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May 27, 2020



Hi my sweet friends ✨ It’s been a long long time since I sat down to write a creative piece, but after receiving quite a few questions about the story of how I found yoga, coupled with an intense inspiration to write this morning I thought now would be a great time to reflect and share . I’m thinking this memoir style share of how I found yoga will be a series, as there is so much to the story of how I found yoga.. so today, I’ll start with the beginning….

I remember my first yoga class so vividly. It was 2008, I was working as a receptionist at The Kim Vo Salon at the Montage in Beverly Hills, and a co-worker of mine named Nicole was an avid yogi. She was calm, serene, level-headed and had this beautiful energy about her, all of which I really admired her for as inside me lived a constant struggle wrapped in heavy sadness and inescapable darkness.

I stopped speaking to my father at 16 after a decade of feeling unwanted. Sure, I went to visit him at his house every other weekend and some Wednesday evenings when I was younger, but I could never shake the feeling that he really didn’t care much to have me around. He never said that to me directly but he didn’t need to, I felt it. As early as 7 I can recall being acutely aware of this and as a result made it my mission to get him to love me. I pretended to like the same things he liked, I never spoke up, I never had an opinion, I looked to him for approval on everything I spoke and did in his presence, and I was constantly stressed internally on whether what I was doing was “right” or not. And I mean, if I’m being honest here… as hard as this is to admit, I even remember changing the way my voice sounded, thinking that if I sounded sweeter and softer maybe then, he would love me.

Three years had gone by since I had seen him, and it had been a year since we had spoken and I was incredibly frustrated with myself that I couldn’t let it go (I wish I could go back and tell my 19 year old self it’s ok and hug her . as I know now 12 years later that the pain of losing a parent in any way shape or form doesn’t ever truly go away). I pretended like it didn’t bother me, I moved to L.A. on my own, hustling working 3 jobs, making a way for myself determined to make a name for myself in the acting and music industry… on the outside I was doin’ the damn thang! But on the inside I was hurting, badly.

I remember opening up to Nicole one evening as we closed up the salon, asking her how she was always so positive and somehow the conversation landed on the deep-rooted emotional pain I was feeling around the loss of my father; without hesitation she said “come to yoga with me!”

I remember thinking YOGA? I’m sorry did you just say yoga? You want me to come to yoga with you? How is yoga going to solve my problems? I’m sad, remember? I’m depressed! How will yoga help me?

Honestly, I agreed to go not because I thought yoga would solve any of my problems, but because I really liked Nicole and I didn’t have any friends in L.A. and I really wanted to be her friend.

Nicole drove us to Bryan Kest’s POWER YOGA in Santa Monica and let me borrow one of her yoga mats. I remember thinking the whole way there I‘m going to be really good at this whole yoga thing since I danced for 13 years, this is going to be a piece of cake… boy was I wrong.

We walked up a long dark pathway that slowly lit up with twinkle lights as we approached the front door. There was a door to our left that led to a little gift shop and then further down there was another door where there were shoes strewn about, weird I remember thinking. The dimly lit large room was packed and smelled like incense, I felt like I was walking into a secret club, the vibe was thick and rich in a way I had never experienced something like it before. We squeezed our mats in towards the back of the space and waited for class to begin; and it was in that moment my life changed. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of deep healing for me, and ultimately discovering my life’s purpose.

10 minutes in I remember feverishly looking for the clock: what time is it? How long have I been in here? Why don’t they have a digital clock on the wall I can’t read that clock I grew up in the digital Baby G watch era, ugh! Ok little hand is hours so ok it’s still 6 something, big hand is minutes, 5, 10, 15… suddenly my mind came back to the space as Rudy, our teachers voice grew louder as he exclaimed EXHALE FULLY – huh? oh, exhale. wow I need a pedicure.

My mind dipped in and out of the entire experience and my surroundings faster than I could keep up with. I felt antsy, annoyed, intrigued by the sweaty man in front of me twisting himself up like pretzel,, judgey of the way people held their hands so stiffly (I came from a ballet background where we hold our hands delicately and softly, no jazz hands unless you’re in jazz class, ya dig?) and utterly frustrated by the fact that the teacher was speaking in what I thought was tongues vira what? chatarunga cowabunga? what are you even saying? With each passing moment straight up anger bubbled up inside me as I decided that I was was really really “bad” at yoga and I really didn’t like to do things that I was bad at. This 90 minute class felt like a lifetime.

