Dropping my chains and choosing to dance

Two years ago I had ACL reconstruction surgery.

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I think that’s when the voice started to rage.
You’re weak. It’s broken. Maybe this healing business just isn’t for you.

For a while, I chose to believe that,
chose to believe that part of me would feel forever broken, forever unable, forever trapped.

After a year of complications, tests and a whole bunch of unanswered questions, I was beginning to wonder if I was un-healable.

My mind was caught up in timelines, trying to convince myself that if I checked every box, took every joint supplement, did the extra leg raises in my physical therapy, I would heal faster.

But when the outcome didn’t seem to match my input, I found myself crawling back to those doubts, instead of clinging to Hope.

A year into my recovery, when my neighbor asked if I would like to go to yoga class with her, I thought
I can’t. I’m broken. My body will not be able to move that way. And what if I hurt myself even more?

Doubts and fears gripped my heart, but for some reason, I agreed to go.

I walked into the studio, butterflies in my stomach. I told myself that there was still time to go home, that I could stop myself from making a mistake, or a fool of myself.

When Jill, the teacher, stood in front of the room, I decided that I better listen closely so that I wouldn’t mess up my body again. Fear told me I was good at messing things up.

Jill said
Whatever you’ve been dealing with today, let that fall away from your mind. You’re here, now. For the next hour, you’ve chosen you. 

I took one more breath and shook my head.

Hear that, fear, you weren’t invited here. So please excuse yourself while I choose me. Ok? Thanks.

The next hour we flowed through various poses.
We balanced,
we breathed,
we bent sideways and backwards and every other way you can bend, too.

But something deeper was happening inside me.
The brokenness I’d been trapped in for the last year started to feel less and less real. With each movement, I began to see my body as one created by a Creator, a body that was precious and purposeful and even strong.

I began to see that prayers could go beyond words;
My prayers for healing could be in physical form, too.
My prayers could be this kind of dance – this kind of beautiful movement and stillness that was meant for me to find rest, security and Joy.

I walked out of that class and realized I could drop those chains of fear, those lies that I would be forever broken.

The truth is that He’s got me. He’s holding me, during the dance and during the stillness.
I am not a body broken but a body of restoration.

I want to say thank you to Jill, for helping create a space where I have learned and experienced such powerful Truth.

And I’m also extremely thankful that Jill is sharing her story with us today!

When Jill told me about this part of her journey, it was no wonder to me that she was drawn to teach yoga, to helping others learn to respect and rejoice in the beautiful bodies we’ve been given, to trust that inner Peace that is always accessible, even when doubt and fear and chaos seem crippling.

Thank you, Jill, for being the phenomenal woman you are. Thank you for being brave, for being real, for being you.

Copyright, 2013 Jill Knouse Yoga

Copyright, 2013 Jill Knouse Yoga

Why did you start practicing yoga?

A personal trainer I was working with suggested yoga as an additional and complementary form of exercise.  I reluctantly agreed to give it a try. At that time in my life, I was wound pretty tightly and much more interested in what I considered a hardcore workout like running stairs, lifting weights, doing sprints, jumping rope, pushups, burpees, wall squats and endless sit-ups. Sounds fun, right? I was apprehensive about “wasting time stretching” when I could be really pushing myself physically.

She was persistent and got me to give it a try. My life path was forever changed as a result of those initial thirty minutes on a yoga mat guided by a teacher named Jeannette.

Just prior to being introduced to yoga, I left both the financial services industry and my home in San Francisco.

I fled, really.

For 13 years I had worked in various capacities of the money management business. None of the work I was doing aligned with my heart or my soul.

But, I kept going deeper because it seemed like the right thing to do. I was climbing the proverbial corporate ladder and doing what I thought I should. And, at first, it satisfied something inside of me. I longed to feel important and equated that with status, title, cool technologies, an office, business travel, a big salary, a suit and high heels. However, during that entire time I suffered from great anxiety, a deep lack of fulfillment and my personal well-being was extremely low on my priority list. As a result, I was not the picture of perfect health by any stretch.

The very first time I practiced yoga I felt inexplicable shifts. I was euphoric, energized and inspired!  I didn’t know why or how but a lot of really good things seemed to be going on and I craved more.

What inspired you to become a yoga teacher?

