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Written by YS Instructor Alum, Christopher Roberson

My life was a hot mess for most of my 20’s. And when I say ‘hot’,  I don’t mean sweaty vinyasa. My personal, financial and social life were all in a constant state of chaos fueled by impulsive and dramatic decision making. In 2008 I tested positive for HIV. Suddenly life felt more fragile. The consequences of an impulsive life seemed more real and heartfelt than before. The thought of not making it through the next hurdle woke me up and I found a different path. I started eating better. I began reaching for a glass of water instead of another 32 ounces of Dr. Pepper. I went to the gym. I started treating my life like something I wanted, and not just something I had. I began to build confidence in myself. It was at this pivotal nexus in my life that I discovered yoga.

What a discovery it was. Initially I kept going back because it was hard…like…’has this lady has lost her damn mind’ hard. Over the next few months my practice began to shift. Yes, I still worked too hard. And yes, I couldn’t NOT pay attention to what everyone else was doing…but when I got up off my mat, I felt something different. Or maybe a better way to put it is that I felt less. I felt less chaos. Less anxiety. I found myself considering consequences before acting. I felt like there was time to consider my reactions before I let them burn down bridges and spark conflict with the pharmacist at Walgreens (did I mention my impatience?).

For two more years I practiced. I breathed. My life started to take new form. My relationships blossomed. The importance of yoga became clearly realized and at this point it became something I yearned to share. On a whim one day I walked into YogaSport because I saw a sign. Not some metaphorical epiphany…but like…an actual sign. I had driven by the building hundreds of times and never noticed it till this day. The studio owner, Angela, greeted me at the door and I immediately asked about teacher training. I was all in after taking my first Baptiste class with Angela. It worked in my body. It gelled in my brain. THIS. This was what I was missing. I wanted to be able to speak like the instructors here. I wanted to share seemingly trivial parts of my life but in a way that could mean something to others. I wanted to be a part of this community and for the community to be a part of me.

Teacher training started soon after and to be quite honest I thought it would be a walk in the park. I thought I would walk in, be awesome, and go home. Well, it turned out that teaching yoga is hard. It’s hard in all the ways I didn’t expect. It didn’t matter how strong my practice was. My physical strength didn’t show me how to connect with my students. My ego didn’t help me share what frustration feels like on the mat and how to over come it. All of the things that I thought would make me the best didn’t mean a thing if I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable.

The next few months I shared. I opened up my insecurities to my teaching group. I cried more in a week than I had most of my adult life. I began to see people outside of the lens of my own needs and wants. I got better at not being great. The hundreds of little things I learned in teacher training led to the big changes I needed after I thought my life had fallen apart. Today I look back at where I started, and where I see myself now. I scan the room of bodies before each class and I am thankful to be in the studio, surrounded by amazing and unique people who are all willing to be present and ready to sweat and breathe with me. Today when I think to myself: ‘Damn, I’m a hot mess’…it’s because my blue hair die ran down my face during a particularly rewarding yoga class and I forgot to pack extra clothes for the ride home.

…and I wouldn’t change a thing.