Tag Archives: yoga

Transformation

It’s that time of year again… the summer is drawing to a close, with everyone taking their last trips down the shore, enjoying the joys that summer always brings, while preparing excitedly for a brand new school year.

At this time every year, I like to reflect upon how insanely different my life (and my attitude) is since MS made the decision for me to retire on disability in May, 2014, after already being on sick leave for all but the first four weeks of the school year.

Back then, I couldn’t imagine my life without the career that had defined me in so many ways, and that I was so passionate about. I considered myself beyond lucky to have a job that I loved, because so many people are not as fortunate. People often told me that I was one of the few people they knew who actually liked her job. And I did. Every damn second of it.

Now that I am a few years removed from the feeling of such a devastating loss for me, I have clarity that I didn’t have before, and gratitude for everything, including the painful, emotional, difficult situation that started me on this part of my journey. I never dreamed that I could ever be in this beautiful place that I currently find myself in, happier than ever, which I could not have imagined when I was still working.

The other day, a Staples commercial came on TV advertising their usual 10 cent sale, and I was brought back to the days when I used to have lists of which retail establishment had things on sale that I needed for my classroom so that I could stock up for the year. I used to get so excited about these things, and now it hardly even phases me. I love that because it shows how much I have grown during the last couple of years.

I’m not saying that I got here without my share of growing pains, but I am saying that I understand it’s all a part of the process. Once I opened myself up to the possibilities of creating a new life, it changed my perception of everything I knew.

What I know now is that regardless of how much I loved my students (and still do!), my own family always needs to come first. I often lost sight of that as a teacher, but I don’t regret it because now I have all of these amazing young adults who make up such a big part of my life, and I love that. I love watching them venture out on their own, doing the adult thing, and spreading their wings to soar.

I also know that taking care of myself is vitally important. When I was working, I overlooked my own wellness in favor of my job and my students. Again, I don’t regret it because of the amount of love and gratitude they gave back to me (and still do), but I know that I am of no good use to anyone if I am not staying on top of my own health and wellness. This includes all the things I have incorporated into my post-teacher life: meditation, yoga, hardcore exercise, acupuncture, reiki, and healthy eating, all of which force me to put myself above all others so that I can stay strong for the long haul.

I remember the days when the weekends meant nothing more than time to grade, write lesson plans, and create dynamic presentations for my classes, leaving no time to actually enjoy spending time being fully present with my loved ones. Once again, I have no regrets about how I lived my career because it’s what the kids deserved and I don’t know how to do it any other way.

But now… now life is better than I ever thought possible. My circle of friends has changed, but in a good way because I am surrounded by other people who take nothing for granted and never waste an opportunity to laugh and smile because we are grateful for the life we are living, regardless of whether we chose it or not. I am more in love with my husband than ever because we have been given this incredible gift of time together. Hell, we even booked a vacation in September, something we have never, EVER done before. Some small part of me still feels like a rebel for doing it, but no matter how much time passes, I guess old habits do, indeed, die hard. But lucky for me, I have worked very hard to help these old habits go by the wayside.

The transformation from Mrs. Rankin to Rennie has not been an easy one, but it is ongoing and I’m getting better at it all the time. I have been transforming my entire world: physically, mentally, and spiritually for the last few years, and my progress has been slow but steady, and that’s ok. I know that as human beings, one of our biggest challenges is having the ability to change according to our life circumstances, good or bad. I’m not going to lie and say that the process has been an easy one, or that I don’t have my moments of weakness, but it does get easier with time and with the determination to live my very best life possible. Rather than crying about the fact that I am not going back to work this week, I am happily wishing my former colleagues the very best of luck as they begin the new school year. Life is, after all, what we make of it, and I am making mine everything I want it to be. So who wants to join me in a glass half full of lemonade?

The sunrise over the Raritan River by Rutgers University, a very symbolic photo at a place that will always hold an extra special place in my heart.

Yoga

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that has been practiced for thousands of years. For me, it gives me the same peace of mind that Transcendental Meditation does, except it’s definitely not easy for me. I haven’t been at it as long as TM, and even though I’m not great at it, I seldom miss my class, and I am improving.

Plow: not easy with big boobs and a belly! If you aren't careful, you could suffocate. Trust me!

Plow: not easy with big boobs and a belly! If you aren’t careful, you could suffocate. Trust me!

My first experience with yoga was a turn-off for me when the instructor put all of us MS patients in a chair. No modifications (or “up-buttons”) were offered for those of us who did not require a chair, which definitely started me off on the wrong foot. I automatically assumed I hated yoga and it took me a really long time to even attempt it again after the chair experience.

Upward facing dog.

Upward facing dog.

It wasn’t until my trainer decided to start doing a Monday night yoga class for her existing clients that I finally decided to try again. First of all, any time I have the opportunity to work out with Diane, regardless of the type of exercise it involves, I jump at it. Yoga can be very difficult (read: frustrating!) for anyone, and even more so for an MS patient who struggles with balance and vertigo every single day. But more importantly, my limited experiences with yoga prior to this class were not positive ones, to say the least. In addition to my lack of balance, I’m not exactly the most flexible person anymore, even though (once upon a time in a life that doesn’t even feel mine at this point) I was a gymnast. In those first yoga classes I attempted with other instructors, my disappointment with my inability to hold certain poses completely blocked any chance I had of making the mind/body connection that is so vitally important in yoga. But because Diane has this crazy way of making me want to try things even though I am afraid to fail (being a perfectionist is a hard habit to break!), I happily began my positive yoga experience in my happy place with the best of the best.

Downward facing dog

Downward facing dog

I never envisioned that I would become hooked on yoga this way. There is something so powerful about practicing something that has been studied by people since ancient times. It makes sense that I would enjoy yoga, since I also practice the ancient ritual of Transcendental Meditation. These two long-used techniques seem to go hand-in-hand for me. When I’m doing yoga my mind goes to that same meditative state of deep relaxation as it does during TM. I become so tuned in to my body that I can feel the energy moving through my body. In fact, when my eyes are closed, I actually see the energy (in the form of bright, vibrant light) as my body opens up and it flows freely through all of my chakras.

Shoulder stand

Shoulder stand

Now let me tell you that yoga is NOT easy for me. But the benefits I have experienced are amazing. On yoga nights, I sometimes even sleep through the entire night, which is a miracle in itself because sleep has long been an issue for me. It’s also a reminder for me to always be aware of my body. I honestly feel that if I was this in-tune to myself back in the day, I could have been diagnosed with MS at least ten years earlier than I was, which is significant in that I could have been taking a Disease Modifying Treatment sooner, thus holding off progression for as long as possible. In any case I derive the same sense of inner peace that I do from TM when I am doing yoga, and that feeling is pretty damn awesome.

I don't know what this pose os called, but it's really hard!

I don’t know what this pose os called, but it’s really hard!

Don’t get me wrong here…there are plenty of yoga poses that I am still unable to do. But I haven’t given up, and I do think I get better all the time. I have learned not to get upset at myself for the things I CAN’T do, and instead be proud of what I CAN do. This philosophy has been hard-learned, but living according to it has made me feel so much more fulfilled as a person, particularly after having to give up my career. I think it’s a lesson that everyone should live by. If we all focused on accomplishments rather than disappointments, we’d all most certainly live genuinely more authentically happy lives. I have learned that true wealth comes not from money, but from happiness, and even though I don’t earn a paycheck anymore, I’m wealthier than I ever thought possible.

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