Hi, I am Shalyn and I am a Warrior. I am a former teen mom and unofficially one of the OG mic droppers.
At the age of thirteen I was pursued by a twenty-year old man. Given my naiveness at the time I was quickly taken under his power and control. My innocence and childhood was taken from me at an early age and by the age of fifteen I had a baby. I was now a baby with a baby. It has taken me years to work through the embarrassment and shame that I felt for allowing myself to get into such a situation, but I know now that it was all part of my path. I know now that I am none of the horrible things people used to call me and I know now that I am a Warrior.
This is where my Warrior story begins. One month after giving birth to my daughter I escaped from this man. I freed myself from his control and I never looked back. I took back control of myself, my mind and my life.
When I was seventeen I was leading a pretty normal highschool life, well as normal as it could be with a two year old daughter. I was a cheerleader and I was dating one of the popular boys. I was excelling in school and I had a great group of friends. Even though things may have appeared good, I was bullied, ridiculed, laughed at and made fun of on a regular basis by groups of people at school.
Bullying was nothing new for me as I had been brutally bullied all through public school too. Each time someone would make fun of me, call me fat and ugly, or ridicule me I turned their words into bricks and with each comment I began building my brick armour. I built up my brick armour as a coping mechanism to keep myself safe and protected. I locked away each hurtful comment in each brick and I carried each one with me.
Every year our highschool had a Christmas assembly that was hosted by the student council. Ironically the student council representatives, who were supposed to be the ambassadors of the school, were the ones who bullied me the most. During this particular Christmas assembly, this group thought it would be funny to call up my boyfriend and give him a parenting book because he would be needing it now that he was dating me. I’m not sure what snapped inside of me that day, but something in me just said enough! I got up from the audience and made my way onto stage where I passed the principal and vice principal, who had just stood back and let this all happen. I walked onto the stage and grabbed the microphone from the student body president’s hand and proceeded to say, “if anyone in this school has a problem with me and the fact that yes, I do indeed have a baby, then please have the balls to say something to my face.” I turned and looked at the principal who was still just standing there, dropped the mic and walked off the stage. I’d like to say that after that day the bullying stopped, but it didn’t. I didn’t even get an apology from anyone, or from any of the teachers or staff involved. But what I did get was another surge of energy and a boost to my confidence, another reminder that I was a Warrior. At that moment I fought for myself and that is the most courageous thing you can do.
At a young age I had already experienced more adversity and trauma than most people, but I survived. I was a Warrior. I got myself out of a bad situation and I made a pact with myself to do whatever it took to keep myself and my daughter safe. I set goals for myself and I always had a vision of how I wanted to live my life.
I went on to graduate highschool, college and university and I landed my dream job. I also got married and had more children too. I chose to live my life and create my own destiny instead of becoming a victim. I chose to be a Warrior and face challenges head on. But with every challenge and trauma I faced, I added another brick to my armour. I continued to carry all of my past burdens, mistakes and traumas with me. The baggage I carried became unbearable. I was so mentally and physically weighed down by all of the bricks I had been carrying around my entire life that it became hard to function.
Today, I am a forty-two-year-old mother, wife, grandmother, friend and yOGi Warrior. I have lived through a lot of emotional pain and trauma in my life, and I have seen first-hand what the effects of hanging onto emotional toxins can do to a person. I have seen it effect my mental and physical health, happiness and relationship with myself and with others. I have seen it effect my ability to be the mom, wife, friend and member of my community that I really want to be.
About seven years ago I officially hit one of the lowest points in my life. I was so riddled with depression that I had a hard time even getting out of bed most days. I had lost sight of myself. The bricks in my armour were crushing me and I didn’t know how to stop them from suffocating me. I had gained a lot of weight and I had adopted unhealthy habits and turned to food as a crutch. On this particular day I looked at myself in the mirror and hardly recognized who I saw staring back. Who had I become, what was I doing?! I knew I wasn’t looking at a healthy, vibrant woman. I was not looking at myself. I was looking at this unrecognizable shell and I knew I needed to save myself. I needed to recognize the person in the mirror once again. It was time to make my health and wellness a priority once again. It was time to once again be a Warrior and a good role model for my children.
