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Menial to Meaningful: Ten Years of Elemental

When I was growing up, I didn’t want to accept the fact that I had to make my bed every morning when I woke up. Nor did I want to accept that every time I came home from school I had to put my shoes in the closet and my backpack in its designated space. In fact, I didn’t accept it. Instead I threw my backpack on the floor and I never made my bed. I was also certain I would never work a 9-5 job when I gew up.

Fast forward to college. I was always good at school. So while I despised menial necessities like going to the grocery store, I liked studying for tests and doing my homework. Plus college was always the far away place I would run away to and make a new life for myself when I was finally old enough. While living in the dorm with two other young women a thousand miles from home, I still rejected the idea of ever living a normal life.

Naturally, I pursued the most liberal major available on campus. It was called “The Program of Liberal Studies.” It turned out to be a good fit. The professors were brilliant. There was no such thing as multiple choice tests. Everything was oral. And everyone in the program paid homage to the invisible deity- “critical thinking.

I think it worked.

At college graduation, there was no respectable job waiting for me on the other end. Life was my oyster. I approached it with an attitude of adventure and curiosity. I spent three years traveling between Yoga centers located inside and outside the United States. I think my mom missed me. So she schemed to bring me back to Texas and was pivotal in helping me open the Yoga Studio in 2010.

At this point, my only real world experience was living at Yoga Centers, teaching Yoga, living in foreign countries and editing meditations for my boss in Brazil. This is barely enough to open a Yoga Studio. But at least I was teaching and practicing Yoga daily and devoutly for four years.

When I opened Elemental Yoga, I secretly disdained the Yoga Studio environment. I may have spent less than ten hours total in a studio before running one became my full time occupation. Nearly all my experience with Yoga occurred in yoga communities where people lived full time. These communities were nestled in breath taking areas of the world: the mountains of Santa Cruz, the Berkshires, and the mini mountains of Garopaba, Brazil. I mistakenly believed real Yoga could only take place if one lived in relative seclusion and only made contact with other people doing the exact same thing. Silly me.

Imagine my inner conflict when I moved back to Fort Worth and opened Elemental Yoga. There was a voice inside my head saying “this isn’t real yoga.” Yet there I was. I worked a steady job, showed up to the same place every day and was compelled like the rest of the world to perform daily menial tasks which I couldn’t derive sweeping “What is the meaning of life?” reflections from. It wore on me.

Over the years running a business shifted from being something that was draining to something that was nourishing. What changed? I realized early on that doing “authentic” yoga didn’t require living on a mountain. It required a sincere heart with a yearning to grow.

Running Elemental Yoga has taught me so many things: the willingness to show up regardless of how I feel, the potential to find meaning in any activity, the importance of small choices, not big ones, to cause lasting change over time.

Now, nine and a half years has passed since I moved home from Brazil and opened the studio. It is the quintessential hero's journey in which the hero leaves home to find the meaning of life and finally returns to find that everything she ever sought was always within finger's reach.

One essential thing I think every business owner has to learn is the necessity of marketing. First I resisted marketing like the plague. Then I treated it like a game of Truth or Dare. How much could I share? How vulnerable could I be? How could I grow my confidence and sense of security by being willing to put myself out there without knowing what the results would be?

At some point, truth or dare got old. Plus, I embraced new habits like soccer and jiujitsu which occupied increasing amounts of my time and mental energy. And somewhere along the way of this ten year birth and growth process of Elemental Yoga my sense of self-worth stabilized. What a relief.

I feel oceans of compassion for my twenty year old self. I was an emotional train wreck. A few years after I initiated the process of pulling myself out of that dark hole, I wondered how my life would have gone had I not implemented the tools of Yoga into my life. These tools include movement, breathwork and meditation. It's also a practiced mentality, which is fake (not that I wanted it to be) at first. With patience it becomes real, refined by fire, tested through self-imposed though unintentional pain, responded to by experiential conscientiousness.

Now that almost ten years have passed, I can look back on my personal evolution and the evolution of the community and the members inside of it. I no longer despise menial tasks like making my bed, going to the grocery store or placing my backpack and shoes in their special designated spots when I walk through the door. I have come to cherish the collective Yoga community. I recognize each Yoga studio for what it is- an oasis of support, personal development and love amidst a culture of fast-paced, stressed-out, overworked and spiritually hungry people.

Yoga studios are spiritual havens both for church goers and non-church goers. Yoga is remarkable in its comprehensiveness. Not only does it advocate a universal philosophy that is alignable with any religion or lack thereof, it provides the tools to be happier and to connect deeper with something larger than oneself.

Throughout my teen years I was obsessed with having a relationship with God, dedicating my life to God and doing his/her work in the world. The priests and preachers of the churches I attended spoke constantly about communion with God.

At the time, the only way I was capable of understanding that was through prayer and journaling. This was meaningful and one sided. It wasn’t until I discovered the practice of meditation that I fathomed how to complete the circle and receive back.

My late teacher Baba Hari Dass once said that his only purpose was to bring people to sadhana. Sadhana is a daily spiritual practice which involves meditation, self-reflection and exercises to make the body healthy, like yoga asana and breathing exercises. I strive to continue this purpose at Elemental Yoga.

In Yoga, the student receives numerous tools: asana movements, breathwork, mantra, meditation, self-reflection, philosophy, bodily cleansing exercises, longevity practices, techniques to increase love and compassion. But all of these things are just tricks we employ until we experience the Real.

What is Real? For me, the Real is connection to that which is unchanging. It is deeper than emotion yet passion drives us to it. It's more than concentration, yet concentration leads to its stillness. It is so much more than thinking. It is thought's predecessor. It’s more than a three letter word. It's the ground of being, something eternally available for us to tune into.

Yoga teaches the most important things in life are the most subtle, the most imperceptible. That’s why we start with the breath. It is the bridge. It’s the thing that is always there, something we can mindfully connect with at any moment. And it continues to work tirelessly for us as soon as we begin to ignore it.

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