For my 18th birthday my mom took me to get a tattoo. I chose the Om Symbol. The sound of “OM” is the sound of creation and symbolizes the infinite. It connects our inner world to the greater outer and beyond, it aligns our energy and creates a feeling of openness and expansion. The symbol was significant for me because I found yoga when I was in high school and I developed a strong practice. So significant that I wanted to carry it with me all the time. But when I went off to college I stopped practicing regularly, the pressures of my studies and my social activities were just too much for me to make time to get on my mat. I graduated from college, got a big job in corporate America and I dove in head first. I focused solely on my career and I forgot all about that symbol tattooed on my back. For years I worked hard and placed the value of my self-worth on how others saw me, how much success or money I had and how many possessions I was able to acquire. I started to suffer from one illness after another the most serious of them being a debilitating thyroid condition called Grave’s disease. It’s a nasty disease that has terrible side effects, not the least of which is making you have uncontrollable stress responses moving between fits of rage and utter despair. I discovered I had this disease when I reached up to touch my throat one day and felt a mass. I knew something was off with my health, but I had always assumed it was just my reaction to what was an all-consuming and very stressful job. It wasn’t until I felt this mass that it became clear to me, I had to figure out what the heck was wrong and get my body back in balance. I tried traditional medicine, but all the doctors ever did for me was prescribe pills that made me worse. I began a search for alternative treatments. I went to my first acupuncture session and it was like someone had let the air out of my over inflated balloon. I was able to get enough relief from my symptoms to start to get a handle on the disease. Fast forward to 4 years later, I am still symptom free but my thyroid levels weren’t back in balance and I was still not handling stress well. My husband suggested we go back and try yoga. I had hit the odd yoga class or two at my local gym, even taken some meditation classes, but really hadn’t found my way back to my yoga mat on the regular. We tried a few studios and then we walked into one that felt like home. We started taking classes 3-4 times a week. I tried a few different styles and then I found aerial yoga. A class where I could hang upside down, do some traditional asana and breath work while still being challenged physically, I fell in love. Fast forward another 8 months and I was a certified aerial yoga instructor. Not long after I became an instructor I went in for my usual thyroid check and for the first time in my seven year journey it came back normal. The doctor said, “Ah well you probably just wore out your thyroid”. Never mind that after starting yoga I had completely changed my diet and my entire lifestyle. It didn’t matter what the doctor said, I knew that the changes I had made, the work I had done healed me. I took charge of my health and went on a journey to help myself. Now I work with other people who are trying to take charge of their health, shining a light in the dark so they can find their way on the winding journey back to their best self. I don’t wish for a different journey, it brought me more knowledge to help others. But I do laugh about the fact that the map for my journey back to myself was tattooed on my back the whole time.