From Trauma to Teacher


Guest Blogger: Lisa Melton

I feel dark today. I’ve woken up with a heaviness in my body; my skin constricting my happiness. I go to the washroom and can’t even look at the “You are beautiful” sticker that is fused to my mirror. My first thought this morning? Wishing I had a knife so I could carve out my insides and start afresh. I crave lightness, to feel good in my skin, to feel calm in my mind. My distaste for this increasing heaviness pushes me to question why I fill myself with unhealth. I know my being is too full. I know I am uncomfortable. Yet I continue. I have done this my whole life. I have always hidden it and yet, today, it feels unbearable and as though I am experiencing it on a new level.

For some reason I am taken back to my first day of Yin Yoga Teacher Training (YYTT). I was so shy and embarrassed by my body. I convinced myself that everyone would laugh at me because I wasn’t skinny and wearing Lululemon. I was convinced everyone would judge me for invading their sacred space with my old yoga pants and my used, two dollar flip-flops. I never imagined that I could ever teach a class. Me? Stand in front of all these thin, powerful women and try teach THEM something? To have them listen to me speak and have them give a shit? right. Don’t get me wrong, I have done some serious work on myself in regards to dealing with and overcoming my life’s experience to date. Somehow, I was gifted with an incredible chance to experience this YYTT. But I was terrified. But, I went.

For four days I was essentially a mute, frozen by my fear. I was overwhelmed by information that was spoken in a language I hadn’t really heard before. I was floored by the amazing women I met. One woman was from Iran and I was struck by her tenacious articulation. Another woman possessed her Master’s in Divinity, she struck me with her ability to express what she needed in any moment. Yet another woman was a badass,tree hugging, animal activist who always graced me with her smile and her willingness to listen. These women, among the others in the group, helped me to begin feeling like my voice mattered… like I mattered.

Day after day, everything got heavier and more challenging. By day four I was raw. I was exhausted. But, I went. From day four on I wept every day. And for the first time, I didn’t judge myself for it. I wept in front of others and they respected my need to do so. They just sat with me or handed me a box of tissues. They allowed me to have that moment with myself – what a gift! Day after day, things began to change inside. I no longer weighed myself upon waking. I no longer worried about my clothes not being expensive enough or ‘yoga’ enough. I stopped looking in the mirror. Not because I couldn’t look at myself but because I was now able to see myself so much clearer without it. I began to feel good in my skin and I no longer woke up feeling as though I wanted to scrape my insides out.

Our incredibly inspirational yoga guide gifted us all a yoga pillow that she made. I, for whatever reason, used it to cover my eyes during our morning Asana sessions. I loved the way it removed my sense of sight and how it helped me delve deeper into my body. Suddenly it occurred to me, having the yoga pillow over my eyes allowed me to quiet the acute hyper-awareness I had utilized as a way to survive in this life of mine. In that moment, I no longer needed that comfort and protection. In that moment, I was ok without it. When i removed the yoga pillow from my eyes I fully embraced this new vision, a new way of looking at the world and my position in it. This was when it happened. We were asked to teach the class. Gulp!

Nervously, I stepped out in front of my peers. I was to teach them two of my favourite shapes. I was terrified. But, I did it. In the beginning, I stumbled over my words as though rocks had been sporadically placed beneath my feet. My first shape was feet up the wall. I had always loved how I would feel tingles down my legs, as though the stars were filling me up with hope inside. The next pose was a supported heart opener with the yoga pillow over the eyes and a sandbag across the stomach. At this moment, Olafur’s ‘Tomorrow Song’ came on my iPod. For some reason, unknown to me at the time, I hopped up and grabbed my journal. I began reading a piece of writing I had done on what Yin means to me. Suddenly I felt confident in my words, calm in my delivery and my heart was truly open. This moment changed my life. My voice mattered. My life experience mattered. My ability to connect with these breathtaking souls mattered. The song finished and I quietly went back to my mat. After collecting themselves, one woman said it was like she could feel me, another said I felt really authentic, another mouthed the words, “I love you”. This moment changed my life.

My life has been a messy mural of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Two failed marriages. Drug and alcohol addictions. And a level of self-hatred and hopelessness that, in many life questioning moments, I never thought I could overcome. I have always searched for love, thinking that in hearing those three words I would be saved from myself. And here, in this moment, a stranger only had to mouth those words for me to hear a voice arise from inside myself. I didn’t need to actually hear her say those words to me – I could hear my voice in my ears. This is the first moment that I thought, Yes! I could be a teacher. From that day on, whenever I said, “I’m not a teacher” at least one woman would say ‘Yet!’. And then I too began saying ‘yet’.

So, I bring you back to present day. The day where I awoke to a life of darkness, another day where I wished I could take that knife and carve out my insides as a means of cleansing myself. This day where I find myself restricting my tears in spite of this quiet soul’s whisper that says “It’s ok, it’s just a little healing”. Truth be told, I have not done Yin since I completed the teacher training. Boy, do I feel a difference! Sharing my experience here has helped me to understand that I have been given a gift. For me, to teach Yin would be a radical act of surrender and self-love. Teacher training changed my life. My eyes have been opened to what I am capable of feeling and I can no longer go back to my old self soothing patterns of over-consumption on any level. That first teaching experience, combined with a number of experiences since, has shown me that I can be a teacher. Because I matter. Because my existence in this life matters. My wounds can be my weapons and I can share my experiences so others can ignite their own self-love.

I used to think that in order for my life to matter, I had to die in the name of something honorable. Today, as I write this, I believe that in order for my life to matter, I need to live in the name of something honorable. That something is me.