No words can describe how I felt that day. It’s interesting because it’s over a decade later, but I still have that feeling of what it was like. I don’t think that ever goes away. For those of you who have lost a loved one—that numbness, that void, you don’t even know what to feel, or how to explain what you’re feeling. I remember walking out of the hospital thinking, “Every mom walks out with a baby. I’m a fraud. I’m not a mom.” And that process of grief, and learning how to live with loss, really settled in that moment.”
– Hope Zvara
In an episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, I was interviewed by Heather Stang. Through my own experience, I have learned firsthand how yoga and mindfulness can help calm the mind and help us take a step or two away from self-defeating behaviors, such as addiction and eating disorders. I have also learned how to cope with the reality of loss by living my life in honor of my daughter, Faith, and helping other people live their best lives.
But all that didn’t come right away.
What my daughter Faith has shown me is the HOPE Process: Helping Others Purposefully Excel. This actually came to me at a point where I always say when we see a butterfly, it’s Faith saying hello. One afternoon I was thinking about her, and thinking about what a butterfly means. I Googled it and to my surprise, it means hope.
For those of you who lost someone, it’s not a textbook experience. It’s not, “you’re gonna go through this, and then you’re gonna go through this, and then you’re gonna go through this.” It is such raw emotion. What yoga has taught me through working through addiction and being in recovery now for 15 years, and losing my daughter, and finding life after the loss of my daughter is that you have two choices… You either choose to live, because they don’t get to anymore, or you choose to die with them.
No words can describe what I felt that day. For those of you who have lost a loved one, that numbness, that void. You don’t even know what to feel or how to explain what you are feeling.
If you are going through grief, loss, or addiction, I have a special meditation of Hope for Grief & Loss. I also have a course in my online studio that I offer to you for free, so that you may find a way to transform… to see your butterfly. Here is a Practice in Mindfulness that will help you move beyond grief.
Yoga Found Me and Saved Me
First came yoga. For me, yoga has transformed my life. I remember walking out of my first yoga class… and thinking “Oh my gosh. I have no thoughts.” Once I befriended my breath and was able to get back into my body, I began the journey of rediscovering my life’s meaning. I had to choose life because my daughter didn’t get to. Every single day after she had passed away, I had to wake up and tell myself that. I had to look in the mirror and say,
I have to live because she didn’t get to. Please give me my purpose.”
I always say that my Wednesday night yoga class became my weekly ritual of second chances. Those second changes eventually lead me to a yoga teacher training. That training became a platform for me to really heal and feel. Not only that, it put me in a position to teach others what I had learned through the HOPE process.
When I first found yoga, I did not realize I was holding my breath all the time. I don’t think anyone ever told me that I was breathing. Until that point in that first yoga class, and then in my training, I didn’t realize that this whole breathing thing was really important.
Helping Others Purposefully Excel – The HOPE Process
My marriage not only survived the death of her child, but it thrives because of mindfulness and mutual respect. We can grieve differently, but we don’t have to grieve alone. Losing a child can strain a relationship, but in our case, it brought us together.
Through all of these struggles, through all of this challenge, through middle school and high school and through my early twenties, something always kept telling me to keep pushing forward and keep going. At the suggestion of a caring soul, I found yoga.
Breath, Body, and Belief
Breath, Body and Belief are the pillars of the HOPE process. These three things are the cornerstone of everything that I teach. Everything to do with yoga, with healing, and with finding your path and life beyond grief.
Get in tune with your breath every day. Practice meditation. Practice just noticing your breath for a minute a few times a day.
Use your body with purpose. Move it every day. If you need a place to start, my Mindful Movement Online Studio is only $9.99/month and has a variety of classes, tailored to your needs.
Finally, it comes down to your belief. Pray, meditate, and give thanks to the universe for the life that you have. Live your live in honor.
Nothing in this world is constant. Everything in this world is an opportunity to change, leap forward and grow. There may be people who don’t understand your journey, but there’s no reason to let them stop you. This story will teach you four lessons in dealing with unsupportive people.
