Finding My Tribe

Boy, it’s been a long time coming. I have felt like a fish out of water, teaching Yoga in College Station, Texas, for as long as I can remember. As I wrote in a blog post last summer, I felt like I’d been living on the island of misfit toys. For so long, I have dreamt of having a Freedom Style tribe; people who are into practicing and living a guided-from-within life, not people who come to my class because it’s the one on the schedule at 6:00 at the gym or the studio. I have struggled and cried buckets of tears and wondered if I had misheard my calling. I mean, where are the people who really want to live this stuff, not just perfect their dog pose or stand on their head as a measure of “yoga success?” WHO CARES about that?! I sure don’t.

For a very long time, I was the lone yoga teacher here in my town. There were no studios here when I first started out. In fact, I taught at a gym, then ran my classes out of a church. Somehow, I thought I would attain success as a teacher if I ended up at a big, beautiful studio, with 30 or 40 people in my class. As I continued down my journey as a teacher, I began to realize that my teaching – though it was all I knew and quite normal for me – was definitely not the norm. The way that I practice, teach, and live Yoga doesn’t fit into the generally accepted notion that yoga is a physical exercise, a workout, all about pushing edges, “building heat,” holding poses for as long as the teacher says, with instruction after instruction, vinyasa after vinyasa, yoga selfie after yoga selfie. Ugh.

I remember teaching classes at two new studios recently, filled with the shiny hope of finally finding my people, my tribe, my kindred that I have so longed to find…only to discover that people at large studios aren’t interested in what I have to offer. I recall many times during my classes discussions on what Yoga is about, seeing people looking at their watches, wondering when we were going to get to the “real yoga.” I’ll never forget looking up during the meditation at the beginning of class one day to see a lady doing arm balances on the back row. God, where are my people?! My tribe?! Asana (the yoga poses) is such a tiny, miniscule, microscopic part of what Yoga is about. Why are people so focused on asana?? I just don’t get it.

I think I would either be insane or I would have quit teaching altogether if it weren’t for my saving grace: a place called the Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana. Talk about tribe, this is tribe in the deepest sense of the word, for me. Every July for one week, 30-40 Freedom Style yogis gather together to discuss, meditate, and do freefom yoga together, led by my teacher, Freedom Style colleage, and sweet soul friend Erich Schiffmann. When I get to the ranch, I breathe a massive sign of relief because I am home. Everyone there gets it, they get me, and we all get each other. It’s like family. I’ve wondered all these years why I can’t find this sort of tribe in my hometown?

Finally, last spring, The Universe did for me what I couldn’t do for myself and I was gratefully plucked out of the studio environment, altogether. As they say, when a door closes, a window always opens. Turns out, a friend of mine decided to lease a small studio space in the back of a large house, which she has called Westward MindBody Works. It’s a light-filled breath of simplicity. I’m back to running all of my own classes again, and, much to my complete shock and surprise, I have finally found my tribe! I’ve learned that it was never in big classes at a fancy studio. It’s in a small, intimate environment of 10 students at a time, where I can get to know everyone and they can get to know me. I’m blown away by the people who truly grace me with their presence: profound seekers who want to discuss Yoga with a Capital Y, people who want to explore bhakti yoga – chanting, spiritual dance, working with mandalas – and people who want to live the Yoga on a daily basis. Finally, I’m home!! I feel like I’ve been in the desert for a long time and I’ve found my way to the oasis, taking a cool, long, much needed drink. Man, does it ever feel so nourishing and healing.

Jai, Freedom Tribe! Thank you, Universe. It’s been a long time coming and I am so, incredibly grateful. Gratefully FULL.

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10 thoughts on “Finding My Tribe

  1. I hear you. I hear you. Thank you for finding the words. I appreciate how challenging that can be, at times, during those tough times. You are learning. We are learning, to trust in a new way, a deeper way, a more real way. Now You/we walk different, we Are different, FREE to BE, swirling and dancing until the next Gift arrives to takes us another step deeper within the Arms of Grace. I SEE YOU and I LOVE YOU.

      • I remember all those years ago when we were the two lone yoga teachers out there! We have always walked to our own drummer! We will continue to! I think we caught the vision a long time ago! I’m grateful you developed your own style and I have developed my own style! I’ve never been much of a what I call a ” cookie cutter” yoga teacher. You have learned so much from your journey. We will continue to learn and grow, I hope, for the rest of our lives.

      • Yes, it’s a blessing in disguise to have the only option be to go within to learn, and to teach from our own direct experience. Thanks for your love and friendship, Bonnie. You are such an integral part of my journey, and I am forever grateful.

  2. So happy to hear you have found your tribe. I will never forget how you impacted me during my years there. Those classes you taught out of the church were an oasis in a town that I did not resonate with, despite my love for it. Know that you were a special force and a guide all along to many of us…more than you can ever know. You are finally getting to receive the energy that you create now that you have found community. How cool! I would love to be a part of it and yet, I know that I already am because I carry the lessons with me. In each transition in love and life, I remind myself to ride the wave…on and off the mat.

    • Yes, indeed, N, you are most definitely already a part of it!! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. It means more to me than you know! Lots of love to you. I miss you!

  3. I totally concur with Traveling Boots on this one. You supplied me with a core teaching that I still carry today, even though I am not in classes with you…which I do miss…it is a schedule thing…But I awake each morning, take my java outside and sit in my chair, gaze at the sky, become present and daily work at that….all because YOU were my first exposure, experience to true Yoga….Love to you and so very glad you are finding your tribe :)…Namaste

  4. Perhaps it was in reality a Sangha you were looking for.
    I too long to find such a Tribe here where I live, but sadly its 48 minutes of asana and then 5 of savasana and then out the door.
    I would like a class that included Meditation, because after all that is what Yoga is about, at least for me.
    By the way i am glad to have found your wordpress.
    Peace and love to you.

    • Hi Bill, great to see you here! Yes, a sangha, a spiritual community is definitely what I was looking for – people interested in actually living this stuff. I agree with you – meditation is the most important part. It’s so strange to me that it’s often not even included in a class experience. Love to you, too. Thanks for chiming in here!

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