Featuring Dani Wallace from the US

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Written by Dani Wallace
Edited by Justine of JustYoga


My name is Dani Wallace. I’m 31 years old and from California. I feel really honoured to be able to share my story and message with the world via Just Yoga. My yoga journey started in college on the west coast of the United States. I was studying Kinesiology and yoga was offered as a physical education class. I remember being so frustrated that I couldn't melt into the asanas like my classmates around me. I felt like a failure and wanted to give up but as fate would have it, it had become a requirement for my degree. My yoga teacher would say “find your sweet spot.” Frustrated I would tell myself I didn't have one. I developed a love-hate relationship with yoga. On the hate side, I had no upper body strength; I would shake in every asana, anxiously holding my breath, refusing to genuinely let go. On the love side, my whole being, physical and mental, felt amazing after each Svasana. I was so relaxed.
My mind was crystal clear. I craved more of that peace and calmness in the rest of my life, not just on the mat.


Growing up, my mental and physical state was in complete chaos most of the time. My childhood was not a very stable one. We moved around a lot and I went to many different schools. I struggled with establishing solids relationships with people as a result. I was also a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of people close to me; people that I once trusted. All of this gave me a very negative, distorted and pessimistic view of life and made me live in a constant paranoid state of “fight or flight”. I was not living in the moment; I always trying to survive the next day. I’d push myself to the point of exhaustion so that I could sleep at night. Later on I realised I was missing out on so much. I carried so much tension, always keeping my gaze low. I didn't know how much I was depriving myself of, in this beautiful world.

So, I went in search of knowledge, self-empowerment and love. Yoga gave that to me. It introduced me to the calm; to be ok with my traumatic childhood; to better channel my emotions with the death of my son and love myself after feeling “less than” for so long. Yoga has changed my life in so many ways. I'm slower to anger and not so defensive. It has helped my flexibility tremendously and given me power over my body again. It had been taken from me so young, gone for decades and yoga has brought it back to me. I cannot explain how good it feels and how grateful I truly am. I found my sweet spot indeed. My first yoga teacher was pretty accurate in her advice. Now; I live in the moment; I look up at the sky and enjoy every minute of living, not just surviving; this to me is love.

 

I remember how ostracized and different, my younger version often felt at yoga classes and events. Being five-foot-nine (1.75 meters), two-hundred-and-fifty pounds (113 kilograms), I’m not easy to miss; yet that consistently happened. Sometimes, I would ask questions and it would go unheard. I felt invisible. I would often have to put up with negativity from people saying, I wasn't “yoga material” or that my wanting to teach “was just a phase” I would get over. In yoga classes, noticing people not wanting their mats near mine made me want to change that narrative. Once I got passed the shock and hurt, I realised that there may be other people feeling that same way. And so, began my drive to ensure inclusive and diverse yoga classes, full of beautiful energy and fellowship.
I want to share the gift of yoga; especially in inner city communities where there are kids that are growing up like I did.
I want to share it with women and men that are trying their best to break free from a malnourished past. Slowly but surely, my dream is coming true. My past has taught me that I am in control of my future and I can determine where I end up. If I can get that message to people out there looking for hope, hope for a better future; my work is done. I currently hold free community yoga and low-cost classes where I provide a safe place for everyone no matter their race, gender, weight, sexual orientation, or anything else that makes one different. This gives me such joy to look over this mix of students in my classes. Even during the Covid19 quarantine, yoga has kept me in contact with my community via zoom or safely spread out at a park.


I still keep my yoga practice every day, sometimes a few times a day. I enjoy accomplishing poses that I once struggled with. Downward dog used to be my arch nemesis and now I absolutely adore it. It has to be my favourite, along with pigeon and forward fold. All elegantly simple but deeply impactful. I love the support from my little family. My kids join in my yoga practice and my husband is always there to capture a good yoga pose picture. I smile thinking about the way he congratulates me when I finally accomplish a pose that he's noticed I've worked hard to obtain.

 
I recommend yoga to almost everyone I encounter. I believe yoga is a lifestyle and a personal journey that can be shared with others.
It's so incredibly beautiful that way and I am so grateful for this gift from the east that is able to unite people from all walks of life. Yoga has taught me to be ok with life, to accept that sometimes life is not fair, but it is still in your power to change your future through the actions that you take. Be grateful for the good and the bad in life because it is there for a reason. The good teaches you to be grateful and the bad teaches you humility. This to me is balance. I'm so incredibly grateful for and to yoga and I cannot say that enough. Yoga teaches me every day to be kind to myself. Gift this kindness to yourself too.


Namaste; with love and light,
Dani Wallace

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