At this point in time my children were five, six and twenty. We had just moved across Canada from Ontario to Alberta and my oldest daughter stayed in Ontario and did not move with us. It was a very stressful move. My two younger children were finding it really hard to fit into our new neighbourhood and at their new school. It was a daily struggle just to get them to go to school. By 9am every morning I was already emotionally exhausted from the stressful morning and school drop off fiasco. My husband’s new job kept him very busy, and he was away for the majority of the time; therefore, I was left to deal with the transition for everyone. As the face and rock of my family it was my job to carry on and make sure everyone else was ok. However, on this particular day, the day I was at my lowest, I was not ok. I was looking at a very stressed, very overwhelmed, very depressed person in the mirror and I knew I had to do something to save my life. All of the past and present traumas and stressors in my life had finally come to a head and were weighing me down. The bricks in my armour were crushing me.
That day, after I overcame resistance and got out of bed, I made a plan to clean up my eating habits and get back on track to eating well. Eating well and exercising was something that I was used to doing, but unfortunately something that had sadly fallen off my priority list. Having made the choice to leave a high paced corporate career to stay at home and raise my children, my needs quickly fell to the bottom of the priority list and I turned to baking and elaborate cooking as a comforting hobby. However, with each elaborate, indulgent meal and sweet treat, my weight increased, and my overall health and wellness decreased.
That day, unknown to myself at the time, I embarked on my self-healing, self-discovery and self-love journey. I made myself and my health and wellness a priority once again. I once again unleashed my Warrior. A few months into my journey, I had gotten my eating habits back on track and I was feeling a lot better. I was able to get out of bed each morning and face the day. Now, I was feeling well enough to start incorporating exercise back into my life. Only I knew traditional exercise wasn’t going to be enough for me this time. My intuition was telling me I needed something more at this point in my life. Somehow, I needed to rid myself of all of the emotional burdens that I carried. I wanted to get rid of it all so I could breathe again. Then I remembered seeing a sign for hot yoga. In the past I had scoffed at yoga, I had even once declined going to a yoga class during a girl’s trip! But on this particular day I remembered the yoga sign and I thought to myself, “I need to go to this studio; I need to try yoga.” I had no idea what yoga even was, I honestly thought it was just another group fitness class. When I arrived for my first yoga class, I was extremely nervous and very self-conscious. I hadn’t been in a group fitness setting in nearly ten years and I was way out of my comfort zone at a yoga studio. I had been advised to get to the studio early to climatize my body to the hot room; therefore, on my first day, I had gotten to the studio about thirty minutes early. I found a spot in the back corner of the room, rolled out my mat, laid down and sunk into my mat. The heat felt glorious as it was a cold winter day and the peace and quiet was very soothing. I was all alone on my mat. Just me and my mat and I suddenly felt a surge of power.
When the class started it was led by a lady with a very soft and soothing voice, she explained what we would be doing that day and I followed along. I relied on the people in front of me to see what they were doing as this was all new to me, but I managed my way through the class. At the end of the class, we laid on our mats in savasana, the final resting pose, and I started uncontrollably crying and shaking. There was nothing I could do to stop the tears or shaking. When the teacher came by to put a cool lemongrass towel on my forehead, she whispered to me, “let it all go, leave it all on your mat” and from that day forward I was hooked. My body craved the postures of yoga and my mind craved the thirty-minute meditation before class. I needed to be on my mat every day. I quickly realized these two things were very connected in some way. I realized that yoga was not just fitness. Yoga was much more than that. Yoga was therapy.
Each class I would face some tough demons on my mat, bending and twisting out the years of built-up emotional toxins from my body. I was slowly breaking free from the brick armour I had been wearing for year. After each class I felt emotionally lighter and more powerful. My self-confidence instantly started to increase. Some days I would uncontrollably shake on my mat in my final resting pose, and I learned to welcome this feeling because to me it meant I was releasing something in my body and leaving it on my mat. I was getting rid of something that had been weighing me down. I welcomed the uncomfortable and looked forward to it.
