When I heard that the theme of this year’s Victoria Yoga Conference was belonging, I may have squealed.
Belonging has been an interesting concept in my life, and one which I struggled with through most of my experience. My family moved a handful of times while I was growing up – from Steinbach to Winnipeg to Revelstoke to Cranbrook – always circumstantial, and ultimately for the best.
Somewhere around Cranbrook I gave up on belonging. I had found my way in Revelstoke but I couldn’t bring myself to do it again. I have always been quite analytical; baby photos show my serious gaze more than my smile, as I was often assessing my surroundings. New cities, new schools, and new peers were quite an exhausting feat as I stood on the sidelines and tried to make sense of social dynamics. It was difficult to put myself out there again, so I didn’t.
I didn’t know where I fit in and ultimately, I didn’t know who I was. There was a heaviness around me and inside of me as I navigated the world for the next decade or so. This period of my teens and early twenties was filled with self-doubt and anxiety. I internalized every misstep and blamed myself for my inability to form healthy relationships. I turned on my body, shaming and blaming it for not being perfect enough for me to be happy. I shrunk myself, trying to disappear, until I was unable to deny my struggles and had to begin some serious self-reflection and self-work.
Yoga as a framework for healing.
My yoga practice became my solace. I initially began practicing yoga as a means to strengthen and rehabilitate my body after a head on collision, but the connection to self that I found went far beyond physical restoration. I could work through things on the mat that I was not yet ready to vocalize or process through other means. I became aware of my thought patterns, the tendency to compare and judge myself when my thoughts moved away from breath. I released emotion stored so deeply within my body that I forgot it was stuck there. I still remember the first time I was brought to tears on my mat, while I was in pigeon pose. I’m not sure what had been stuck in my hips before that class, but it certainly made its way through and out that day. As I got to know my internal body I learned more about its hurt and the lens from which I viewed the world. Yoga gave me space to challenge my habits and shift into befriending myself. To this day, part of my practice is to repeat the mantra “I am worthy” when I recognize myself slipping into self-deprivation. Some days, I am rooted enough in love to remind myself that actually, I am that: pure and divine love.
As I made a home within my body, it is natural that my external world shifted in response. Suddenly there was more kindness and compassion outside of myself – had that always been there? People were mostly good, mostly kind, mostly wanting the best for others. Looking back, I understand that without being able to trust myself it was impossible to trust others. I had to come home to myself in order to find space in the greater community. Creating a sense of belonging in my body was necessary to move into my place in the world.
Since arriving in Victoria on August 31st, I have been met with more support and community than I could have dreamed. I am continuously astonished by the presence of love in my life. I have a dear friend who reminds me that perhaps this is not by chance; perhaps my openness to these encounters is what drives the connection.
Today, I am passionate about sharing my experience and facilitating space for others to turn inward. Yoga allows us to notice what patterns we might be holding onto that are preventing us from showing up fully in our lives. With practice, we can begin to challenge old ideas and start integrating new and more helpful tendencies both on and off of the mat.
Self-compassion & self-love. Ever a practice, and one that I am so grateful to have found.
Meg Cooke pursued her Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training with Randelle Lusk of Blacksmith Yoga in the winter of 2017, and she is grateful for the experience of new depth and understanding of the yoga practice. Meg loves learning, and has embarked on her Advanced Teacher of Therapeutic Yoga Training with Ajna Yoga. She looks forward to combining her passions of social work and yoga in some context in the future.
Meg is thrilled to be involved with the Victoria Yoga Conference this year and is look forward to connecting with you!