Meet the Grasshopper
Once, I was driving with my mom and kids in the car with my moon roof open. Out of nowhere, a grasshopper leaped into the car and sat on my thigh as I was driving. All of us squealed in excitement for different reasons. My kids thought a grasshopper in our car was silly. My mom and I instantly thought about leaps forward in my life.
The grasshopper hung around for a while, then I cracked open my window and it sat on the edge for a few minutes. My mom commented,
Hope, you teach us in yoga to meet our edge, honor it and see what we can learn from that view.”
With the thought of sending it home, I gave it a small tap. Out of the window it flew, and back in it came. We all laughed, and my mom and I said at that moment,
Remember to trust. Big leaps forward in my life are necessary and present for me right now.”
I believe that life is constantly giving us signs and constantly telling us things helpful to our life. If we choose to listen. My little grasshopper friend was a confirmation to me that everything I am currently practicing and living is all part of my leap forward. Like a grasshopper, sometimes when you are about to leap forward, unexpected things come into play to try to throw you off.
How many times in your own life have you been confused for something you are not? Or have you been confronted with someone who won’t let go of your past persona and see you for as you are? How many times have you said one thing and because someone is unhappy with their own life, they turn it around to try to stop you from leaping forward?
Together, We Are Leaping Forward
Maybe you are a little like me: you go to the beat of your own drum, not like the norm, see purpose and learning opportunities in everything, and want to continue to change. You want to grow, and you notice when the growth is very prominent, on the cusp of leaping from well-cut grass to a tall, grassy hillside. There are unsupportive people and things in your life that come out of nowhere to try to steal that away from you.
You are the kind of person who tries to be honest. Sometimes, unsupportive people confuse that honesty with judgment. And usually, because those people don’t want to hear the truth. They try to stop your leap in mid-air because they don’t want anyone else around them leaping if they aren’t going to. Like a grasshopper, what works for others will not necessarily work for you. Even more so, what works for you will probably not work for anyone else.
So how do you be like that grasshopper and not get squashed in the process?
1. Like the grasshopper, it is important to understand that at times you may need to stay still.
Take it in. Don’t say a word and just let others do the talking. At other times or at a moment’s notice, you may need to take a huge leap into the air and land somewhat blindly. You must trust that it’s right.
2. Trust your inner voice.
Like a grasshopper’s inner ability to sense sound with their legs, sense the sound of your inner voice and trust that your navigation is on par.
3. A grasshopper has an inner sense of knowing when to make its leap.
Your progress is made in the form of mostly leaps, rather than steps. Likewise, your progress will most likely not be slow and steady, but a playful combination of leaps, hops, bounces, and strides. Like a grasshopper, those can sometimes be misunderstood. Know that your hop will only make sense to you, and it is not necessary for you to try to get others to understand.
4. Finally, a grasshopper can leap up to twenty times its height.
Our grassy friend can only leap up or forward, never back. So sure, glance back and see how far you have come. But for you my friend, the only way is up and forward by leaps and bounds. Not everyone will understand it, but other grasshoppers will. When you need it most, you will know to leap to a sunny mound and meet your fellow grasshoppers there. Then you can glance back again and see what you were able to overcome.
This post was originally published September 2012 on MindBodyGreen.
My yoga mat has been my place of refuge, my place of contemplation, my place of self-discovery. My mirror for the good, the bad and the ugly. Time and time again I step into the unknown, only to find that everything I need, everything I am wondering about, lies on my yoga mat.
I look back at myself five, even ten years ago, and find that I am still the same person. Even memories as a child are laced into who I am today. But the difference is that how I see the world, how I see myself, and how I chose to live – is drastically different.
For some yoga is a savior for their physical bodies: to be saved from inflexibility, headaches, cramped feet, or to regain the body they have been long searching for. But for me, my yoga practice has taught me how to actually be able to look at my body and befriend it. I can look at my life and no longer see myself as the victim. Rather, I see myself as the person at the wheel, in control.
