Transformation, whether perceived as chosen or imposed, sometimes involves a particularly lonely rite of passage, bringing up that which has been suppressed and that which seeks healing or resolution. Some people refer to this as a Dark Night of the Soul, and others simply refer to it as a really shitty time of life. Throughout any process of transformation, and at whatever level it is experienced, there are parts we must travel alone... but just as there are parts we must travel alone, we also have the opportunity to engage with community - a perhaps underrated and most powerful ally - which can make all the difference in the world. Though I have chosen to open up and share about my own life with you today, I wish to emphasize that transformation comes in many shades, as do the thriving communities which are available to generously lend love, support, and encouragement along one’s journey.
Initially, I thought this was going to be a brief post but soon enough I realized that it had the potential to become a case of epic storytelling based on the sheer scope of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels of transformation I’ve experienced, and also how much I've personally needed to synthesize all of this and put it into words. Perhaps all these details will be boring to you, perhaps they won’t... but either way, beyond the details, this article is meant to illustrate the great power community holds in the face of transformation and change, and how you, too, amidst challenge or struggle, may find surprising and supreme sources of sustenance on your path.
Though my practice was deeply personal, though it was me who made the effort to show up to class each and every time, and though I was the one who was ultimately committed to change, I truly could never have achieved what I did without the genuine support and encouragement from my instructors and fellow students. Finding my niche within a welcoming, nourishing community allowed me to feel safe enough to open, to be vulnerable, to navigate the throes of metamorphosis and to come out for the better on the other side. After more than 300 classes between 2007 and 2009, and forever a member of what is sentimentally referred to as the “Season One Original Cast & Crew”, the amazing Melanie Richards and the thriving, now 8 year old HappyTree Yoga will always hold a very special place in my heart.
By the spring of 2009 much had shifted in my life - there had been a lot of personal growth, I was healthier on all levels, and I was in holistic private practice part-time... but despite all that, I was still stagnant in certain ways and holding on to things that were clearly ready to change. As fate would have it, I ended up meeting a new love when I least expected it, and somehow, the excitement of it all proved to be a substantial catalyst for change which allowed me to step out of the comfort of my uncomfortable rut. In all honesty, had a psychic told me that in the span of a few months I would get involved with a French Canadian, move from NDG to Laval, branch out independently in my own office and finally learn to drive, I would have laughed and walked out without paying!!! Then and there I was schooled:
So, by late summer 2009 I had all but officially moved north of the city and, what with being involved in a new relationship, I lived it up and enjoyed the honeymoon phase, abundant in all things good including good food and good wine! Life was great and I was eager to put down new roots both personally and professionally. However, having been separated from my dear yoga community and having experienced such a shift in gears, days and weeks of relative inactivity flowed fast and furious and by December 2010 I’d put on a lot of weight, felt lazy and lethargic, and despite my relationship, I felt rather isolated. As New Year’s Eve approached, I found myself struggling in a big way with what I saw in the mirror. While fully aware of the importance of loving and accepting one's self unconditionally, I had to acknowledge the fine line between acceptance and complacency. At yet another crossroads, I decided that enough was enough and I vowed to take practical steps to support true physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being once again.
“Oh yeah?” I said.
Over the course of that year I experienced massive shifts in every way - just like with yoga, it was transformative on every level. In December 2011 I decided to take my CrossFit Level-1 Trainer Certification to deepen my knowledge and, to date, I will say that it was possibly one of the best weekends of my life. Along with my home base in Laval and some great connections I’d made at my cert, I've had the opportunity since then to branch out and engage with several other local CrossFit communities, where I always feel welcome and appreciated. Special shout-out to CrossFit CapOp and CrossFit St.Laurent for having taken me in as one of your own and for having played a vital role in my growth and development.
Out of the blue, in the fall of 2013, a coach at CrossFit Laval who had witnessed my profound transformation took me aside and mentioned a potential opportunity with a local French magazine. Though bilingual, English is my first language and I was apprehensive, unsure as to whether I would be an appropriate candidate for their audience.
To my delight, the interview went really well and I soon found out that I had been selected! Before I knew it, I had experienced my first official photo shoot, and the article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Quebec's Moi & cie.
When I think about it, I realize I spend more time with my morning crew at the gym than I do with most people in my life. Monday through Friday, I open my eyes eager to start my day with them and know that they are eager to start their day with me, too. Though we are of different ages, backgrounds, and levels of fitness, we are like family. Some of the best conversations of my life have taken place in that locker room and some of the best laughs of my life have been had between those gym walls. From the genuine smile that emerges on my face upon seeing their cars in the parking lot, to the true feeling of being appreciated the moment I walk through the door, to what we face together in that hour every weekday morning, the bond we share not only keeps me motivated but encourages discipline, accountability, and consistency. Whether male or female, young or old, no matter one’s weight or level of fitness, there is something to be said for a bond created through shared suffering, intensity, blood, sweat, and tears. Despite the hard work I've put in, I would not be where I am today without the fierce support I've received from this community.
In addition to the immense gratitude I feel towards my training buddies, I would also not be where I am today without the steadfast dedication of Matthieu Dubreucq. Little did I know that 5 years later, the individual who once drew me into his crude lair of torture would become my esteemed head coach, someone who often proves to know me better than I know myself, and someone who, despite any challenge dealt in training, has my inherent trust. Along with Matt, I have been gifted with a handful of extraordinary coaches whose level of commitment, excellence, and care are deeply appreciated and will never be forgotten.
Though I am far from being one of the strongest or fastest gals at my gym, for someone who used to be a total weakling, hated gym in school, smoked cigarettes for 15 years of her life and did her fair share of drinking and drugs, the fact that I can now row 500m in 1:48, run 10km in under an hour, climb a 20ft rope to the ceiling and deadlift 305lbs is a total miracle, something I would have never thought possible.
While my CrossFit training in Laval has been vastly different from my yoga practice in Westmount, the experiences complement each other beautifully and I appreciate how each experience provided a platform for transformation on all levels. Just like yoga, CrossFit taught me that what goes through your mind as you train and how you conduct yourself through your workout holds incredible insights about the way you live your life. Whether it’s just you, your body, your breath and your mat or just you, your body, your breath and the clock, there is a whole world waiting to be discovered. Though the physical benefits are great, I will say that the mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits have been truly astounding. Through my experiences with both yoga and CrossFit, I have learned:
- Where I am my own worst enemy and my very best friend
- Where I fearfully run from my demons and where I courageously choose to face them
- Where I am arrogant and where I am humble
- Where I feel vulnerable and where I feel confident
- Where I struggle with discomfort and where I allow myself to relax into it
- What triggers me to disassociate and what helps to ground me in the present moment
- Where I stick with what’s safe and familiar and where I dare to move beyond
- Where I’m content with mediocrity and where I’m determined to excel
Both practices have fuelled contemplation as to the topics of competition, commitment, vulnerability, honesty, fear, shame, and even intimacy. Too, they have exposed how I choose to use my power and energy, revealing deep truths about priorities, efficiency, and focus.
Just over 8 years since that fateful day in 2007, here we are. Though I may have lost a lot of the flexibility gained through yoga, though I no longer eat strict Paleo, and though I am by no means a top CrossFit athlete, the transformation I have undergone with the help of energy medicine and changing the way I eat and move has been nothing short of remarkable. In January of 2016, I am living life symptom-free, stronger and faster than I have ever been... and the experience of being part of such phenomenal communities is worth its weight in gold.
To those who have been, who still are, and who will become a part of my journey - your love, support, and encouragement is a true blessing in my life.
Thank you, thank you, thank you 💜