Meet Stephanie Birch, a yoga teacher, writer, photographer, play at home mom and lucy contributor.Read more
When I think about this yoga life journey, what it really boils down to is that it is my way of life journey. Yoga just happens to play a big part of it. My first introduction to yoga seems like many moons ago and yet it feels like it was yesterday. So much has changed in my life since that first practice, I became a mother and a teacher. I have been living and expressing from my Soul everyday through writing, photography, teaching, and creating. Everyday, I am reminded and reflect on this new feeling of learning to stay in it; even the shaky-ness and newness of the practice as my life unfolds. It isn’t so much that yoga changed my life overnight, but it certainly began to change the way I looked at myself from that very first practice.
The second beginning of my yoga journey saved my life. I was a new mom and going through some really dark times, and yet, some of the most exciting times in my life transitioning into this parenting role. To be pulled into a dark depression while experiencing moments of beautiful firsts with my son was not only challenging but taking a toll on our family unit. I was living dead. I could fake smiles and feign perfected family life as well as not shower for days and perform just enough mom duties to ensure his safety and nourishment. Something had to change.
That something was yoga. It was the threat of a hospital visit or find something that would peel me off the couch and step outside. I chose yoga. It was there that I began to re-connect with myself to be guided into postures through breath and allow myself to feel. When we let go of what is going inside of our head, we begin to feel ourselves from the inside. There is something powerful that happens to the brain when you sweat, move your body, and strengthen your physical make-up. Shifts take place; not only do we release endorphins on the mat, which are instant mood-lifters, sometimes it’s the very presence of a powerful teacher encouraging me on the mat with thoughtful words and in-sync breath. Other times it was a loving hand placed on my back supporting me. It’s these teachers that will forever be a part of my healing and growth for simply being present. For saying words that supported me to keep on. It allowed me to see myself in a new way, one day at a time, one practice at a time.
Through months of a daily devotion, I started to share my experiences about motherhood, yoga, and life on social media, Instagram, to be precise. I often wrote daily on life struggles, triumphs, and truths paired with a photo, mostly a yoga pose or family life. It became an outlet for me to share deeply personal things and revelations on life. I wrote as though I was releasing words in to a diary and began to connect with a community of people behind the online app with similar stories in successes, failures, and, most importantly, vulnerability. There was a lot of healing that took place in a way that is hard for me to put into words. I continued to write about my practice and the study yoga as it continued to transform my life inside-out. Since then, I’ve completed certified teacher trainings and this year I started assisting my mentor’s 200hr RYS teacher trainings. It was Diana Vitantonio’s Soul Activists teacher training that empowered and supported me into the teacher I am today. Heavily dosed with knowledge and lessons in asana, meditation, self-devotion, how to teach a class, and the greatest impact of all, living in my Soul’s purpose.
I knew I wanted to teach to change lives. It sounds a little cliche and perhaps a bit whimsical but I know what this practice is capable of, because I am living it everyday. Being present for students as they show up on their mat is a gift like no other. I have witnessed tears, anger, struggles as well as its successes, joy, peace, and absolute connection to the moment. I believe that a yoga practice is personal, you can make it what you want. Coming to a studio to join others in breath and movement is one of the most beautiful and impactful benefits of the practice. I often ask students to encourage their neighbor’s breath and presence with your own. It’s a supportive and servicing act to practice together. There’s not a class that I teach where I don’t reflect on my life and practice, because I am grateful for it every damn day.
I knew I wanted to teach to change lives.
In my own life, I have learned that self-devotion is an important act of self-love. It is a practice to take time each day to sit with myself. Even if it’s as little as 5 minutes or as long as a 75 minute yoga class. The way yoga showed up in my life that second round feels like I got a second chance. I have had to take a look at myself and love myself through the not-so-pretty sides of me. I have learned that my story includes accepting my darkness as much as my light. It is often heard in the yoga community, “love and light” but I believe it is much more. For me, it is “love and light and dark.” Meaning that we experience life in ebbs and flow and we are here to go through it all and grow through it all.
The way yoga showed up in my life that second round feels like I got a second chance.
Today, I continue to write about life, yoga, love, family, and anything that rolls off the tip of my mental tongue and pumping heart. It’s incredible to look back on bits of life that, at times, I wanted to tuck away and hide from but I now understand life can absolutely change from getting physical in your body. Your yoga practice is yours, there is no right way or wrong way, I hold this so true for my own practice and teaching, on and off the mat. Whatever you are going through in life – get on your mat; get physical, move your body, touch your body, know your body, love your body. There is possibility that your life can change in tremendous ways from the very sweat you drip onto your mat. It’s commitment to say “yes” to yourself. Your comfort may lay in your neighbor’s breath, a teacher’s voice, a release on your living room floor, or someone lending a hand on your back or holding space for you to let go in the room. Opening ourselves up and allowing vulnerability to seep into our lives is the biggest ticket to connection.
I have quite the mama-bear attitude when it comes to speaking about this practice and teaching because it became a life-saving thing, and it started out as a purely physical practice for me. Sometimes the yoga world can feel a little intimidating on the “shoulds” of the practice, teaching styles, lineages, and lists of commandments. It is so personal and sometimes we just don’t know why people practice, and I ask that students show up as they are – pissed off or sad or happy or feeling crazy. Come for the physical, mental or spiritual. Yoga is changing and it is healing the world and you get to decide if or how it changes your world. My job, as a teacher, is to get you into your body, breathing, and feeling yourself. However way we get there, as a co-creation, is beautiful, real, and exactly the way its supposed to be. I always be an advocate for whichever way you get there, however way you show up, exactly as you arrive.