We're HONOURED to have Rachel share her experience with MOVEMENT AS MEDICINE – how movement has supported, nurtured and healed her through life and its challenges. Thank you Rachel for opening up and giving us a glimpse into your experience – we're so inspired!
In 2009, I hit a wall. I had graduated University in 2007 and was enjoying some success in my career in Television for the two years I’d been out of school. Enjoying these things a little too much, perhaps. I was drinking hard, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, and running my body & soul ragged. I’d had a couple friends who had gotten sober, and was curious about what that was about. I picked up and moved as far as I could within Canada, to Vancouver Island where those sober friends were.
After 3 months on the island, I had more clarity… but could not find work. SO I packed back up with fresh eyes, and returned to Toronto. I stayed off of alcohol completely for another 2 years. Not going out all the time or waking up hungover meant I had a lot of new spare time. I filled that with watercolour painting, and started practicing yoga. HOT yoga. I wanted to purge – not just the poison but also my way of relating to the world. I loved that I could go into a room and shut out all the excess noise from the outside world, quiet my thoughts, and fully dive into the moment.
Around the same time, my friend Amber had opened a Pilates studio in my neighbourhood, and a small group of friends would go see her twice weekly for fiery Pilates classes that were filled with laughter and lightness. This sense of community was a contrast from the studio I was practicing yoga at, where nobody talked to each other in the dark mirrored room, so it fed me in a balanced way.
Through both the yoga and Pilates practice, I was able to witness the deeper demons and tendencies I had, and why I had been self-medicating with alcohol before. I had deep social anxiety and insecurity. Through breath work and mindfulness (and TIME, so much time), I was gradually able to witness myself and my reactions to people/situations.
In 2013, I took on a 250-hour Yoga teacher training, initially unsure if I would teach group classes. While I was completing it, some friends who had never tried yoga asked if I could teach them. I still had no idea how to really structure a class, but I gave it a shot. In winter 2014, in the dark depths of the MISFITSTUDIO basement of the church, Amber led the first iteration of the FUSION TT. I signed up and dove in, and it gave me the courage to feel like I had at least one class I really KNEW how to teach. SO, Amber graciously let me lead a weekly yoga class for my friends. It was a group of people who felt comfortable with each other, and me, as we all figured it out!
Group classes can be intimidating for people, I get it. However, to this day – just like when I started teaching the group of friends – I strive to set the tone in each class where EVERYBODY is welcome and we all sweat and laugh and breathe as a group. THAT is the transformation that happens through movement – feeling something different, shaking things up, releasing the shit we don’t need to be carrying around. We can do that alone at home too, of course, but there’s something so cool that happens when we all sync up as a tribe and are able to sweat and holler or laugh or whatever. Whether you’re having a day where you just want the practice to be light, or a day when you’re really working through something in your life, vibrating with a bunch of other humans will set you straight.
It's a balance, this life. All that maniacal energy I put into partying, shows up as the wild woman teaching Get Hot or Fusion. And the soother, the healer I found when I slowed down, that’s there too. Ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, let’s ride this wave to shore together!
Image credit: Patrick Leung