We all come in different shapes and sizes, but we also come with unique life experiences that shape us on the inside. What we experience is not always up to us, but what we choose to learn from it may be the essence of who we become.
My life journey has made me who I am today. My life has given me the opportunity to find my purpose in teaching yoga, promoting health and wellness, building thriving communities, and supporting people on their paths to living long, happy, and healthy lives.
But how did I come to realize this purpose?
Since I was a little girl, I felt like life was one big adventure, and I wanted to experience it to the fullest. I didn’t have a plan, but I had an intention to explore the world, connect with people, and find out what I am capable of achieving.
I grew up in a small town in Poland during the communist oppression. I watched my parents doing their best to keep their four children fed and protected. I worried about my older brother who was drafted into the military during the revolution that led to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. I saw my best friend’s father arrested for his involvement in the Solidarity movement – one of the most unique and inspiring movements in the modern European history.
I still remember my dad listening to “Voice of America” every evening. He had the radio close to his ear so the neighbors wouldn’t hear it – we couldn’t trust anyone during those trying times. Today, I believe it was the “Voice of America” that planted the seed in my head to pursue freedom and liberty in a foreign land.
Arts and music were a big part of my life. During my elementary and middle school years, I attended both public and music schools. My brother was a jazz musician and an opera singer. To this day, I can still hear my mom’s beautiful voice, singing within my mind. She sang in church we all attended every Sunday.
After high school, I wanted to be a medical doctor, but I chose to study performing arts and get an evening job in a musical theater and within a modeling agency to pay for my college education. This was a challenging time for me as a young woman as I often struggled with defining who I was, what my values were, and how to protect and preserve my beliefs. The “#Me too” seemed like a normal part of life that I chose at that time. I experienced common incidents of sexual harassment from music directors, senior artists, and managing instructors, as well as watching my friends challenged by it.
I was twenty-five-years old when I came to the United States as a member of The National Folk Song and Dance Ensemble Mazowsze. This was the most prestigious performing group in Poland, and one of the largest artistic ensembles in the world. After performing with Mazowsze for three months in North America, I decided not to go back home, but instead experience what I had always been curious about: Life in America, true freedom, easy lifestyle, happy people, and many opportunities for growth.
I found myself working in restaurants, hotels, accounting and administrative offices, as well as babysitting for wealthy families. My life wasn’t quite what I had seen in popular Hollywood movies, but it was a way for me to survive, obtain necessary education, and build a better future based on my belief that anything was possible. I knew very well how to survive; after all, the skill of surviving was in my DNA.
My life changed dramatically after I got married and started a family. Becoming a parent was the most profound experience in my life. My children inspired me and became my most valuable teachers. Life was no longer about me surviving, it was all about them thriving. This was when I started to understand the concept of serving others.
My first son was born with severe food allergies. I desperately looked for resources on how to raise a healthy child, and how to be stable in the new situation. I took my first yoga class on my first mother’s day as a new mom. For a big portion of the class, I stayed in “Child’s Pose,” crying until I felt the sense of release I hadn’t felt for a very long time.
Three months after giving birth to my second son, my husband lost sight in one of his eyes and had to give up his job as an airline pilot. We moved three times in five years including moving to Alaska for two long years. Shortly after coming back to Colorado, my body reached its limits, and started showing symptoms of a serious health problem, which was later diagnosed as chronic Lyme disease.
In the search for health and well-being, I turned to yoga and Ayurveda*. I applied both modalities in my own healing path and working with other people. I found my new purpose and inspiration in teaching gentle, healing, and restorative styles of yoga. I connected with my students through a mutual understanding of what pain, fatigue, and constant discomfort meant. I slowly surrendered and healed, and so did many of my students.
And here I am, friends, still learning and still work in progress. I am grateful for everything I have experienced, everyone who has showed up for me, every opportunity where I saw my purpose, and every reason that allowed me to know “I am enough.”
* You can learn more about my journey with yoga and Ayurveda from my book Finding Your Yoga: Essential Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle with Yoga and Ayurveda.