Your Own Grand Adventure by Kristen DeAndrade
When I was a child, I pushed myself to be the very best version of myself that I could be. Limitations, disability; those words did not exist in my vocabulary. Short stature was a part of who I was but it never kept me from doing what I loved or being happy.
As I got older, I unknowingly began to give society the authority to tell me what I could and could not do. My capabilities becoming solely based on my stature. The outside world’s potential to make me something I wasn’t had exceeded my aptitude for greatness. In an ocean prominent on perfection, this little water droplet screamed imperfection.
Then one day, I woke up. Yes, I was different. So what? We are resilient beings with enormous capacity for change and rebirth. The more we understand ourselves, each other and our differences, the faster the wall of judgment crumbles. Our differences lose their eminence and we see each other as individuals; beautiful.
What brought me to my senses?
It was 2005, I was in college, when I was first introduced to this so called practice. Initially, I just thought people were going to get frozen yogurt. Being from Boston, dropping and adding vowels or consonants wasn’t unheard of and I just figured yoga was slang for a quick trip to TCBY. Frozen yogurt… yog-aht… yog-uh... yoga. There's definitely room for confusion there, right? Go ahead, you have to laugh.
My first class was a heated vinyasa flow and I left feeling dehydrated, confused and convinced that this yoga thing was not for me. I’d rather have frozen yog-aht. And yet, for some reason, I went back again and again and again. To be honest, I’m not sure that I could have told you why in the moment. Something about it simply felt right.
With little legs and a big heart, I was a woman holding a ticket to ride or flow, if you will. That ticket was my practice and the journey was and continues to be one of self-discovery, healing and love. There aren’t many things in this world that are infinite. Yoga is; always changing, evolving and providing opportunities for learning. It means something different for everyone.
Socrates said, “It is a shame for a woman to grow old without ever seeing the strength and beauty of which her body is capable.” For most of my young adulthood, I saw myself as incapable and unable to live up to this idea of a perfect, able body. The practice of yoga revealed and continues to unveil the fact that I am not disabled but differently abled. Simply showing up on my mat is a most beautiful thing; whether I complete a 60 minute flow, drop to child's pose when I need or spend the entire class in savasana. The way I see yoga? It’s Your Own GrandAdventure. My yoga, my adventure was what paved my path to healing through authenticity.
My very first breakthrough came during a savasana. The teacher began speaking about loving ourselves for who we were despite the status quo. For a reason that I could not put my finger on in that moment, I began to weep. There I was, rolled onto my right side in the fetal position with tears streaming down my face. Whatever she said caused my heart to break open. It was the beginning of my outer layers being peeled away.
My asana plays a huge role in my authentic healing; starting on my mat. A place of safety, freedom and self expression – a place I know that I am free to be me. There is no judgment, no harsh words, no staring, no laughing or pointing. Here, I am fully present, grounded by my decisions and guided by love. Every time I step onto my mat, I become vulnerable and can express that vulnerability without having to use words.
There is a lot of beauty that comes from knowing my strengths and dropping the urge to push myself over the edge. Physically, my asana has taught me to respect my boundaries and honor my body – whatever that looks like. Today, I am lucky to be standing and walking on my own two feet. Modifications and props are my go-to. There are times my body craves a sixty minute heated vinyasa flow and other times I simply need to lay flat on my back with my legs up the wall. Allowing myself to find child’s pose when my body needs it, in the middle of a class – that is what makes me a strong yogi.
Love is the fluidity and core of who I am and in my practice my intention is to love myself, honor my body and recognize my breath without comparison. In my heart I know that my mat is a sanctuary, somewhere I can always go to simply be with. What I did not expect was there to be a lot of underlying discomfort in that sensation. That underlying inquietude is also a reflection of the uncomfortable feelings that I hold onto surrounding my past and how society views my different-ability.
Needless to say I fall far from the mainstream individuation of a present day yogi you see on Instagram or a magazine cover. No one else in this world has walked in my shoes, nor do they have a yoga practice that looks remotely similar to mine. When you think about the enormous complexity of such a phenomenon, that everyone has their own inimitable practice, it’s extraordinary. My physical practice and constant progress have erased the boundaries of adversity that I once created for myself and that others continue to create for me based on my stature.
From my experience, there is nothing worse that being outed or unheard. The outside world has the potential to make us something that we are not. Society led me to believe that I was not enough. Truth is, they’ve always been wrong. What I have, my abilities, even if I do things differently, that is something. My heart tells me it is everything. I am more than a diagnosis, a statistic, a label, a condition or a limitation.
My yoga has taught me to forge meaning and build identity; forging meaning through personal evolution and building identity by sharing my story and changing the world. This grand adventure I am on is expansive and I have drawn strength from my practice. The poses, they’re simply shapes. Being able to balance or invert — that doesn’t classify me as a good or bad yogi. Yoga is for EVERY BODY. Asana only makes up a small part of the journey.
Grateful am I to have landed here in Florida and become a part of The Yoga Society community both in Jupiter and West Palm Beach. It is an honor and a privilege to walk this path alongside every beautiful yoga teacher and student I have met.
Yoga is how I live my life, how I understand my inner workings, physically and emotionally. From the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep is my yoga. My practice has taught me how strong, capable and beautiful my soul suit is. There are days that life gets gritty and that knowledge becomes clouded. The science of yoga, both on and off the mat, is there to remind me and rekindle the loving fire in my heart.Thinking, feeling, doing, saying — Yoga is right NOW. Not what happened or what could be. It is the words we choose to use towards ourselves, our thoughts about others, how we interact with our environment; it shows up in every aspect of life.
Stop. Take a deep breath in. Exhale. And fall in love with your own grand adventure.
Namaste, beautiful souls.