The resistance within me continued to build but at some point, I don’t know when, I surrendered. As everyone laid down for savasana I remember feeling an intense urge to get up and run but I was too exhausted. So I laid down, squeezed my eyes shut tightly and thought about how excited I was to get the eff outta there… then suddenly I felt hands on my shoulders, I flinched. Rudy took a big breath in and his warm breath permeating my space as he exhaled made me exhale too and I felt my body melt into the earth. Tears began to spill out of the corners of my eyes, salty water running down my cheeks, collecting in puddles in my ears – I felt an unstoppable wave of emotion crash over me. What is happening?

As we walked out of the damp sweaty studio I tried to wrap my mind around what the eff just happened in there.

When I finally got home to my little studio apartment in Echo Park I sat on my bed in complete silence, trying to process the whole thing; do we like it? do we hate it? do we know? WTF is this feeling? My ego hated it, but my soul craved it.

The next day I drove to Santa Monica again, it was like my car drove itself there, like I was being guided by something greater than myself. I walked up the pathway to Bryan Kest’s POWER YOGA and walked into the gift shop. There was a girl working, and while I wanted to chat her up about yoga I decided to pretend to look at all the beaded jewelry and paraphernalia for a while while I worked on silencing my ego’s cries to run run run that class was horribly slow and you were bad at it why would you want to torture yourself again and take another class? The second time she asked if I needed any help I finally blurted out that I had just taken my first class the night before and I wanted to know what other class I should take. She suggested I take Travis Elliot’s class and gave me a schedule with circled classes to take with me.

The girl was right, Travis’s classes were amazing. Now don’t get me wrong, after every class I would leave and think I can’t tell if I love this or hate this but the simple fact that I felt better afterwards kept me coming back. I couldn’t explain how I felt better or why I felt better, but I just did.

I went to classes 4 or 5 days a week. I still battled with frustration and anger in regards to my body not performing the way I thought it should, and was more often than not consumed with focusing on what everyone else was doing in the room; but slowly over time, I would have little tiny pockets of time where I felt this sense of wholeness and connectedness, a feeling I had never felt before. Suddenly the silence and intentional movements were something I craved, which was shocking to even myself because I have been on the go go go since I came into this world.

A few months into my practice I became unsatisfied with not knowing the inner workings of this practice; I wanted to know more. So I found Travis’s website and emailed him. I told him I had been enjoying his classes, was feeling really depressed but also intrigued by yoga and wanted to know more. He wrote back and advised me to continue to show up on my mat, and suggested I read The Bhagavad Gita, so I ran to Barnes and Noble and devoured it in days… side note, this text plays a key role in my how I found yoga journey much later, but more on that later .

My pull to yoga grew stronger with each passing day, time spent on my mat became therapy for me. Every time I stepped on my mat I unknowingly peeled back another layer of inauthenticity. I had a lot of layers to peel through, but the physical practice of yoga does such a beautiful job at hiding the inner work within the postures that I didn’t even know I was peeling. Yoga guided me towards an unfamiliar light, one that I couldn’t quite identify but in small moments could juuuuust barely get a taste of.

At some point I grew tired of the peeling, of being responsible, of doing the work – and I inadvertently let go, let loose and dove headfirst into a lifestyle paved with landmines and lined with red flags; but I went there willingly. I knew pain, pain was comfortable to me – it was that unfamiliar light that scared me, so off into the darkness I ran. My journey with yoga wasn’t over, but the ride was about to become far more turbulent than I could have ever expected.

….. to be continued.

  1. Marsha says:

    Shayla, wow wow wow! Thank you so much for your vulnerable and honest story on your journey to yoga. I experienced the exact same when I was on my mat a few times, that extremely confronting feeling. I’m so glad to read I am not the only one and it therefore doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to pick up practicing again. Keep being you, you’re a light in this world! Love, Marsha

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About The Blogger

Hey! I'm Shayla

I’m a yoga and fitness loving, green juice drinking, wanderlust-ing, wellness obsessed gal living in Los Angeles, CA with my sweet rescue dogs Penny Lane and Bali.

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