A Warrior, A Manatee + A Paddleboard

I just had to share this beautiful letter that Vicki wrote me following her first paddleboard yoga class with me on Saturday. She was still in her wet bathing suit when she wrote it…talk about capturing the moment (and she does so beautifully). Reflections from my students like this are exactly the reason why I do what I do. For all you teachers out there, it’s important to know how what we say and the space we hold can mean so much to others…I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Thank you for sharing, Vicki!

Having lived in Naples for the past 14 years, I have seen some pretty cool and interesting sights as I walk the beach, but nothing as amazing as watching a bunch of paddleboarders doing yoga in the ocean.  You may have seen this group before and even stopped and photographed them as you thought, wow, those people are crazy or amazing. Whichever view you take, it’s a pretty incredible sight. 

So last night when I saw an open invite to take this class pop up on Facebook, I decided to accept the challenge. I texted the instructor, Jill Wheeler, and had her sign me up. Now keep in mind that I have only been on a paddleboard twice in my life and have only done yoga three times.  I was surprised how many time during the night that I found myself thinking, what have I gotten myself into this time? I talked myself out of going at least five times but in the end, I fell asleep determined not to back out or cancel.

 I woke up to a text from Jill saying that the class was on and to wear something warmer than a bathing suit. Ummm, ok, what does that mean? It meant that it was 66 degrees and foggy and damp outside so I pulled on my suit and layered yoga Capris and a pullover on top and trudged to my car. After a quick stop at Starbucks I was headed for the beach. I tried not to let my fears and insecurities about my lack of experience get the better of me.

As I pulled up I was relieved to see that I had chosen my attire appropriately. As a woman, you will understand the importance of being properly dressed; it is half of any battle.  I sat in my car an observed the other students from afar to see if anyone appeared as nervous as I felt; they did not. I got out of the car and headed to the water.

There were about ten of us altogether.  A lovely family with teenage girls and a couple of yoga instructors were my classmates. After a brief tutorial on the proper paddling techniques we were pushing our boards into the water to begin our journey.

I managed to mount my board without incident and was feeling very proud of myself for that small feat.  Just when I started to get nervous because of a small wave, something amazing stirred beneath the water. The footprints of a manatee were appearing next to our group. So we followed the path and finally were rewarded with the surfacing of a gray snout coming up for air. After the initial excitement wore off, I realized that I had paddled myself to the front of the group and had completely forgotten to be afraid of falling off the board, probably the best lesson of the day. Let go of your fears and throw yourself into an awareness of what is around you and you forget to limit yourself because of self-imposed fear.  I hope I hold onto that one for a while.

I also realized that if you put yourself out there and stretch beyond what you think you are capable of, life rewards you.  Before the class even started I was completely satisfied with my experience because of the close up encounter with such a beautiful and rare creature. It was a gift.
As we began the yoga portion of our class I was very tense at first. After all I had not been working out for a while and wasn’t sure how far I would be able to push this 43 year old body.  But I am stubborn and determined and so I began to work into downward dog and plank and found that my balance was actually pretty good.

Jill is a very spiritual and motivational individual and as were doing our poses she began to offer words to make us think and center ourselves on what we wanted for the coming year. What did we picture for our lives and what did we need to let go of to make those visions a reality?  I was grateful at that moment for being in the front of the class with my back to the other students, as I found the tears began to flow freely and my thoughts came flooding out.

The past year had been a rough one for me. The end of a twenty year marriage, transitioning from a stay at home mom to a full time working mom, my father having two heart attacks and I facing a surgery to remove a tumor on my ovary and losing my job two weeks before Christmas was all quite overwhelming. It all came flooding to me as Jill spoke of what we wanted for the New Year. I knew what I wanted and as I pictured the vision for the coming year, we saw a dolphin surface behind us. In that moment I let go of the pain and obstacles and self imposed doubts and I just pictured what I wanted for my daughters and myself and who I wanted to be.

Jill had us then perform the Warrior pose. I thought how fitting. I do feel like a Warrior and I wanted so desperately to do that one particular pose to show myself that I was a Warrior.  What happened next was a split second of falling, and splashing and being dunked into the cold morning waters. I recall thinking shoot, I fell off, and I’m not a warrior. But in a fraction of a second I had surfaced and pulled myself back onto my board and stood to the applause of my classmates and completed my Warrior pose. 

What that moment meant to me is invaluable. It is a metaphor for the past year of my life.  I took away this, the warrior is not the person who stands on the board and never falls.  The warrior is the person who falls off the board and pulls herself back up without thinking and overcomes her obstacles.  That is what I did today and for so many days before. I have always been a warrior and I was grateful that I fell into the water because I knew then that I would always get back up on my board no matter what life throws my way.

 I am thankful that I loved myself enough to try this class despite my fears. I am thankful to Jill, for she knows not what those few words meant on the water.  And I am thankful to my classmates for their acceptance and applause because even a warrior needs a hand now and then. 

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