Yoga is therapy. Your mat is a safe sacred place where you can work out anything that is bothering you, or anything that you have been carrying around as emotional baggage. We all hold emotional toxins in our bodies and those toxins weigh us down. Those toxins create dis-ease in our bodies. Yoga helps you remove all the excess toxins and bring your body and mind into balance.
Within months of my first yoga class, my eating habits were on point, my stress level had been significantly reduced, I had lost a lot of excess weight and I felt the best I had ever felt in my entire life. I was starting to become the Warrior I once was. I had embraced a healthy lifestyle. I had started eliminating old emotional toxins from my body that I had been carrying for years and for the first time in my life I loved myself. I faced my demons on my mat and brought my mind and body into balance. Once that happened, I was able to take my true form. I was no longer carrying around excess emotional weight and I no longer looked to food as a crutch. I had control of my mind and a new sense of Self and I had created new healthy habits for myself. Now, when I looked in the mirror, I saw myself. I saw the person who had always been there patiently waiting to emerge. It was truly amazing. Most importantly, I was full of energy and full of life. My body and mind were healthy. I was able to manage and handle stress a lot better and I was no longer weighed down by depression. I was able to step back from a stressful situation, gain my composure and respond as opposed to impatiently reacting. I was much calmer and at peace and better equipped to deal with the daily stress of being a stay-at-home mom. I was mentally and physically healthier and I was happier. I was able to get out of bed and face each day without looking for a crutch or an excuse. Without seeing the glass as half empty. My attitude and perceptions had changed and I was creating new positive patterns.
I had embraced a no sugar, plant-based diet so I was now experimenting with different recipes and learning more about what it meant to eat plant based. I had still found a way to keep cooking and baking and doing the things I loved, they had just gotten a much needed, healthy makeover. My overall perception of the world and attitude towards my life changed. I was no longer bogged down with insecurities and negativity; I was suddenly overwhelmed with love and gratitude. I found balance in my life with yoga.
As I continued with my daily practice, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know everything there was to know about yoga, about this powerful tool. I would (and still do) read anything and everything to do with yoga. A few years into my practice, I decided to take my yoga teacher training to learn even more. I was nervous to go back to school at my age as I hadn’t been in a classroom setting since University, but I knew it was something I needed to do. My first teacher training session was a great experience and it opened me up to explore myself even further. I was reintroduced to my true self. This self-discovery process is ongoing and honestly some days it feels like I have opened pandoras box, but each layer of built-up emotional toxins that I can remove from my body, the happier and healthier I feel. After my first yoga teacher training, I still wanted more knowledge, so I decided to take another more advanced teacher training directly from India. In this training I was introduced to the ancient yoga philosophy, the original teachings and an immense amount of knowledge. I learned what yoga really was, how to use it and what type of power it really had, so I continued reading, researching and learning as much as I could. Still, to this day, if you walk by my house on a sunny day, you will find me on my deck soaking up the vitamin D and reading some type of book about yoga and personal growth. This is one of my happy places.
I was drawn to the ancient OG yogi teachings and began to simplify them into strategies to use today. I presented my findings to my husband, friends and family members and started to live my life according to the OG yogi philosophies that really resonated with me. What intrigued me most about yoga is that it originated with meditation. Yoga is a state of mind. Yoga is about having control over your mind because that is an extremely powerful tool. One night after I had finished reading the Bhagavad Gita, my husband and I were discussing current events and I was feeling very frustrated with the state of the world, so I said to my husband, “the world just needs more OG yogis!” to which he responded, you mean, “yOGi’s.” I looked at him and told him he was a genius! OG yogis had the ultimate mental toughness. Their ability to overcome any obstacle by controlling their mindset, attitude and perceptions was unparallel. There was no situation that they could not overcome. They fought through tough times, beat resistance and won every time. Their resilience, discipline, motivation and mental toughness amazed me. It was something that I thought today’s world desperately needed. We needed to be reminded that we can all be like the OG yogis. We all have the ability to exhibit extreme mental toughness and we all have the ability to take accountability and responsibility for ourselves, our lives, our happiness and our destiny. We are all Warriors.
