25 Jun Lost in My Own Reflection
By: Stefanie Castro, RN, BSN, RYT
A few years back, I stopped recognizing myself in the mirror. It wasn’t because I went through some drastic physical change. In what used to be a reflection of a woman who felt more put together, was someone who looked worn, as if she had given so much of herself to others that she was left feeling somewhat empty inside. That’s when I realized motherhood had become my whole identity. Parenting consumed me, as it should to an extent, but it got to the point where I lost who I was as an individual. I identified only as a mother when there used to be so much more. It was during this time, coincidentally, I started on my yoga journey. I was seeking something, yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. In the beginning, the hot yoga room was not appealing, to put it mildly. But something kept bringing me back to the studio, little by little, pulling me until I woke up realizing I couldn’t live without my practice.
I’ve written extensively about my experience of 365 consecutive days on the yoga mat, but this entry is about my journey from day 366 and beyond. Once I made it to that incredible milestone, I wondered what would come next. In the back of my mind, I contemplated the idea of training to become an instructor, particularly for prenatal yoga. It would benefit my expectant clients and allow me to provide another service to the community. But I kept letting life put mental roadblocks in my way—from a car accident in December that hindered my ability to practice with my usual ease, to the reality of being a mother of 2 small children, to being a business owner. It wasn’t until the owners of the studio, Darlene and Skyler, called me to discuss teacher training that I put more thought into the idea. After only two short sentences I felt compelled to learn more. As I hesitated and listed my reasons for not doing it, they simply said, “Stefanie, when will it ever be the right time? Take this step for yourself.” They had summed up exactly why this journey started for me in the first place. I got on my mat and kept returning for the sake of my own wellbeing and personal healing. I decided I needed to take this next leap not to prove to others my capabilities, but to show myself that even with 2 small children, a company to run, and a house to maintain, I can do it and—I WILL.
So the adventure began for what I thought would just be a better yoga practice. Little did I know much more would lie ahead. I was nervous for the sheer time commitment of the training—it required 9 straight weekends. We met Friday evenings for 5 hours, along with full 8-hour days on Saturdays and Sundays. This didn’t even include extensive yoga practice in the hot room, sometimes burning 2400+ calories in a single day. It was astonishing to watch my body take on the physical challenge. And yet, every Friday morning I was itching to get back into the studio to see my fellow teacher trainers and get further into my practice. The physical benefits I received were tremendous. I felt my body become stronger and more flexible. I stretched to lengths I never thought possible—literally! But I must say what I didn’t expect from the 200-hour training were the mental changes that took place.
Although the physical benefits surpassed my expectations, the emotional transformation was beyond measure. I went in knowing there would be some mental benefit just like any yoga practice, but never did I think so much of me would be evaluated. And the person doing the evaluation was none other than me. Three weeks into my training, there I stood, staring at myself in the mirror once again, this time for a class exercise. At first I cried in hatred of my reflection. All I could focus on were the physical signs of aging—the wrinkles, dark circles under my eyes, gray in my hair. But then we were asked to look away, refocusing our energy elsewhere. When told to look back in the mirror, I gazed at myself and there I was. I looked at myself with kinder eyes, this time joyful tears flowing down my cheeks, because I finally saw what I hadn’t seen before—strength. I had gone through so much in my 38 years around the sun and never truly acknowledged all I had accomplished and what I could still achieve. I saw someone that needed to do more, strive for more, and give more of herself. But in this rawness, I finally looked into my eyes with love. I ultimately gave myself the best gift: self-love. Although I thought I had achieved it in my regular practice, I was only fooling myself. After the 9 weeks, I finally felt happy with the person I had become.
In those 9 weeks, there were moments when I doubted myself, even wanted to walk away. I sat and cried with my fellow yogis feeling absolutely discouraged by my own self-mutiny. I had been through so many tests throughout my life— health issues, nursing school, miscarriage, depression to name a few—and there I was feeling self-doubt instead of compassion. I pushed myself down a dark hole with thoughts of “I can’t do it,” “I should just quit,” and “I’m juggling too much, it’s never going to work out.” But a miraculous thing occurred during this time of hesitation: I could feel a desire to give more to myself. And in that revelation came power.
What started with a phone call and a leap of faith has brought more healing to my soul than I could have ever foreseen. My love for my life is palpable and strong. I have noticed a shift and it makes me yearn for more in each day. I have chosen happiness instead of struggle, starting my day off with a positive foot forward instead of feeling the world on my shoulders. Many times in our practice, the instructors remind us of the metaphor to climb the mountain instead of carrying it on our backs. And when things get tough, that is what I tell myself throughout the day. I now see the world with more clarity than I did before. I want more from life, not for others around me, but for the strong woman staring back at me in the mirror.
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