A Student's Story: Blanca Hurley
Tula is made up of some absolutely amazing students and teachers. This is the first of many student (and teacher) stories that I will be posting.
Please meet Blanca Hurley. She is a simply a ray of sunshine and it is always a pleasure to see her at the studio each week. Every week she inspires me and after reading her story, I am inspired even more.....
A Plus-size Yogini’s Journey
Written by: Blanca Hurley
My yoga journey began 12 years ago, when Dora Ruffner a choreographer, PhD candidate, yoga and dance teacher took on an enormous endeavor of implementing yoga into the Dance Program at Palo Alto College, which is located in an underprivileged area of San Antonio, TX. At this time yoga studios and classes were not readily available, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I have to admit that I came to yoga with the vain intention of maintaining my-then thin figure and perhaps shedding even more weight. Of course Dora’s classes contained the physical asana practice I sought, however, she also taught a philosophical component. Needless to say, I was unprepared for the latter, but that is what strengthened me the most. I became her faithful student for four years.
Then the responsibilities of life piled on and so did the weight as I took on a career that compromised my happiness. Most days I had to force myself to get out of bed; after work I excessively indulged on food. My body no longer resembled a fit twenty-something-year-old. My days of practicing yoga became a distant memory.
Subsequently my husband Steve saw how miserable I was and encouraged me to find my happiness. I quit my job, went back to school as a non-traditional student, and we eventually decided to move to Chicago–a city that as a poet I had romanticized since adolescence. By happenstance, I reconnected with my friend Tim, who was visiting for the holidays. Unfortunately, he delivered the news that Dora had passed away abruptly (5 months after I ran into her at Whole Foods). Cancer made its way into her body undetected until it was too late.
Although she taught me that impermanence was part of our human condition–that our energy is recycled back into the earth–this was not enough to console me. I found myself searching for something to alleviate my grief. I needed yoga, but I was too embarrassed to walk into a studio at size 18/20.
Several years passed and within this time Steve and I traveled to Dublin, Paris, London, and eventually made our way to Sydney. While walking around The Royal Botanic Gardens we came across a photo-shoot of women doing various asanas along the quay. I watched as they adjusted themselves into Warrior II, Tree, and Chair, when tears began to roll down my face. It took going all across the world for me to realize that yoga is what makes me happy. I decided right then that as soon as we got back to The States I would begin practicing yoga again–all 250 lbs. of me.
I found Tula after doing a random search for yoga studios in Logan Square. I will never forget walking in that Saturday and being greeted by Amanda. I was so nervous about not being accepted in my plus-size body, but she was friendly, funny, and most importantly non-judgmental. Still I nervously set-up my mat (of course, at the very back of the room). Michelle walked-in and greeted everyone in the most loving way that is familiar to her students. Prior to this I had never been to a yoga class with other plus-size students let alone a plus-size teacher! I was amazed by her strength and ability to make her students feel at-ease.
Gradually, I worked my way up from practicing yoga once a week to five times weekly. I no longer dread waking-up Monday mornings, because I am able to start my week practicing Hatha with Monica, who reminds me of how strong I have become. By midweek when all the hustle and bustle of the city has exhausted me, I look forward to Thursdays with Jody, who reminds me that although I have dealt with difficult people all week there are some really wonderful people too. *Fridays with Amanda reminds me to always challenge myself. Saturday mornings when the city is quiet I look forward to practicing with Michelle who reminds me that beauty has nothing to do with a number on a scale. Lastly, *Sundays with Nathan reminds me that the slightest movements are like words in a poem–they mean everything.
For all these reasons I am thankful for the community at Tula!
*Currently conflicts with yoga teacher training. One of the greatest things I have learned about yoga is knowing that I will eventually make my way back.