Get Outside Your Comfort Zone: Yoga with Corepower Studio Manager, Steph Woods

CRAZY.

Why have we done the same 5 movements so many times?

That guy is breathing so loudly!

How am I supposed to relax knowing I’m only burning like…5 calories this whole hour?! 

The thoughts kept pouring through my brain, taking me right out of the yoga studio I was physically in. I was moving my body hardly conscious of it, rending myself a zombie – moving so unaware, uncontrolled, and yet too in control. I held no value in slowing down. “Why go slow when life moves so fast?” I thought.

It wasn’t until about seven years later that life forced me to slow down.

After that first yoga class when I was 16, I went on to obtain a Bachelor degree in Dance from UCLA. Believing I wasn’t skilled enough to get work, I started tending bar. I suddenly filled my life with partying, drinking, late nights and more that I won’t get into here. In short, life got a little crazy. I don’t say that as a negative thing, necessarily, as I’ve learned and grown so much from each part of my life. But crazy is the best way to describe those times.

I was living in Venice Beach, and had nothing to show for my life except some failed, tumultuous relationships, an almost-empty bank account, a heavy heart, and a neglected spirit. Looking back, I see now that I was sad – I was hurt, lonely and unfulfilled. In the moment, however, I tried to justify my life, saying I was indeed happy: I was living by the beach, spent my free time having fun with friends, and had an easy job that paid the bills. The truth however, was that I simply wasn’t myself anymore. I had completely repelled almost all of my college friends by this point, who I once heard whispering that I had gone crazy.

In their defense, I had.

After a series of events that left me feeling completely beat-down and hopeless, I remained stubborn. I tried to fight for the life I had, thinking that changing anything was admitting defeat. I believed that persevering through the negativity around and within me would make me stronger.  But eventually, I couldn’t fight anymore. I was tired. Reluctantly, I surrendered. I left my home, my jobs, my friends, a boyfriend and an entire life behind. Later, I would understand that surrendering is often the hardest thing you can do. It takes so much more strength and courage to walk away than to stand in the middle of a tornado, pretending you can somehow stop it.steph rydwy

{Enter: yoga.} I returned to my mat, now seven years after that first class. I felt like a traitor walking into the studio. I wasn’t happy and bubbly like everyone else. I wasn’t athletic anymore, I didn’t dress like a yogi or talk like one. I had no idea what “namaste” meant, and I walked around with sadness and a blank stare while everyone else seemed to smile constantly and see their best friend in every corner. I was intimated. I was scared. I felt like I didn’t belong. But there I was, ready to sweat, move my body, and start over.

Steph Woods YogaClass began, and I let the poses take me away. Yes, my mind got distracted at times, but the instructor reminded me to breathe and go deeper into the pose. Muscles shaking, sweat dripping from every inch of skin, I got lost in the best way possible: I got lost in the present moment. All of the fear, aggression, hurt, loss, and sadness – everything I had accumulated over the past couple years – started to melt away. Eyes shut, breathing deep, heart pulsing – I saw myself, so clearly, yet so differently. And then without warning, I started crying. I didn’t know why, but I couldn’t stop it. It was like somehow, in this yoga class, every single person who had hurt me, every situation that made me bitter, every event that had jaded me – it all pushed itself out. I said to myself from some unknown place, “You are perfect.” I had never felt that before. So I cried. Suddenly, I knew I was going crazy, but this time for the better.

I wasn’t completely healed in one class, but after that experience, I knew I had to keep coming back. I replaced every negative thing in my life with yoga. I altered my career path and my free time with time on my mat. I kept healing and releasing, and I became the best version of myself, which is ever-growing. I learned to be self-loving, more compassionate towards others, and more patient and present in life. Sure, I learned some new yoga poses along the way and got physically stronger, but it’s the internal changes that kept me coming back, and still do.

Photograph by: Ryan Merkwan Dwyer

Photograph by: Ryan Merkwan Dwyer

Over the past two years of a devoted yoga practice, I have learned that we all experience hurt, fear, and doubt. We all think, in some way, that we are not good enough or don’t belong. But through yoga, I’ve found within myself a truth that we are all perfect. We are all good enough. We all belong.

If you’re scared to start a yoga practice because you’re afraid you won’t fit in or aren’t “yoga” enough, don’t worry – every yogi likely felt that way at the start. Yoga is about discovering yourself on a deeper and more profound layer than any fear or insecurity can ever touch. It doesn’t matter if you think anyone is judging you or if you’re worried you don’t fit in; When you start to breathe deep and sweat hard, everything else falls away. The voices in your head quiet, and you can listen to your heart. There is absolutely no prerequisite to get yourself onto your mat. Let yourself be empowered. Let yourself be loved. Let yourself see how perfect you are.

Give yourself permission to go absolutely, totally crazy, in the best way possible.


Photograph by: Ryan Merkwan Dwyer

Photograph by: Ryan Merkwan Dwyer

Steph Woods is a Power Vinyasa yoga instructor, Yoga Teacher Training Lead Coach, and Studio Manager. She is the creator and Artistic Director of 8th Limb Dance, a company which combines yoga and modern dance into a fun and unique style of movement. She loves that her daily life is committed to sharing health, happiness, empowerment, inspiration and self-love with others. Outside of yoga and dance, Steph loves live music, time in nature, good scotch and of course spending time with her family and friends. Her main ideals to live by are gratitude & love – in every way, every day.

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