Looking back on life, there are some moments that are clearly turning points.
The day I chose the college I’d attend was a turning point, one that would determine where I’d live for the next four years and the strangers that would eventually become my closest friends. Meeting my partner Ryan was a turning point, one that would result in traveling the world and conquering fears I never thought I would with joy I didn’t know I had inside me. The release of the I Am Maris movie was a turning point, one that blessed me with opportunity born out of transforming shame into service.
But none of those turning points are the one that strikes me as the most significant one, the one that played the biggest role in shaping me into the person I am today. That turning point, of course, was the moment I walked into Just Be Yoga for the first time.
I remember that first Sunday-morning class and all the buzzing excitement and nerves that came with it as though it was yesterday. I rolled out the cheap mat my mom had picked up for me at a discount store, surrounded by sleek yoga mats and their owners. There was a profound sense of community in that space, despite the studio being open for only a few weeks. The room was bathed in a warm glow of friendship: everyone seemed to know one another, and if they didn't, they were eager to get to know you.
That class turned out to be a 75-minute heated Power Vinyasa Flow. It was filled with upbeat music, and breath that swept across the room like a collective wave. I heard words I didn’t understand, moved my body in ways that felt unfamiliar. At one point, we formed a circle and danced with only the direction to have fun.
I was confused and stumbling and sweaty throughout it all: and yet, there I was at the end of class with an authentic grin on my face for the first time in years.
As class came to a close, the teacher and owner of the studio told the group that she had a yoga mat to give away to one student. I remember wishing I could melt into the brick wall in the back of the room, now condensed with steam and sweat. I was the youngest person there by far, wearing a tattered t-shirt and shorts I’d owned since middle school, sitting on a yoga mat that was, embarrassingly, falling apart into foam balls that spilled across the floor. There was no way, I thought, that this teacher would look at me and choose me as someone who was deserving of being noticed in a room filled with so many happy, glowing people.
But she did. And as she handed me that beautiful purple yoga mat, she whispered to me, “I knew you were special the moment you walked in here.”
There it was: the fork in the road, the final push in one fateful direction. Had I enjoyed the class? With a hesitant curiosity, certainly. But would I had gone back had I not been so immediately and wholly welcomed? Perhaps not.
Did that mat change my life? Not on its own. But that mat was the first time I felt truly seen for something other than the illness I’d been battling. It was an invitation onto a journey, an offering of a home in this studio and community where I could begin to explore the lighter parts of healing beyond the numbers on the scale and on the doctor’s clipboard.
It was on that mat that I went through my first 200 hour teacher training at the same studio I’d taken my first class. It was on that mat that I spent hours upon hours, crying and staring at the studio ceiling as I was torn open again and again, in the best of ways. It was on that mat that I began to see the power I had not only to shift the direction of my own life, but to make a difference in the lives of others.
As we go through life, we meet an infinite number of crossroads. Some are big and obvious, like meeting your partner or deciding what college to go to. Others are more subtle, like wandering into a new yoga studio or handing a scared little girl a purple yoga mat.
The magic that happened within the four walls of Just Be Yoga in Walnut Creek - and I say this with not even the slightest hint of exaggeration - saved my life. Not just changed it. Saved it.
The community that has been fostered there gave me the cocoon to transform, grow, and align with my purpose. It guided me gently, again and again, back to the path when I began to stray away. It knew when to hold me close and safe, and when to push me out into the great unknown. It blessed me with teachers that showed me the power in humanness and vulnerability. It allowed me to step into my role as a teacher, to find my voice and and inner worthiness. It has been, and in many ways always will be, my home.
And I’m struggling to believe that Just Be will soon be moving out of the Walnut Creek space.
I know the magic I’ve described does not live in the glass garage doors, or the wooden deck, or the ceiling overhead. But that does not mean I won’t miss the way the doors steam up during a crowded class, or how good it feels to lay in the sun out on the deck, or all the times I’ve stared at that ceiling, learning something new about myself at the end of a practice.
I’m in the “denial” phase: my heart does not want to accept what’s coming to a close. It doesn’t yet feel real. And yet, I still know there are good things coming in this time of transition and transformation.
This is one of those obstacles in life that the yoga prepares us for. The practice doesn’t just strengthen our arms for handstands and our legs for chair poses, it prepares our soul for change. And the practice teaches us that change will always come, just like autumn’s cool air must chase after summer’s long warmth. We can either see the beauty in th transition and choose joy in that vision, or we can cling on and prolong our suffering. And while that choice is simple, it is not necessarily easy.
But the yoga was never designed to prepare us for the easy.
The month of February, I asked the Universe for lessons in Aparigraha. I asked for practice I letting go gracefully.
And now, I must trust that I am ready. My heart is ready.
Ease, breathe, release.
Ease, breathe, release.
Ease, breathe, release.
You can learn more about the Just Be Yoga transition here: https://www.myjustbeyoga.com/walnut-creek-studio-transition