My Yoga Story: Meg Cooke
I first met yoga, as I understood it then, in high school.
I was excited when my gym class took a yoga class at a nearby studio. My body understood the practice, yoga felt familiar. I was a dancer and had some body awareness.. I suppose I understood the aesthetic of yoga. For the next 5 years or so, any time I dabbled in the physical practice of yoga I understood it quite like that: physical.
I moved to Calgary for university, away from my family for the first time, and let’s be real – I struggled. My family had moved a few times through my childhood and I was shy [read: I am shy]. After trying to slide in as undetected as possible in each new town, I lost sense of who I was. I didn’t know where I fit into the world. I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like. I became withdrawn, anxious, helpless. I couldn’t picture my life in a year. I couldn’t picture my life in a month. I was lonely, and I was exhausted.
So, I got to Calgary and I had a chance to sit with the old wounds of childhood that I had never explored. By the time I got to Calgary though, I didn’t know what the wounds were anymore – there was no story I could make sense of. I realize now that I had manipulated food for a long time before my eating disorder became pervasive. In Calgary it got intense. I was surrounded by so much shame, it was suffocating. I eventually acknowledged what everyone knew, I was not well. I went to treatment and made some positive shifts. I still judged myself more than I would have liked to.
Then everything changed. Life shook me and demanded that I wake up.
My car slid across the highway in the middle of a winter white out in the Kootenay’s. I cannot recall the accident itself – your brain does some pretty incredible things to protect you. What I do know is that I hit another car, and everyone lived.
The next 3 months I was essentially home bound. It was still wintertime in Calgary – a dynamic experience in itself. One day a chinook had the air feeling warm and the sidewalks looking dry, so I crutched myself over to an eclectic book and crystal boutique. I purchased some chakra stones and a book on chakra healing. I didn’t know much about any of it. I started spending time at home visualizing my energy centers and meditating with the stones. Time passed, my bones healed, and months of physiotherapy improved my mobility. I started thinking about yoga, how it might be helpful in strengthening and rehabilitating my body. So, I went, and I got more than I bargained for.
Yoga offered me space to go inward and get to know myself. My practice became my solace. 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, and tendencies to compare and judge myself when my attention moved away from breath. I released emotion stored so deeply within my body that I forgot it was stuck there. As I got to know my internal body, I learned more about its hurt and the lens from which I had been viewing the world. Yoga gave me space to challenge my habits and shift my narrative. I slowly began to develop a friendship with myself, it was revolutionary. As I made a home within my body, my external world shifted in response. Suddenly there was more kindness and compassion around me – had that always been there?
I pursued my 200-hour yoga teacher training with Randelle Lusk (Blacksmith Yoga) in 2017. I shared this experience with 13 incredible individuals. We spent our weekends together over the course of 4 months going in, exploring the Eastern roots of Yogic philosophy. We moved, studied, cried, and grew together. My understanding of the practice both on and off of the mat began to bloom. And the best part is, it doesn’t stop.
Yoga reminds us that being human is full, and it invites us to feel into the entirety of our experience. Yoga welcomes us to observe our joy and our pain with less judgment and more curiosity. As a mental health advocate, social worker and yoga student/teacher, I acknowledge the courage that it takes to show up in this world every day. I aspire to offer and hold space for others to turn inward.
I celebrate yoga’s ability to support the health of us as individuals, and as a collective. We are here together in our humanness, and we have a lot more in common than we allow ourselves to believe.
This is a reminder that your mental, physical, and spiritual health matter. You deserve to delight in your life.
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