I am a third generation figure skater. My grandfather started the tradition, followed by my mother. I caught the figure skating bug after watching the 1992 Olympics where Surya Bonaly performed her now signature backflip. I was six years old, and had just stopped taking gymnastics lessons because I had mastered the basic skills and gotten bored with the routine. Seeing the sparkle of the skater’s dresses, Bonaly’s gymnastics tricks, and hearing the music flow along with the skaters was all I needed to fall head over heels in love with figure skating. After four years of begging and convincing my parents I began lessons at Lancaster Ice Rink.
Week after week, I laced up my rental skates and shakily skated my way into my group class. Having started my skating career at the ancient age of ten, I was the oldest by at least five years. Each week brought on a new skill and a new challenge. Then, after a trip to Disney on Ice, a new goal emerged. I was going to have the best job in the entire world–Mrs. Potts in Disney on Ice.
Working toward the goal of being a professional skater involved spending more than five hours a day practicing both on and off the ice. I loved every minute of it. The next logical step in my skating career was to begin competing. This. Was. It. The music, the dance moves, the sparkly dresses. I practiced all the time. I drew out my routines when I was bored in class, I danced through the aisles of the grocery store, and I rollerbladed on my back porch when I couldn’t make it to the rink.
Then one day, while practicing a catch foot spiral during a public ice session, I caught my toe pick in a divet on the ice made by another skater. Instead of letting go of the blade of the skate of my raised leg, I pulled it forward, hyperextending my hip. I should have stopped competing and jumping as much as I did, but I was seventeen and stubborn. I continued to compete and put an incredible amount of undue stress on my hips during hours of practicing jumps. The decision to continue training & competing so intensely took a lasting toll on my body.
Physical therapy sessions and exercises helped for a few years, but the pain resurfaced and became a constant part of my life. I came to the realization that I was now a person who knew when it was going to rain thanks to their sport injury. I also resigned myself to the notion that I would eventually need to have some type of surgery to correct any long term effects that may result from my injury. I was dealing with varying levels of pain on a day to day basis; not the easiest thing to manage when you’re a server and on your feet for upwards of twelve hours a day, working double shifts with no break. There were days I could barely move, let alone bend over to pick something up off of the ground. It was a very frustrating time.
Skating had been my saving grace during my teen years. Without it I felt completely lost. I had given up what I thought was my identity. During this transition phase I moved to Temple University to complete one of two undergraduate degrees. With no skating rinks within easy access, I found other ways to move my body to try to keep the pain at bay.
It was at some point during this transition time that I found yoga. After graduating from Temple I set out to finish my second undergraduate degree at HACC. I had one semester left, and needed to fulfill 3 credits. They happened to offer a yoga class for credit, which I happily took with a friend. I was hooked. Yet the pain from my injured hip lived on.
I continued my practice by trying out hot yoga, figuring the heat would help keep my hip malleable enough so that I could practice without as much pain. It worked for a bit, but the heat was too much for me as I had yet to fully appreciate how well hydrated one needs to be to practice hot yoga with any regularity. And so, for the second time, I had to walk away from what I loved. An old coworker had seen my Facebook posts chronicling my journey with hot yoga and reached out to me about Evolution Power Yoga.
My inner monologue was something akin to, “You mean, the yoga studio with all of the windows?” My previous experience with exercise involved some form of leotard and needing to look as perfect as possible while contorting myself into crazy shapes. I definitely couldn’t look sweaty and imperfect while also working out in front of a bunch of windows. Oh, how wrong I was.
One of the themes of Baptiste Yoga (the style practiced at Evolution) is to “Be a Yes.” I am forever grateful that, despite my initial apprehension, I said yes to my former coworker and began practicing at Evolution in 2016. With the greatest trepidation, I attended my first class in front of a wall of windows and found out that I loved it. I was challenged to move my body in ways I hadn’t since hanging my skates up years before. I probably fell out of poses, and I’m fairly certain I didn’t fully comprehend the need to modify my practice as much as I should have, but I did it. As a fun bonus, I even recognized some of the poses from my skating days. So, I went back. It was a few months between my first few classes but, I went back and tried again. Each class brought on new challenges and new information as my hips were guided back into alignment through the Journey into Power sequence.
Over the next year I continued to attend classes, though not as often as I wanted to. I was struggling with injuries, old and new, and feeling frustrated. A shift happened within me during this time. I had enough of the destructive self-talk and decided to do something about it. I decided my New Years resolution would not be what I would give up in my life, but rather, what I would add to it. I set my goal of taking 100 yoga classes that year and to participate in the 40 Days to Personal Revolution program.
At this time my career goals also shifted. I chose to begin serving again and entered into a Master’s Degree program. I took my focus off of my yoga goal. School started, work started, and my graduate assistantship started. I worked five different jobs, struggled to complete all of my coursework on time, and desperately tried not to have a mental breakdown on a daily basis from all of the pressure. Something had to give, and unfortunately that was my five times weekly yoga practice. Somehow the one thing I needed most in my life, was the first thing I gave up when things got tough. The pain in my hips was a constant reminder that I should have been in the studio continuing to work on realigning & healing my body.
Enough was enough. Three years after I started at Evolution I decided to enroll in their ACCESS Teacher Training program. I had already committed to grad school, so why not? Little did I know that the ACCESS training would be more educational than any traditional school I have ever attended. It has given me the tools to not only teach yoga, but it has also given me the tools I will need in my future classroom as a professor. Through ACCESS I have learned how to effectively modify my yoga practice on days when pain levels are high, how to work through the pain to focus on the task at hand, and how to show up for others when their pain shows up differently than mine.
ACCESS is also giving me the opportunity to change the story I have written for myself, allowing me to be open to speaking in front of a large group of people. For years I have had a story in my head that my opinion is not worth sharing, that my experiences are not as valuable as the other people in the room. Through the work I am doing in ACCESS, I am beginning to understand that no one person’s experience is more or less valuable than another’s, and we each bring our experiences into any given situation. I am finally beginning to give up what I must in order to show up for others living with their own chronic pain and show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Through all of the changes of the last year, my New Year’s resolution has remained the same: participate in 100 yoga classes in one year. Now, even though I am still working five part-time jobs, taking six graduate level credits per semester, and working towards earning my 200 hour yoga teacher certification, I am making the time in my schedule to practice yoga four times a week.
So, what has been the reason for making the shift and making yoga a top priority? While I hadn’t reached my goals in years past of practicing 100 classes within a year, something even more magical happened. I will never forget August 30, 2019 because it was the very first time that I walked out of a yoga class without any pain at all in my hips. I walked out of a yoga class pain free for the first time in sixteen years. I refuse to let my body fall out of alignment again and I know that takes work. That work means that I show up even when I’m tired. I show up even when I have a twenty five page annotated paper due in four hours that I need to proofread. I show up even when I am not feeling the strongest. And I am going to show up because in this practice, even though I’m standing still on my mat in 90+ degrees, I get the same feeling I do when I am in an ice rink flying across the ice.
Check out Victoria’s story in the latest edition of fig Lancaster