Guest Blog Post by Joan Lee

This is written by guest blogger/yogini Joan Lee. Joan was a Tula staple and moved to NYC a couple of weeks ago.  Tula and all of its people will miss her something fierce.  She is a beautiful spirit.
Yoga happened for me last November, precisely when I probably needed it the most, whether I knew it or not.
Last fall found me a bit of an existential mess.  A couple months prior, I had finished a two-year master’s program that had proven to be demanding and completely soul-crushing.  Upon graduating, however, I wasn’t filled with a sense of fist-pumping joy, but instead was consumed by anxiety at the thought of having to face the unknowable, ever-changing, unstable world.  Despite the fact that I had successfully finished my degree and secured a good job, I realized that after the rat race of grad school, the lack of self-dialogue and alignment with myself was catching up to me to seriously kick my ass.
Amidst all of that inner-chaos I managed to find Tula.  Here I must thank my awesome next-door neighbor/hairdresser who told me that the new yoga studio in the neighborhood was pretty good.  So I decided to check it out at 8:30am one Sunday morning.  And while I don’t believe yoga is something for one to be good or bad at, I can say that I looked and felt a mess that first class.  But I kind of liked it.  Unlike the type-A, crazy person that grad school brought out of me, I loved that practicing yoga on my mat was a release for me to be straight-up silly, to try things that seemed a bit absurd (you want me to balance on my chin?).  I came to embrace all of my shortcomings- every faceplant, tight hamstring, unfulfilled pose- and over time I didn’t consider these things to be shortcomings at all, instead I felt a deeper connection to myself, and, gasp!, even a sense of appreciation for myself.
In retrospect, yoga happened for me at a time when I was consciously attempting to shed the cynicism, to choose happiness and to accept love as guiding principles in my life.  I had adopted the mantras of being kind to myself and keeping an open heart and open mind to the world.  And yoga was a great outlet for me to practice these things until they started sticking.
In addition to increased flexibility and physical strength, the unexpected awesome cherry on top of this whole yoga journey of mine has been meeting all of the amazing yoga friends that I have made over the past ten months, including Cassi!  When I began taking yoga classes, I loved the anonymity I had in class while on my mat, but to my surprise, having a supportive community of big-hearted, compassionate people has been one of the highlights of my Chicago life- and one of the hardest things I have had to say goodbye to this last month!  Believe me, I was seriously having second thoughts about moving after some truly lovely yoga ladies surprised me with bubbly and chocolate pie after my last yoga class!
It’s so ironic that through becoming a part of a community of really supportive and encouraging friends, I felt empowered to make the decision to move to New York, thereby forcing what feels like a premature goodbye from my friends! But I think this is what yoga is about- experiencing and feeling grateful for the present and then letting go when the time comes.  And I can see how I’ve changed through my yoga practice; I am aligned with myself and able to be more at peace with the unknowable, ever-changing, unstable world that I live in.
So I’ve been a New Yorker for about two weeks now, and despite my homesickness, I am trying out a new yoga home in Brooklyn.  It’s good… different, but that’s ok!
Through all of the experiences I’ve had via yoga at Tula and during the past year, I am grateful for everything that transpired before this moment and excited for all that is waiting to be discovered! Miss you Cassi and everyone at Tula!