Yoga has changed and, quite frankly, saved my life and I wanted to be able to impact someone else’s life too. My eyes were open to what it means to be a real OG yogi, to be in control of my mind, my Self, my life, my happiness and my destiny. I am relatively new to the yoga community and I am continuing to learn something new every day, but I am excited to share with you what I have learned thus far. You may not see me twisting myself into a pretzel, but you will see me tackling tough situations head on and never backing down from adversity. You will see me facing and beating resistance every time. You will see me owning my own personal mental and physical health and wellness. You will see me choosing to lead with positivity, kindness and gratitude in my heart. You will see me spreading kindness wherever I go. You will see me leaving it all on my mat and you will definitely see me curled up with a great book and a glass of wine. You will see me being real yOGi Warrior.
The first time I set foot on my mat I felt its power and I was hooked. I needed to learn all there was about this powerful tool. Yoga is far more than just another fitness class. Yoga is much more than just the postures. Yoga is a lifestyle. Yoga is a mindset. Yoga is being aware and mindful. Once I immersed myself in the lifestyle, the mindset, I wanted to share my experiences with others.
I have seen the effects of practicing yoga in its entirety. I have worked out and continue to work out a lifetime of built-up emotional toxins on my mat. I have significantly reduced my overall stress and increased my awareness and happiness. I can honestly say that I have become my favourite version of myself. I am a better grandmother, mother, wife, friend, and member of my community than I ever was before embracing yoga. I have let go of all of my insecurities and learned how to truly love myself, be my true Self and live my life authentically.
It’s up to you to take control of your life, no one can do that for you. It’s up to you to let go of the crutches and excuses and face your demons, no one can do that for you either. Yoga makes you face your demons and work through them in a fun and unique way and then let them go. Yoga increases your mental toughness. Yoga allows you to find yourself, to love yourself. Yoga opens your mind and heart to an entirely different way of living. Yoga has encouraged me to find myself, become the ultimate version of myself and live my greatest life. Yoga is there to support me through the tough times and get me to the other side. Yoga is my lifelong companion.
Today my children are twenty-seven, thirteen and eleven and I have two grandsons! Living a yOGi lifestyle has saved my life and has allowed me to love and accept myself which has enabled me to be a better grandmother, mother, wife, friend and member of my community. It has given me the freedom to enjoy my life. I no longer wear an armour of bricks and I know how to manage my stress and work through tough situations.
The best part of my journey and bringing myself into balance and truly being happy is that it has trickled down to my family. I am cooking healthier meals for everyone; I am able to respond better to my children and in turn teach them how to manage their emotions and manage their stress. I am teaching them healthy habits and promoting healthy mental and physical health. I have introduced yoga, meditation and breathing techniques to everyone and it has become part of our daily routine. We have embraced a new lifestyle focusing on healthy habits, mental toughness, gratitude, kindness and love. Yoga has immensely helped my son manage his emotions and anxiety and it has greatly helped my husband manage his stress levels. Teaching my children to truly love themselves and take accountability for their health and wellness has helped them build their self-confidence and has allowed them to embrace who they truly are. Yoga has deeply benefited everyone in my family.
My hope is that my children continue to live a yOGi lifestyle and pass on their skills and knowledge to their own families one day. We can change the world by being the change we want to see in the world.
There is a yOGi Warrior in all of us. You have the power to control your destiny. Step onto your mat today and regain your power. Remind yourself who you are and what you want out of life. Fill your heart with gratitude and love and most importantly love yourself.
I encourage and support everyone to step onto a yoga mat. See for yourself the true power of yoga. Embark on your journey of self-healing, self-discovery and self-love today. I look forward to practicing with you all.