Yoga Practice

A Yoga Journey in Reverse

I never used to think of myself as a “bad” yogi, but I’ve always known I’m certainly no perfect yogi. I don’t practice asana every day, my favorite word is four letters and starts with the letter F, I can’t stand kale, and I love sushi too much to give it up. I am also a firm believer that each person’s yoga practice is uniquely and personally their own. 

My own yoga practice started just three years ago when I came across an Instagram post of Rachel Brathen doing a handstand on a beautiful beach in Aruba and I thought to myself, “I want to do handstands!” Three years ago, my practice was entirely body focused with the tall and mighty handstand leading the way. I would practice kicking up against the wall of my apartment building on the concrete ground in the small “yard” where I live—I like to think of it as my own little slice of urban jungle. Through my handstand practice, I began teaching myself vinyasa. Sounds like a completely backwards way of doing things, but that is how yoga came into my life: because of a picture on Instagram. And my life would never be the same.

I continued to practice vinyasa on my own, watching videos on YouTube and eventually joining classes at a studio after work. I would attend class once a week and practice on my own almost every other day, creating my own flows and loving each and every breath and movement. Eventually, I would take a class at my local Lululemon where the instructor briefly introduced the yoga sutras. Intrigued by the depth of yoga beyond the physical, I read the sutras in multiple translations, studied the yamas and niyamas in depth, and knew in my heart that I wanted to be a teacher..all within the first 6 months of my practice! By the end of my first year of practice, I had researched trainings, contacted teachers, and decided on the yoga school I would attend to deepen my own spiritual and physical practice and become a certified yoga instructor.

It would take another year and a half before I could attend my teacher training. During that time, life as I knew it changed drastically. I can honestly say that the last two years of my life have been two of the most challenging years I have ever faced. I traveled to the other side of the world and became a mother to a child that is not my own, learning the true meaning of unconditional love and of letting go. I went through the painful and difficult process of detaching my ego, my self-worth, and my identity from my job as a scientist, the only identity I had ever known for myself. 

IMG_2756My yoga practice also changed; instead of practicing handstands, I studied, I wrote, I practiced letting go, I practiced loving kindness towards other, but more importantly toward myself. I practiced shraddha, unshakeable faith in the Universe, and this is most definitely a constant practice. At the time, I could not see how I was still being faithful to myself and my practice when my practice looked so different from where I began.

In April 2015, I traveled to Bali and spent five amazing and challenging weeks immersed in Balinese culture, bonding with 12 amazing women and four knowledgeable and compassionate teachers, learning how to be an open, intuitive, and skilled yoga teacher, and ultimately, learning more about myself.  There’s no question I returned from Bali a different woman. I was grounded, calm, tan, and a certified yoga teacher! I also returned to my full time scientist position where I spent 10 years building my career but had slowly lost passion for. And on the weekends, I began teaching small classes at my local Pilates studio where the owner graciously offered me time and space to build my teaching practice. My first class as a real, live yoga teacher had only four people and half of them were my family members, but it still felt amazing! 

Today, I find myself at a crossroads in life. I have taken time away from my job as a scientist to do some deep personal exploration into how I truly want to move forward. Like so many others, I am filled with anxiety, doubt, judgment, and fear. I have a trillion questions and no answers. 

Still, my yoga practice is helping me to learn how to sit still with these uncomfortable emotions and thoughts; learn how to transmute fear into excitement, paralysis into potential; learn how to let go more and more every day. I am learning that, though it may not look like I’m practicing yoga every day, my practice is getting deeper and deeper every day.

Over to you: did you have a conventional yoga journey, or take the road less traveled? How does your yoga practice reach into other areas of your life off the mat?

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  2. Amanda


    March 26, 2016 at 10:44 am

    I love these stories….every yoga journey is as unique as the person on it. 🙂 I got into yoga for physical reasons, and then it worked its magic on me. I still love the physical benefits, of course, but there are so many more benefits that keep me hooked. I always tell my students and potential students: I don’t care what gets you to class, just that you get there.

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    Mark Gebert

    March 26, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Great post, Jackie! I also got into yoga for physical reasons and honestly I am still mainly doing it for the physical reasons but I am starting to see the non-physical benefits. One instructor told me there is a difference between “doing” yoga and “being” yoga but I think I am still in the doing phase…..

    1. Jackie Huitink

      Jackie Huitink

      March 26, 2016 at 7:55 pm

      Thanks Mark! Wherever you are on your yoga path is exactly where you should be! If you ever want to explore the other aspects of yoga I have some great book recommendations. You might find that you are already “being” yoga.

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    March 27, 2016 at 6:22 am

    So inspiring ! I’m a french midwife student, and I started yoga a year ago, with Erin’s 30 day yoga challenge, and I fell in love! It’s crazy how we can find peace and stillness in yoga. I practice on my own and I recently decided to take a “real” class. It is kind of scary, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna love it. Maybe someday I’ll be able to go on retreats or even a teacher training…
    Thank you for telling your story 🙂

    1. Jackie Huitink

      Jackie Huitink

      March 27, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Thank you Marion! Just keep at it! Every little baby step is still a step forward! Life has a way of opening up for us as long as we keep our hearts open. Good luck on your yoga journey!

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    March 27, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Thank you for taking the words out of my mouth! I came to yoga because I could no longer run because of injuries. I have stayed because like you I find it is a way to deal with the curve balls being tossed at me by life. I am addicted to Moksha (hot) yoga. The sweat keeps me from thinking about anything but “did I drink enough for this?!”
    I am at a crossroads with my practice where I am ready to start learning about the philosophy of yoga. Any suggestions?

    1. Jackie Huitink

      Jackie Huitink

      March 27, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      Hi Susan! Thanks for sharing your journey with me! One of my most favorite books that I read over and over again is a short and sweet book on the Yamas and Niyamas (you can think of them similar to the 10 commandments). The book is called The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele. It’s a great short read with wonderful information.

      The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V Desikachar is also a beautiful book on all 8 limbs of yoga and includes a lovely translation of the Yoga Sutras.

      Good luck on your journey and enjoy every step of your path!

  6. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    March 28, 2016 at 9:30 am

    This is beautiful! I love your undeniable passion for yoga and for its personal sanctity.

  7. Avatar


    March 28, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I began exactly like you, thanks to Rachel Brathen on Instagram, 2 years ago. And like you, I thought about teacher training after a few months, but still didn’t take the step! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Jackie Huitink

      Jackie Huitink

      March 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Hi Lety!

      Keep up with your journey and don’t pass judgement on yourself. When the time is right, you’ll find the right teacher and training for you! Have faith in the unfolding of the Universe. All is in perfect order!

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