. I was amazed how I found his story similar to mine, even though I never experienced the exact same struggles. I had already come to realize that I was addicted to a very toxic person from my past, but I had not understood until then how much it had affected me and my life. To be honest, after all I went through, I didn't think I would be able to build trust again. And then Taylor showed up in my life and I was amazed how I trusted him instantaneously.
Admission of powerlessness is the first step in liberation.
Through Taylor sharing his own story and struggles, it got me to the point where I decided to change my life and stop beating myself up over mistakes I made in the past. I quit drinking, and stopped overthinking and being my biggest enemy. It was a hard and long process, but daily practice was helping me and kept me focused on my goals. But, even then I felt like something was still missing. My time in Berlin reminded me how important it is to have a teacher; someone who guides and supports you. When you're a home practitioner as I am, it's freakin' hard sometimes to believe in yourself and to keep disciplined in your practice. So, I found out Taylor would be in Scotland in September and I knew I had to go. The workshop in Glasgow became a breaking point in my practice and in my recovery. I was struggling with my backbends because I was too afraid to open up and drop back. Something was blocking me and I couldn't let that fear go. I remember one Mysore practice when we were working on that, and after a few failures in dropbacks I asked, "Why does it have to be so hard?!" Taylor gave me a look and said, "admission of powerlessness is the first step in liberation...You need to let this shit go, believe in yourself and then you will do it". The truth of what he said hit me hard. Literally, it was so freakin’ obvious, I couldn't believe it.
Taylor had a Dharma Talk that evening, and I brought my friend to hear his story as well. I had this feeling that he was talking straight to me. It also happened to be the last day of Trini Foundation challenge on Instagram, and plenty of people were telling their stories about addictions and recoveries. And, for the first time in my life, I decided to share my story. And you know what? Taylor was right... admission is liberating. Letting shit go is powerful. The next day I did my first dropback on my own. And it was amazing. And somehow, I finally felt free.
Shala means home.
After my experience in Glasgow, I knew that I needed a teacher and that it was Taylor. It was the best decision of my life and I immediately applied for a U.S. visa and bought tickets for my trip to Ohio in July. I spent over two weeks in Columbus. From the very beginning, I was totally impressed by the kindness and friendliness of people who attended the shala there. And not only because they always saved me a spot in the front row for led class on Friday. ;) I was impressed because the community at Ashtanga Yoga Columbus is amazing. I've never felt so comfortable and good around people whom I barely knew. They are all connected by the practice and very committed. You feel it’s something much more than just friendship. And this is what makes this community so special. It doesn't matter where you are from, what your story is, or what you may have went through in the past; they always make you feel at home there.
What I noticed immediately is they are like family. They practice together, work together, hang out together, eat ice creams and tacos together, and care about and support each other. And, it's not just the people from Columbus. This community is much bigger. I've met people who come from other states to practice with Taylor consistently. For someone who lives in Europe, it's not normal to spend six hours on a plane just to attend Mysore classes. But now, after what I've experienced there, I know that I would fly even farther if necessary. Because there is nothing more important and amazing that having people around you who understand and support you. People that have the ability to make you smile even after the hardest practice. This is actually what it is all about. Because this practice is something more than just the physical work. It changes you on so many levels that it becomes an integral part of your life.
Getting to experience Taylor’s teaching in Columbus is also different. He is very committed and genuinely cares about his students. You can see him giving his best to these people every day. He welcomed me into his home, and introduced me to his beautiful family. We got to talk about the important stuff in life and just chill. He made time to meet me for sushi and talk more about my practice which was awesome. I felt so honored.
You know... they say "HOME IS WHERE YOUR MAT IS". I have always thought it was right. But after what happened to me in Ohio, I would probably change it and say "HOME IS WHERE YOU LEAVE YOUR HEART ON YOUR MAT". Well, I left mine at Ashtanga Yoga Columbus. I found much more there than I ever expected. And I’m more than sure that I’ll be coming back a lot. Because now, AYC means home for me too.