Student Spotlight

15-5-4-connie-webConnie Bettin
May 2015

  It’s simple, really. Inner Fire Yoga is my sanctuary. My get away from it all space. My time to breath, reflect, recharge, let go and grow. Like many, I ventured into yoga to lose those stubborn pounds that had become a permanent fixture over the years. I’d always been active and sporty, but time has a way of slowing the metabolism and storing extra layers like some ancient need to survive the coming of winter. Plus, I was nearing 50 and asked myself when exactly this journey into fitness was going to begin? I’d gone to the Bikram Studio on University years ago and learned it was now Inner Fire Yoga. So, off I went to a Saturday yoga class. Little did I know that both rooms would be filled to the brim with mats separated by mere inches. Trying to look like I knew what I was doing, I found a spot near the front. Not my game plan, but I told myself to enjoy and try not to fall over. And then it happened. Ninety glorious yoga minutes in a room full of sweaty yogis united by breath and movement. I felt fantastic! It wasn’t pretty, but who cared. I looked around a lot that morning for guidance and inspiration. Everyone seemed so happy. Happy to be at Inner Fire. Happy to be practicing yoga. Just, happy. It was a big yoga party and it was infectious. I fell in love with yoga that day and I knew I’d be back—695 more times to be exact. Now, I fully expected to reap the physical benefits of yoga and IFY did not disappoint. Crazy, challenging sequences (@Adrienne Leslie) have made me stronger and more flexible than ever before. I find myself in postures I never dreamed possible and the muffin top is (mostly) gone. What I did not expect, however, was the spiritual and emotional impact both on and off the mat.

  For context, mine is a profession of service. I practiced and supervised clinical social work and family therapy for twenty-some years—guiding others toward change while seeing, feeling and absorbing the pain that is all too often the human experience. As a program manager for Dane County Human Services, I now run an AmeriCorps program with thirty-five millennials eager to serve their community. I teach, create systems, write grants, problem-solve and support members in any way possible so they in turn can help struggling students improve their educational outcomes. They’re amazing and make me proud every day. I love my work and have no regrets. But service professions take an emotional toll. They require giving of self until most days you’ve got nothing left to give yourself, let alone family or friends. So that magical Saturday years ago is when I found my respite. My sanctuary. A time to recharge and take care of myself. No phones, requests, problems to solve, issues to mend, needs to meet, just me and getting that leg up over my head or busting that arm balance for the first time. My time. My power. My peace. And it’s not just about that sacred time on the mat. It’s about the moments when an IFY teacher says something that resonates to your soul and changes you—fundamentally and completely. There was the time I walked into the studio righteously angered with a colleague in search of affirmation of my rightness. There was Julie at the desk greeting yogis as is her usual custom. Surely, Julie will affirm me. “Connie!! How’s it going?” I grumbled. She listened. As I’m walking to the changing room, she says, “…everyone’s a teacher.” Really?! I want sympathy and instead get some Zen side comment?!? Ok, whatever. But, “everyone’s a teacher, everyone’s a teacher” stayed with me through class.
What am I supposed to learn? What am I supposed to learn…about myself?! Hmmmm, got it. Yes, everyone, every moment, every event—hard or easy—teaches us something about ourselves. The frustration turned to contemplation. The need to be right turned to a desire to discover. I’m sure Julie does not remember this 30 second exchange, but it changed me and for that I’m grateful. Then there’s Dar. There isn’t a Darlene class where I don’t learn something about yoga, life, California, chakras, playfulness or myself—who knew my parents lived in my hips? Justin taught me that I can take yoga beyond what I thought possible and is just super cool. Recently, Hally started practice in Shavasana-who does that? BTW, I love Hally. She an advocate for justice, rides bikes for nachos, listens to Pat Benatar and writes the most hilarious, insightful yoga blog ever! So, while in Shavasana, she asks…”how do you feel about rest?” Rest? Well, I tend to fight it like I’m doing right now. This realization allowed me to let go in the moment and I’ve continued to ponder rest as something I need to embrace, not fight. And so the lessons go. It seems in every class, there’s a moment.

  I fully recognized the profound impact yoga played in my life when I found myself taking deep, pranayama breath during the tough times. It now comes naturally. I hear Karen Erstad’s voice, “you are stronger than you know,” then take a deep, full breath and proceed to face with grace, calm and determination what life throws at me—and it’s thrown some curve balls, sinkers and high heat the past few years. But, everyone has something. I just hope they too find their way to a yoga mat for the respite and care it has brought to my life.

  And so I bow to my IFY teachers and fellow yogis and say thank you and Namaste.

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