I tear up thinking about what I have been through and what I have put myself through. Only to come out bright-eyed and ready to move on with no regrets. And I never thought I’d say that. The tears that come are only tears of joy and amazement that my mat brought this to me.
Our Yoga Practice is a Promise to Ourselves That we Want More and Deserve More.
Yoga is so powerful and unique in that it is an experience and a practice. If you are not ready to step onto the mat, then the change will not happen. I have not only seen this in myself, but also my students over the last decade of teaching.
To me, Yoga is the most real that someone can get with themselves. The lies will eventually rise to the surface, the false hopes will eventually go sour and the work will time and time again be put back in our court. What I’m trying to say is that life becomes a lot sweeter when we start to trust that the universe and our Creator has our best interest at heart. That we might not know it all, and that no matter how “good, smart, elite, or savvy” we think we are, there must still be a humbleness to remind us that there is always something to learn.
Interestingly, My Journey was the Opposite.
For much of my life, I felt lesser. I felt that I was the one always lacking, or missing the bar. For me, my yoga mat became a constant reminder that I am great today, just as I am… even during my stages of recovery. I began to stop seeing myself as “messing up” day after day. Now I am thanking life and God for the opportunity to be aware of what I need to learn and how I can change.
I post a Facebook quote of the day, a Daily Dose of Hope. It is usually something from my heart. I had posted a few months ago a quote stating:
You know you are ready for change when you come to realize that what you see in other people and don’t like is a mirror for what you need to see in yourself and begin to change.”
For me, this simple thought was such an eye-opener. This awareness not only helped me to grow and realize what I needed to change in myself, but to also realize what I didn’t and did want to take into my life. Without awareness, you will never grow. There will never be change, and that box you feel stuck in… It will still be that box and you will still be in it.
Stepping out Means Taking a Chance.
It means trusting without immediate proof. Sometimes you have to go with your gut, trusting that you are being guided. Trust that what you are doing is right. If you don’t like your life, where you are, or what you are doing – ask yourself…
What am I doing to move beyond this?
What am I doing to make a change?
Are you tired in the morning? Well then stop going to bed at 12am. Sick of all the mess? Well then go clean it up. Who are we all waiting for? What formula do I not know about that fixes all problems, all people, all situations? The only formula I know is the one where I start to take care of me, work on me, and change me. Because that is the only way I know to get to where I want to be.
If you pray and ask for guidance, once you get the guidance it’s your job to take it and act on it. When you meditate for peace, it’s your job to work to keep the peace. If you ask for help and suggestions to regain your health, well then you have to follow through to see the results.
So how does this all tie back to a yoga practice? On our yoga mat we see ourselves as we truly are, raw and willing to do the work necessary to move forward or make change. Even if we are not ready, at least now we are aware and it becomes our choice what to do with that awareness.
The sweetness in me bows to the sweetness in you…
This post was originally written for MindBodyGreen, and updated on Oct 7, 2019.
I never thought that yoga would become such a huge part of my life. And to be honest, I didn’t even know what yoga a co-worker was told me that “I looked like someone who would practice yoga”.
But you know what I’m talking about. Those moments in life that just hit you like a ton of bricks and you don’t fly backwards. You fly forwards. At 17 years old. That is exactly what that moment did to me.
I truly believe that life has a way of nudging you in the right direction. Now we have our own free will to listen or not. To stay stuck, or not. To prefer the struggle, or not. But we do have a choice to see it.
I’ve never shared this before. But growing up I always knew I was meant for more. I always new I was going to do big things. But let’s be real. Who wants to hear someone proclaim that they are going to be famous and lead the masses when they get older. No one would be your friend.
At any given moment you could find me corralling kids and organizing games that I would make up on the fly. Tucked in my closet stapling paper together and making books. Not to share them, but to store them away and I would imagine one day someone would find them and say “wow, this is amazing” when I was gone (OK, maybe that is a little weird).
But in all honesty, as lost at times as I sometimes feel. As out there walking alone as I can often feel. It is comforting to know that, I “knew”, all my life where I would be.
