the path of love & devotion:
how yoga teacher training changed my life
by: kellee rich
“The important thing is this: to be able, at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” – Charles Du Bos
The Epiphany & An Awakening
I remember a friend once told me, “in order to change your life, to get out of your current situation, you need to move, just get out of town.”
This worldly advice never did sit right with me. And to this day, I still do not agree.
Two years ago, I sat in front of my window, gazing out at the same beautiful view I look at everyday, stricken with Lyme Disease, suffering from two massive strokes, and stuck in a wheelchair. My friends words began to resonate with me. I wanted out. But how could I even imagine getting out? I couldn’t even get out of my wheelchair.
It was as these words were biting at my ears, that I had an epiphany . . .
No matter where you are, there you are. If you are unable to change your place in time, running away will not change you. You can only change you. You can only change your situation. You must have the strength and courage to change, exactly where you, because it is where you are supposed to be.
I had to muster up the strength and courage to get up and out of that wheelchair. To get a hold on my health, my mind, my life. Even as I felt myself dying slowly, this epiphany showed me light in a time of extreme darkness. It’s only then, in complete darkness, that we truly see the light.
I was unhappy, crippled, alone and scared. I did not like the person I had become: dis-eased, angry, confused, sickly, incapable. I knew my path had to change if I was going to survive this. And so I turned to yoga, again. It helped me in my younger, extreme sports years. How could it not help me now?
The Journey to Change
The journey back to health was long, hard and full of suffering. I am still healing today. Fact: It takes 10x longer to heal than it does to get hurt.
I knew I still had a really long road ahead of me. Considering that I have started at square one with my disabled body over and over again, I look at beginnings as a unique opportunity for change and inspiration.
I started going to Bikram Yoga daily. Sooner than I expected, I stood up in class, getting out of my wheelchair. I had my first sense of victory, but knew how much more I had to endure to call myself “normal” again. I was still 95 pounds and suffered severe right-sided weakness and paralysis.
I never let these massive & mountainous goals get me down. I consider each plateau a milestone in my recovery. I use Sankalpa, or intention, to guide me back to a healthy mind, body and soul. Yoga, or asana, pranayama (breathing techniques and practices) and meditation have become an everyday retreat, a healing escape, in which I return from practice rejuvenated.
Slowly but surely, my grace and balance have come back to me. My hard work has payed off. I have discovered a permanent fixture in my life. Yoga has become a path, one that once I began to travel down, became more than a direction in life. Yoga is my purpose, my dharma, my heart’s desire.
The Path of Love & Devotion
During this time of deep healing, I was re-introduced to Bhakti Yoga, the path of Love and Devotion, and I found my place in this life as well.
Bhakti Yoga has taught me to open my heart again. After years of living with my heart closed-off, shut-down and shattered, having bad relationship, after bad relationship, and with the sudden loss of both my father and my best friend within weeks of each other, I decided to make a change, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to open a closed-off, shut-down, broken heart.
In Bhakti Yoga, I found something bigger than myself, something I profoundly believe in. And in trusting myself, by opening myself up to my teachers and students, and through daily practice, my heart began to blossom open like a lotus flower, surrounding me with love.
How Yoga Teacher Training Changed my Life
Shortly after this amazing revelation, I opened the paper to find an ad for a local teacher training. Even before I got sick and became paralyzed, I knew that I wanted to be a Yoga Teacher. But with my restrictions, disabilities and inability to travel distances, going away to a teacher training was a far off dream.
That Spring, May 23rd, 2014, I made my dream a reality and joined in the first ever 200-Hour Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher Training at Yoga Studio Tahoe, and never looked back. To date I have practiced sankalpa, asana, pranayama, and meditation daily since, over 300 days in a row!
Today, I teach Sankalpa (intention), asana (yoga), pranayama (breathing), and meditation with passion and poetry and share my story with all who will listen. I have made it my mission to make yoga and meditation available to all, no matter race, religion, size, sex, etc. I also work with Stroke and Lyme Disease patients, helping restore grace and balance to their bodies, minds, souls and lives.
I have gained tools that aid me in my daily life. I follow Pantajali’s 8-Limbed Path, as a sort of checklist for living, as a way of interacting with the world, and intellectual concepts and philosophies for life: past, present, future, timeless. I practice self-study and non-violence. And most importantly, I have found happiness and contentment. I have found love, peace and light.
Rod Stryker best describes this passion and need in human evolution, when he said:
The very definition of what constitutes a human being, what in Sanskrit is called a kama yoni, which means “the species which has the privilege of performing actions and which thus can change the course of it’s destiny” . . . [is] the principle that defines us and sets us apart from all other species. This idea was eloquently expressed by French essayist Charles Du Bos, who I believe conveyed the essence of all yogic teachings as well as the formula for achieving a truly fulfilled life when he wrote, “The important thing is this: to be able, at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”
No matter your situation in life, you and you alone have the capability of changing it. Rise like a Phoenix from the ashes! Be reborn! To thine own self be true. Nothing is impossible, especially when you have the power and love of Bhakti Yoga at your disposal! Begin your practice today! Namaste.
About: Kellee Rich. A poet and writer, full-time yoga teacher and devout mom, in her hometown of Truckee CA, Kellee enjoys spending her time outside the studio with her family and friends by paddleboarding, kayaking, snowboarding, and anything athletic and outdoors. She holds a BA in English Literature from SNC (Sierra Nevada College, a 4-year Liberal Arts School in Incline Village NV). Kellee is a Lyme Disease and Stroke survivor, and is currently working on a memoir about living with and surviving Lyme, focusing specifically on how yoga saved her life. Poetry and yoga go hand-in-hand in Kellee’s world, and she brings this eclectic mix of inspiration and empowerment to her students and in her yoga and meditation classes.