There’s so much I could write and it’s proven challenging for me to whittle these answers down because the topic feels so big and profound. My whole life has changed as a direct result of this practice.

The simplest answer to this question is that I couldn’t keep myself from sharing yoga with others. I talked about it with anyone who would listen. I took every opportunity to explore the practice more deeply.  When invited to join friends at a weekend workshop with Ana Forrest, I jumped at the chance.  Over the course of that weekend, we practiced rigorously for at least 15 hours.  By the end, I was in a pool of sweat and tears.  Tears of release, joy, anger, accomplishment, fear, love…all of it just oozing out of me.

Whatever was happening: the learning how to feel again, the connection to my body, to my Self, to those around me, to the vastness of it all and also the simplicity of just slowing down, listening to the breath and watching my thoughts, it was a powerful experience, an unfolding that continues to this day.

I had to teach. I couldn’t NOT teach.

As a yoga teacher since 2006, my intention has always been to make yoga accessible and approachable. My hope is that those who feel drawn to the practice find it, when they find it they feel safe and encouraged to continue their exploration. Doors continue to open and this is a life-long practice.

Copyright, 2013 Jill Knouse Yoga

Copyright, 2013 Jill Knouse Yoga

How has yoga changed the way you view your body? Your view of others?

I struggle with maintaining a positive self-image, body and otherwise. But, yoga brings awareness to my habitual thought patterns. Just simply having this awareness provides great opportunities to consciously shift my behavior, my beliefs and the negative self-talk. I try to notice when that kind of inner-chatter begins bubbling up, I observe the triggers and do my best to shift to more positive and empowering thoughts. It continues to be a process in letting go of past beliefs and creating new, more powerful ones.

Also, as a result of a regular yoga practice, my body is more resilient, flexible, stable, balanced and overall much stronger, so I feel dramatically better! THAT helps how I view my body. When I feel better on the inside and on the outside, things are just GOOD!

In terms of my view of others, my practice and my teaching remind me every day how similar we all are deep down inside. This allows acceptance, tolerance, compassion, empathy and heart to flow from me pretty freely.

How do you feel most Americans handle balance in their daily life? How does this balance (or lack thereof) affect the individual and the community at large?

A lot of us are way out of balance in our daily lives. We are simply overcommitted and just too busy. There’s a lot to do and, if you’re anything like me, you attempt to conquer it all with a smile.

At some point in my life busyness became a like badge of honor. In the corporate world, the busier I was the more important I was, or so I thought.

Now, busyness is just another bad habit I’m working to shift! I’m making conscious choices that allow for space and time and play with my husband, family and friends. We reinforced this conscious effort by heading out on a three-week summer camping adventure all over Oregon. It was absolutely soul-soothing after a busy start to the year. It’s all about finding balance.

If we’re too busy to connect with others, our partners, families, friends, communities we will become isolated.

If we’re too busy to play, we won’t be joyful, creative, effective, inspired.

If we’re too busy for personal care, tending to own well-being, we will leech our own energy, we will feel depleted and ultimately compromise our health.

If we’re too busy it will lead to stress and, stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body!

Copyright, 2013 Jill Knouse Yoga

Copyright, 2013 Jill Knouse Yoga

For someone struggling with their self-confidence, what advice would you give them?

Yoga has helped me tremendously in this realm. It focuses my attention, calms my mind and allows me to see myself more clearly. I’ve become significantly more mindful of my habits and do my best to be aware of the ones that are serving me or, alternatively are detrimental…this brings me back to that negative self-talk! Once I become aware, I can begin to create change, to choose differently, to know better and to do better.

Through a regular physical yoga practice, I observed myself growing physically stronger. I felt empowered by the shifts, by my capabilities. And, my body began to change. As I looked better, I felt better. Plus, it improves our posture and there is power in posture! How we think and feel about ourselves is reflected in how we hold and position our bodies. Stand tall and proud and you will feel tall, proud and powerful.

Over time, yoga strengthens the mind, builds our tolerance for challenging situations, slows our reaction time and helps us deal with stress.

I consciously strive to continue building self-confidence and developing a healthy sense of my value, of my worth. I struggle here, like many, and yoga has been a tremendous tool on my journey to becoming my greatest, most real self.

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