Living Yoga

My relationship with yoga all began in August of 1999. I was living on my own in Toronto and working as a Marketing Manager at a high tech company. Two months earlier I had just met Bill, the man of my dreams while visiting NYC for a long weekend with a friend. Bill had just left a few days earlier after a two week visit with me on my home turf, when things started to go seriously wrong.

I was experiencing severe abdominal pain, compounded by violent bouts of nausea and diarrhea. After several visits to my GP and the local Emergency Room, no qualified physician could figure out what was wrong with me. I had volunteered my amateurish diagnosis that a sharp stabbing pain in the lower right abdominal area might be my appendix, but this seemed to fall on deaf ears. My massage therapist at the time recommended that I see Dr. Lam, who is the best Naturopath in the city and quite possibly the country.

The moment I walked into his office, he looked at me with an incredible amount of compassion and gently laid his hand on my belly ( a refreshing change from the tests and invasive exams I received in ER) and knew immediately that it was my appendix. I went straight home and was in the process of preparing to return to the hospital to demand they check me out for appendicitis when I experienced such incredible pain, that all I could do was lay in a fetal position on my bathroom floor.

It was in this moment that I experienced my ‘dark night of the soul’. Let me preface this part of the story by telling you that I am NOT a religious person and can scarcely recall even attending Sunday school as a child. This doesn’t take anything away from my innate spirituality and my strong connection a Devine higher power throughout my entire life. Well, if ever there was a time to call upon this Source, this was one of those defining moments. I literally got on my knees and began to pray. I had revelations and made promises that seemed to pour out of me with such intensity that I felt my entire life had lead me to this moment.

Some of what happen I cannot put into words, nor would that do justice to the magnitude of this experience. What I can say is that part of it involved a great deal of bargaining, surrender and eventually acceptance. One thing I do remember saying was: “Not now, I’m finally getting ‘this’ (my life?) right. I finally met this amazing person that I know I meant to do incredible things with. I’m happy and I’m starting to understand what my purpose is. If you spare me at this very moment, I promise to stop wasting my time in soulless pursuits and begin serving the world in a way that is my calling. I am ready to surrender and let you guide me.”

Then I lost consciousness and dissolved into blackness. As I began to come to, not sure of how much time had past, I immediately crawled to the phone and called my sister to come and take me back to the hospital. I was admitted and waited an unusually long time for my surgery and was bumped twice due to more ‘serious’ operations. Finally the surgeon-on-call performed exploratory surgery that revealed a diseased appendix that had been perforated and leaking for weeks, if not months. My body was slowly being poisoned and it baffled the medical establishment that I wasn’t already dead.

I awoke from this ordeal with family standing vigil and word that Bill was en route from NY and was expected any minute. It was a surreal moment and strangely, I managed to hold myself together enough to actually brush my hair (still in the first blush of a new romance and needing to look nice for my guy). When Bill finally arrived I just let go into a weeping puddle of tears. To this day I still feel emotional when I remember Bill holding me and whispering in my ear “it’s over”, over and over again. Only after to seeing him and hearing this did I believe I actually survived.

Thankfully, my physical recovery was rapid, but that still meant taking it easy. I couldn’t go back to my normal routine of gym workouts and rollerblading. It was on the advice again, of my massage therapist that I should try Kaila Kukla’s Flowyoga class. The moment I called to inquire about her upcoming schedule I could sense her commitment and knew that this was going to be a very different experience from anything I had ever tried. Once I was in her class for the first time, I was hooked and I knew I had found my home.

Shortly after starting a weekly, sometimes bi-weekly routine of Flowyoga, Kaila announced that she was going to offer a year-long teacher training course. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this. Kaila, to her credit, must have recognized my strong calling and as of January 2000 I was meeting every week with 20 other Flowyoga students to go deep into our practice. In addition to the study of the postures themselves we explored, discussed and meditated on some of the masters including the Tao Te Ching, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, The Ten Madhadvidyas (Hindu Wisdom Goddesses) and the more contemporary variety like T.K.V Desikachar and Erich Shiffmann. All these masters including Kaila were guides pointing me to the sign posts of trusting in the universal truth of ‘flowing’ with the experience of my life, letting go of resistance and gaining a deeper appreciation of the moment and the many gifts contained in the present. These painful, challenging or difficult times, brought with them an opportunity for growth and possible enlightenment.

When you’re in the moment, nothing else matters and life reveals incredible truths and wisdom. I also realized that all I needed as I continued on this path was already hardwired inside of me from the moment I came into ’Being’. How refreshing to realize that I didn’t need to access some outside entity/substance/person/thing to find true fulfillment – it was always there. Like the proverbial Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I always possessed the power to return ‘home’ whenever I wanted to, the yellow brick road being a metaphor for my journey. Looking for home and being home are not mutually exclusive, the key is beginning the journey in the first place. My whole world began to open up and I began to move further away from my corporate persona and deeper into my practice by gaining a stronger sense of myself. I counted away my working hours impatiently waiting for the opportunity to get back to the ‘mat’. Exchanging my constricting office shoes and power suits for bare feet and stretchy pants. Soon my extra-curricular life seemed far more authentic than my 9-5, Monday to Friday life.

After several months of juggling this split-personality existence, I was hit with the revelation that the universe had heard me way back during that dark August night and was serving up exactly what I was meant to do. I didn’t dare ignore the signs for fear that I might not survive another ‘cosmic kick in the ass’. Within a year of (at the risk of sounding cliché) my near death experience, I quit my well-paying, very secure corporate job and began teaching yoga full-time. I had heard that once you make a decision with your heart open wide, everything falls into place and the ‘powers that be’ help to give you what you need. Interestingly, the company I was working for was undergoing yet another reorganization downsize, and I was more than happy to take the package and take a walk.

Then, after a year of long-distance dating, Bill moved to Toronto to be with me and we moved in together immediately. This made it easier for me to explore teaching yoga, making a fraction of my salary and still being able to survive. This wasn’t all smooth sailing and there were moments when relics of my former life veered their ugly heads, but running parallel with this was an ever increasing yoga practice that brought me back to my purpose and truth. There will always be the shadow/demon luring us into ego-centric pursuits, but by accessing a state of grace, those demons can be transformed into angels that allow you to see things for the illusion that they are and with that comes the liberation of living your yoga. I realize now that this journey I chose over ten years ago is a constant practice of discovery, surrender, acceptance and mystery that never ceases to inspire and amaze even my most harsh inner critic. By putting my faith and trust in my higher Self, I have been lead to a place of peace and contentment, rich with meaning and substance.

Today I have been married to Bill for eight years, we have two amazing daughters and live in beautiful Nova Scotia. I have a devout gathering of yoga students that I lead in Flowyoga on a weekly basis and I continue to be humbled and awed by the impact it has made in their lives as well as mine. Despite all the fear and uncertainty of that fateful night in August, I’d do it all again. I see now so clearly that it has lead me to a place of discovery and revelation that is so deeply woven into the tapestry of this brief moment that is my life, beyond space and time.
Alexandra Nedergaard
Revised Jan. 2010

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