I’ve touched on this some in my Open Letter to Future Yogis, but I thought it was time to share my own yoga journey with all of you.
I started practicing yoga just after quitting Varsity Cheerleading at Virginia Tech. I was captured by the physicality of the practice, and the ability to be challenged in an environment that championed rejuvenation and a softer side of “coaching” than I was familiar with.
My youth included high intensity practices in AAU & USA Gymnastics, UCA & NCA Competitive Cheerleading, and USA Diving. The words, "practice is not about perfect, it's about practice," might as well have been spoken in foreign tongue the first time I heard them. I recall lots of feedback at practice; in fact, I remember some instances vividly. There was a moment in dance training at Stingray Allstars where my coach called me out, "What in God's name are you doing Carly?" I remember another moment at diving practice at The Westminster Schools; wherein, my coach picked up her chair and threw it in the water yelling, "This is not the right sport for you - go home." While the first memory is etched in my mind complete with the way my coaches words landed on my brave smile, the latter is a bit hazy. I can see the white plastic chair in the pool, and my coaches clipboard strewn on the deck; however, I can't recall whom was the diver guilty of upsetting our coach. I've always found it interesting which memories are stickier to dredge up. If I keep digging I will probably unveil something else about that day that I have purposefully buried from myself.
I was conditioned in Perfect 10 mentality; in fact, success in every sport I practiced before joining Stingray Allstars was ultimately dependent on the success of the individual practitioner. Between the ages of 6 and 15, I became fluent in performance on demand, a master of the 'brave smile', and familiar with feeling both disappointed in myself and over-joyously proud. Working hard and not placing in a competition was not a worry of mine; however, falling short of my potential was a fear. Fear can knock a back-handspring off a 6 inch balance beam straight to the floor. When fear interferes with ego and the citta (chatter) between your ears becomes too loud, confidence is overcome by apprehension in mere seconds. Fear is real.
When I left my first yoga class in Blacksburg, VA - I wasn't sure what to think. I was exhausted, rejuvenated, fulfilled, and still wanting more. I returned to yoga the next day, and the following, and it wasn't long before I swapped my drop-in classes for a membership, and knew the instructors as friends. Within the chaos of a college town, I found respite at InBalance Yoga where the community included both women and men from various stages (and ages) of life. If you are in college now, it's normal to get sick of being around people age 18-22, and in my experience, helpful to make friends with mentors and those younger than you as well. I will never forget my dear friend Ivi, a Mother with high-schoolers of her own, whom went out of her way to spend time getting to know me, sharing meals with me, and staying in touch over email to this day.
I’ve had many influential teachers whom have shaped my yoga practice and teaching over the years; in fact, I owe little pieces of my voice to each teacher whose class I've ever stepped in. A few instructors whom continue to inspire me are,
- Becky Crigger, previous Owner of Blacksburg’s first Heated Power Yoga Studio, InBalance Yoga. In 2010 Becky said, "You should do Yoga Teacher Training Carly." I went home and began searching for a summer program.
- Marie Belle Yoga, the yogi who taught me the first class I loved, and now a global traveller and fierce female practitioner. Marie Belle showed me the beauty in strength, and proved a strong practice was not just "show-ga."
- Jenn Richardson, La Jolla Yoga Instructor and lululemon athletica Yoga Ambassador who showed me how to incorporate various elements of yoga into a vinyasa flow. Jenn was the first person I saw mix elements of Kundalini, Meditation, and Pranayama all within a 90 minute class.
- Dana Trixie Flynn, Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus, and the one whom lead my first Yoga Teacher Training in the Summer of 2011. Dana has the ability to make each and every yogi in her room feel seen. Her energy is insatiable, and her raw truth is refreshing. Before I left NYC to head back to Atlanta upon completing 200 Hours with Dana, she turned to me and said, "You will do big things."
- Baron Baptiste, Owner and Founder of Baptiste Power Yoga, and the man whom deserves credit in creating space for a worldwide community of like minded people. The Community that BPYI has fostered provides me with a yoga studio I can call Home in nearly every city and state I travel to.
(Astavakrasana - the picture below - was one of my favorite poses when I first started practicing! It felt kinda fancy, better yet, it's accessible in funky places and easier to knock out than it appears!)
While these moments, relationships, and pieces of my journey all contributed to my opening Thunderbolt Power Yoga. I feel like I have just begun sharing with you. Thunderbolt is home to Carly Grace Power Flow- a powerful alignment-based vinyasa flow that incorporates creative and intelligent sequencing. TPY is a space that fosters inspiring others through vulnerability and authenticity, creating room for letting loose- being #audaciously playful both on the yoga mat and off, and for having a home big enough for 40 sweaty friends you'll come to know as family.
Let me know what part of my story you'd like to learn more about in the comments!