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On Modern Magic

Growing up on 2,000 acres of hay fields and forested mountain, you will believe in magic. I spent the first decade of my life making potions out of thistle heads, dragonfly wings, badger bones and handfuls of small river rocks. I could speak to all of the animals, and the wind, and the thunderclouds. With the addition of my parent’s rejection of the catholic church, and the tale of a certain boy wizard and his scar, my belief in magic became the very foundation of my being. Growing up on that much land, how could you look up at the never-ending blue sky and not think that it was created specifically with you in mind, along with every other living creature?

When your best friend dies unexpectedly at age 15, you stop believing in magic. And after that, life has a way of cementing that transition into place; it is never the same. It wasn’t a slow transition, I just stopped. I stopped believing there was anything special about anyone.

Searching for some sort of control, I turned my attention to myself. I explored my body, my skin, first with my hands and then with other things: needles, pins, and blades. Every time I tore into my own skin I became blindingly aware of my place in the world, unimportant, obsolete, but still here with my feet on the ground.

At the time that I found yoga, two years later, I was scarred inside and out. Yoga did not save me, as it has for so many people. In fact, it made life even harder than it was before. The sound of the harmonium did not spark a fire in my heart, nor did the traditional stories give any metaphoric meaning to my life. Chanting om in a dark room gave me no more feeling of connectedness than I felt at any other time. Mostly I rolled my eyes, but the physical practice gave me something real to distance my thoughts from body, a new way to separate the memories from the right now.

It took several more years for me to stop feeling like a fraud in my own yogic practice. At 21 years old, I was just surfacing from another long and self-destructive bout with depression. I saw an ad online from a local yoga studio offering a 200hr Teacher Training. Whether you dream of teaching, or simply want to deepen your understanding of yoga, join us and take your practice to the next level.

Deepen your understanding. This time I did not roll my eyes. I wanted to understand.

When I discovered the Yoga Union 200hr Teacher Training, I did not know Annie, I did not live in Portland, and it was not particularly on the top of my list. At the time, I wanted to go to some resort island, spend a month practicing asana on the beach, and return home with a certificate. In all honesty, the Yoga Union training was simply the only training that would fit into my schedule. But as I researched the studio and the woman who directed it, I heard something speak from what I can only name as my very center, urging me that this was a step I needed to take.

The first spark of new magic, of following intuition. I read blog posts, watched the video on the website, and more and more I felt like this would finally be the thing to pull me from my self-made pit of despair, that Annie would be the one to save me from my self-doubt, and help me to escape my shadow self. I had not named it to myself yet but deep down I wanted it to all make sense again, for magic to make sense again. I had my hesitations but I followed that growing feeling in my gut, and I applied.

Annie will show you magic, but not in the way I had originally thought. On one of the first days of training, she told us the story of Ganesha’s broken tusk. In the story, Ganesha breaks his tusk in anger, and hurls it at the full moon, shattering the moon into it’s lunar phases. Afterwards, reflecting on the incident, Ganesha wonders, What am I supposed to do with this tusk now? What purpose does it have, now that it is broken? He regretfully wishes he had never broken it off in the first place. Later, however, a great sage asks Ganesha to scribe for him, as he narrates the greatest epic of all time. Ganesha realizes that the broken piece of himself that he has been carrying around for so long, can now become his greatest tool. He dips his broken tusk in a big pot of ink, and agrees to scribe for the sage.

This training will ask you to face your broken parts. As much as Annie will inspire you, she will push you to be the best version of yourself. She is a warrior, a fierce friend, and a leader and role model to her community, but she did not get there from taking the easy road. With over a decade of experience, her self-driven study and passion encompasses many aspects of yoga, from fundamental and functional movement, to mantra and ritual and the practice of prayer, to yoga therapeutics designed specifically for the individual. She is a masterful storyteller, a clear and precise teacher, and can see each and every person as their own unique set of body, mind, and soul.

That being said, this training is anything but easy. There is no beach, there is no automatic certification. There is no standardized program taught the same to each trainee. You and your fellow trainees will graduate from this program uniquely different from each other, each with your own set of passions and skills. As she invests in each individual, Annie will design exercises specific to your strengths and weaknesses.

I am now two thirds of the way through this training and everything has changed. In a totally thrilling way, I have more questions than when we began six months ago. In this training you will receive a comprehensive knowledge of the physical human biomechanics and anatomy, learn the actions and qualities of postural alignment, explore mantra, meditation, and daily ritual. You will feel inspired, and sometimes overwhelmed. You will do all of this, but more than that, you will rediscover magic, or whatever word you use to describe that feeling, that drive, that gives your life meaning. That place inside that reminds you that we are all walking our own paths, but regardless, we are walking together. That place that heals, and forgives our past mistakes.

In this training, I have rediscovered magic but it is different than how I knew it before. It is not know-the-future, bring-a-dead-squirrel-to-life magic, but the magic of simply knowing the self. Waking up in the morning and living every day with purpose and intention will yield results, or at the very least, change. When you know what you want, it is easier to achieve. When you can acknowledge what you have done, it is easier to move forwards. Finding a connection to the nameless place within yourself, it will speak so softly at first. But if you listen to it, follow it, the connection will become more clear.

This teacher training is not merely a certification to teach yoga, but truly a deepening of practice and in understanding of what yoga truly means to you. It will force you to look at parts of yourself that you have avoided, and to make choices about those parts. Regardless of whether you want to teach or not, this training will drive your practice inwards, creating the opportunity to begin to truly know yourself, the light and the shadow. You will be welcomed into a community of teachers and friends that will support you with every step you take.

This training, and yoga itself, is so transformative. Like Ganesha, we may always feel like there are parts of our lives we wish had been different, we may feel like parts of ourselves are broken and dark. But by facing them, sitting with them, we can learn to accept those things and they can transform into the very tools that empower us. Those broken places can become the places from which we can offer unique knowledge, support, and healing.

More than anything, this training has made one thing very clear to me: I feel less need to hide the parts of myself that I have never shown, never told. I believe in scars, in guilt, in shame, and that there is a lot of darkness that has lived inside of me since the day I was born. I believe this darkness will never leave me, and is not meant to. I believe this darkness is now a space to find light, or create it myself. I believe in transformation. I believe in forgiveness. I believe in becoming whole, and that we all have this power. This is what magic is to me now.

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