Then came yoga. Practicing was a saving grace to me. It was my lifeline. Every Wednesday night, it gave me hope that I could do it. It showed me I was strong. I was capable. I was meant for more.
And after a year of college, “doing the only thing I was told to do after high school”. I knew this wasn’t my jam. And wouldn’t you find it funny, that randomly one day my yoga teacher casually suggested to me that I consider teaching yoga.
It was like déjà vu all over again. And in perfect fashion, I immediately did something about it. Never before that moment did I ever even consider becoming a yoga teacher. But after my Wednesday night yoga class that night I went home, waited for my dial up internet to boot up and searched for whatever a yoga training would be.
The first search landed me on an ashram in Rollingsville, Colorado, barely doing any research. I just knew. I just knew this was for me and I signed up, gave them my money, and booked my tickets.
The only catch. I had finals during my month stay in Colorado. What was I thinking? Well, I’ll be honest, I just knew this was going to work. That next week I asked all my professors to let me take my finals early, and they all said yes.
And I know what you are thinking. That’s not, that big of a deal. Well, I went to a Catholic University and I was off to an ashram to learn to teach yoga. The two couldn’t be more different. But my stars were aligning.
I was scared. I was still struggling with an eating disorder and there appeared to be no real hope of an end in sight. I wanted to stop. I desperately wanted a normal life. But besides my Wednesday night yoga class, I was struggling, and it was a battle.
Planes, buses, and what appeared to be a last life, seen better days station wagon picking me up at a mountain bus stop. I hopped into a stranger’s car and off I went into the mountains to what would become like a second home to me.
I still remember my first day in our yoga teacher training. Eleven of us sitting in a circle, everyone at least 15 years or more older than me. I am certain I could have been everyone’s daughter. But this 98-pound girl was determined to step aside from her fears and make the most out of this month-long stay. I was praying to God this would heal me. This 30-day stay would be just what I needed to clear my head and step away from my addiction for good.
That afternoon sitting in a circle on the freshly carpeted floor I knew this was where I belonged. That day I heard a voice inside my head, and it told me eleven things I would do going forward from that day. And these were things I never thought I would do. They were never in my scope of dreams. And to be honest, struggling with an eating disorder, depression and a laundry list of other issues, survival was the only thing I could focus on.
But I pulled out my yellow legal pad and printed out one goal on each line. I tore off the sheet and folded it up.
That yoga training forever changed the course of my life.
It gave me hope that all the prayers I said that what I had been through up to that point, would not be all for nothing.
That yoga training was hard. It rocked me to my core. It challenged how I thought about life, movement, and myself. It challenged my faith to go deeper into myself and see what and how I really connected to God.
I believe we all need those moments in life in order to truly get to the bottom of who we are. I can look back on almost every encounter where I made a huge leap and it was scary, and confusing, and uncertain, but I did it anyway. And am so glad I did. Because it fostered growth, it opened me up to my own unique potential, and it helped me see my own worth at a time where I wasn’t sure I had any.
I believe we are all given multiple opportunities to shift up. And it is when we “think on it” too long, or too much that our logical, humanistic mind steps I and says, “that will never happen, don’t do it”.
I believe we are all here on this earth for a purpose and it is us who gets in our own way and downplays our potential for greatness.
I believe we are all worth it.
And for you it may not be enrolling in a yoga training. But if it is, please do your homework, because they are not all alike (reach out to me if you have questions, I’m happy to help: E-Mail me). For some of you it may be taking up volleyball again, enrolling in a 5K, or deciding to have a girls night out every month. Whatever it is, you are worth it. You are better after it. And there are never any mistakes in life. Just opportunities to learn and soak up all that is waiting to be had.
Picture a day when you are no longer struggling to get out of the gutter, but you are leading others from it.
Picture a day when you are no longer asking for forgiveness, but receiving gratitude with constant “thank yous” from those around you.
Picture a day when you are no searching for the next best thing, but instead you find yourself attracting what you desire all the time.
Picture a day when all you have been through was absolutely worth it.
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