How Infinity Therapeutic Yoga Came to be...
2014 will go down in my personal history as being one of the most pivotal years of my life. It was the year that my path and place in the world (or as the yogis say: my dharma), became clear to me. I could feel it in my bones, like whenever you know the absolute unshakeable truth of something. Have you had that feeling before? It was also the year that the idea of a studio called Infinity was planted as a tiny seedling in my consciousness.
Back to 2014…I was trying to find my footing in my new full-time career as a yoga teacher, and was also studying to be a yoga therapist. I had been teaching yoga since 2006, but only part time. I was soaking up Module 2 of my yoga therapy training with Integrative Yoga Therapy at Kripalu, a yoga center in Massachusetts. I had been a special education teacher full time, but my own struggles with anxiety and depression finally caused me to reach a “breaking point,” and I had to quit mid-year due to unbearable depression.
My yoga practice saved me: it helped me crawl back into sanity. I had to do the work of acknowledging and finally beginning to heal the shadow side of myself that was responsible for crippling anxiety attacks and very unhealthy patterns of self-sabotage and self-hatred.
And, I was about to learn first-hand at how beneficial yoga is when healing from physical pain and injury: I had just been in a bike accident right before leaving, and I suffered a painful shoulder injury (grade 3 separation of acromioclavicular joint). At the same time, I was also unknowingly pregnant with our oldest daughter, Keira, but I didn’t really believe it could be true at the time. Ryan and I had been trying for a while, but my body was still recovering from years of exercise-bulimia, extreme calorie restriction, and almost constant anxiety. After about 2 years of trying to conceive, I was starting to lose hope. Of course, I was starting to notice changes, but I was still getting accustomed to listening to my body--really, really listening. Before, I only listened to my body if it was screaming at me.
I totally immersed myself in yoga. In the program, I was learning to work with people that have particular health conditions through the lens of yoga. I was thinking critically and creatively...I was repeatedly asked to take a deep look into myself and to observe my own patterns so that I could teach from an authentic place--and start to heal my own stuff.
And, I was deeply exploring the more subtle practices in yoga, which had previously been somewhat foreign to me. Before this experience, all I truly knew was intensity: power vinyasa flow, intense workouts that pushed my body to the limits. I was only able to catch a few minutes of stillness after I had a good sweat, burned through some layers of my stuff, and felt like I earned rest. Restorative yoga, up until this point, had always made me feel way too anxious--I was physically and mentally unable to just be with myself. That lying voice of the inner-critic was so loud then, always telling me I wasn’t good enough; I wasn't’ skinny enough, interesting, smart or talented enough ….that what I had to say wasn't important enough to deserve being heard….that I wasn’t brave enough or special enough to deserve the things that I desired in my life...
But that year, I was forced to SLOW down. The combination of the accident and pregnancy was like the universe slapping me in the face, saying “You are going to slow down and work through your stuff--now! Here is your path, this was meant for you. Everything was leading you here. Now you’ve got to do the real work of yoga.”
The injury became a great teacher. It was amazing! I was able to experience these subtle practices of yoga working on my own freshly-injured shoulder. I discovered the power of the yogic practices I had previously been avoiding: somatic movement, meditation, restorative yoga, and Yoga Nidra. I finally understood so much, because I could feel it! The internal movement of prana (energy)! The body healing and bringing balance to itself...the five koshas (layers of our being) and how they are constantly interacting--now it all made sense. It was beyond exciting. I knew that once I returned home, I would be forever changed by this experience. The voice of my inner best friend (a.k.a the voice of truth) began to finally drown out the voice of my inner critic (or, the voice of fear, which lies).
Near the end of the program, while in a deep state of meditation, the infinity sign shined bright behind my closed eyelids. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew in my gut and in my heart that it was important.
Once I returned home, I found out that Ryan & I were, in fact expecting. Of course, all of the emotions, all of the planning, and all while I was healing from an injury and traveling around the city as a yoga instructor and personal trainer. During this time, my supportive, intelligent husband and baby-daddy suggested the idea of opening up our own studio together--a therapeutic studio very different from the rest. The studio would highlight the healing, therapeutic benefits of yoga for body and mind. Of course, I freaked. “No way, you aren’t good enough or important enough to do something like that! Who do you think you are?!” said the voice of my inner critic. My inner critic may have also yelled at Ryan.
Ryan, of course, is not only my baby-daddy. He has been my husband since 2009 and my partner in life since 2005. He values family and is a genuine good person. He is hard-working and ethical: he is the co-owner of his own psychotherapy practice in the Monadnock Building. And, he shares some important traits with his baby-momma: 1) We both have a sh*t-ton of grit and fiery determination 2) We share a core belief of wanting to have a positive impact on the world by helping to create peace within the hearts and minds of individuals, by helping in the ways that we feel called to help. We believe that every individual client or student that we can positively impact does make a difference in the world.
After our first daughter was born, I got back to my traveling yoga teacher lifestyle. I finished my program to become a C-IAYT (Certified Yoga Therapist) and started doing my work in clients’ homes and renting space in other studios. During one of the modules of my program, I had been greatly inspired by the work and voice of one of the teachers, Genevieve Yellin. Genevieve’s work focuses on a trauma-informed perspective to teaching yoga, and using yoga and holistic methods to manage mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. At the end of my certification process, I had applied for her to be my mentor, and she accepted. With her guidance and training, I began to focus much more of my own work on the mental health benefits of yoga. I became a certified facilitator of Genevieve’s evidence-based Overcome Anxiety Clinic.
From deep in my bones, the vision of Infinity kept growing stronger and more clear: A unique, welcoming space where I and other like-minded teachers could spread a therapeutic approach to yoga. An opportunity to collaborate on a completely new level with my husband to include the mental health perspective. That “inner best friend” (aka the voice of truth), said “You can do this. It is going to be freaking hard. You are going to walk through fire and you will be tested, and sometimes you will want to quit but you won’t. But it will be worth it.”
Many discussions were had before Ryan and I settled on a space inside the Monadnock Building. In the Chicago Loop, an area with many high-stress jobs and college campuses, there is just not enough yoga.
The infinity sign--of course! It meant I should not doubt myself. That there are limitless possibilities. Trust.
Infinity was the name that we chose.
We would plant our roots in the business district of Chicago. We would be husband and wife, mommy and daddy, and business partners. What could go wrong? We signed the lease.
Then...I found out I was pregnant— again. Definitely added another challenge.
Despite the mistakes we made as new business owners and all the (ahem) extremely rough patches, I have never looked back. Every time I see a student light up because their practice revealed something that they have never realized before or hear a student say they feel so much better physically or mentally after yoga, I am reminded that this is my life’s work.
All of the pain, all of it—it brought us here. It didn’t make sense at the time. But now I know, I had to walk through the fire. There will be more fires to walk through, and I welcome it.
There is so much good to come! I am so grateful to have assembled a team of uniquely talented yoga teachers (and beautiful human beings) to assist me in passing the torch of yogic wisdom. So it goes, as it has for thousands of years: teacher, student; teacher, student. Although the poses & the details may change over the years to adapt to the knowledge of the times (and thank goodness it does), the heart of yoga remains: unconditional love and pure awareness.
I am not the healer, you are your own healer. Yoga is the catalyst.