I began my career as an EMT/Paramedic knowing it was a stepping stone. Coming from a military medical family, I thought this was the perfect chance to gain experience before becoming an emergency physician. Along the way, I noticed early on that there was a more systemic problem. For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that I saw a lot of trauma of the body– yes, that was to be expected, and I always loved the rush of adrenaline. Unexpectedly though, I also witnessed a lot of trauma of the heart and suffering of the human condition.
I was stationed in an area rampant with crime and drug abuse. The long hours, extra over time, and high stress of seeing some of the worst sides of people (stabbings, shootings, child abuse, etc.) while putting myself through an intensive bio-psychology program led to my own countless sleepless nights, fluctuating weight, chronic head aches, and eventually a lack of any empathy for my patients. I was disconnected and miserable, and I didn’t even know it. I was burnt out.
Around the same time, I had begun practicing yoga simply as a way to exercise. Like a moth to a flame though, something deep within me that I hadn’t yet consciously found knew that this was a healing practice. The people around me picked me up, dusted me off, welcomed me warmly, and embraced me whole heartedly. Yoga altered my trajectory forever. After eventually becoming a yoga teacher and shifting my focus even more toward psychology + total wellness, it was only then that I could completely recognize the many downfalls and shortcomings of our fractured healthcare system. While I certainly don’t miss the hardened heart and all of the darkness, I am grateful for my experiences, the knowledge that a medical career has given me, and the incredibly supportive people I have met along the way.
Yoga is a tool, and a damn fine one at that. It is versatile enough for anyone and everyone to practice from grandmothers to olympians, from amputees to young children. The practice is a constantly evolving system within that changes the way you carry yourself, your perception of other people, and your priorities in life. This also reflects many of the aspects of positive neuropsychology– a way of physically altering the neuroanatomy of the brain to be more optimistic and open minded. These two tools combined have the ability to bring people together and strengthen both individuals and communities. My goal– to unite communities and bring others back to life through yoga + neuropsychology — is one that I am going to chase with a ferocity that can only be forged by the gratitude of having hit rock bottom and climbing up again with the help of those around you.
This indeed is only the beginning. I plan to continue traveling and teaching in a way that is accessible and affordable. As much as I teach, I am learning ten fold all that I can from those around me and the experiences that arise. In Fall of 2016, I will be applying to a PhD program specializing in both Clinical Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience. Wish me luck as this journey continues. I hope you’ll join me either on or off the mat.