Off The Mat

The Maturation of a Yogini

Mar 12, 2021 Michelle Dorer
Ashtanga Yoga Outer Banks, NC / Michelle Dorer

Yoga is a process. And like with any process in life, one cannot always understand what is happening to them, why, or on what level. Wouldn’t we like to know?   

Yoga is transformation. The process of knowing – or understanding – is transformation. we often cannot see “what is what” until we are on the other end of the transformation process once we are transformed. 

This cycle is consistent in life. If we can hold the feelings, reality and ourselves throughout these cycles, much can be learned about oneself.  

Personally, I am coming through the other end of a long cycle and am just now finally able to see glimpses of what it all was and what it was all for.   

My advice? Trust the process while it is happening and know it is in our highest good, even if we cannot understand it.   

I want to share a personal story with you as inspiration for what is possible through dedicated consistent Yoga practice. In sharing, I hope to illustrate how the re-patterning of muscle memory we pratice in Ashtanga has much deeper implications to our lives and our growth, than just doing the asana on the mat each day. I also hope to offer a drop of Faith and encouragement that there are higher Forces in the Universe, even though we might not see them, that are constantly working for our benefit. I promise, they are! Learn to trust this… 

As many of you know, I am a serious Yogini. I took to the highly disciplined practice of Ashtanga Yoga when I was 23 and have not stopped since.  While my practice has changed significantly since I was younger, it remains the center of my life, and the spiritual anchor of my process. It has remained the consistent factor keeping me on my spiritual path.  

Before plunging into my story, I must share my personal viewpoint on my Yoga practice. Yoga, for me, has always been a spiritual endeavor, motivated by a deep desire to know Self and Goddess more deeply. When engaged in contemplation the question for me is, how does this work of the body, breath, bandha, and drishti facilitate and mirror my life, lessons, and growth of my consciousness and Soul? If interested, you can refer to a previous blog called The Funky Blues of the Soul.” 

Back to my story, as a young practitioner and teacher, I was physically very capable. My body-type is one that can do anything without much effort.  My body felt restless and needed a high level of movement to feel stillness. I accelerated quickly and maintained a rigorous practice schedule for over a decade, moving all the way into the Fourth Series of the traditional Ashtanga Yoga system.  I had my own Yoga studio, was hosting world class Yoga teachers, and pretty much felt invincible - Rock and Roll baby!   

During this period of time, my practice was heavy and intense; I was practicing Third and part of Fourth Series four-days-a-week, Second Series one day, and First Series one day (except for Holidays; both Moon and menstruation).  Yet, the nature of reality is… all things must change… and change came.  It was an accumulation of many factors that brought me to what I can now see is a beautiful point.  What I couldn't necessarily see at the time is that I was coming to my mat with deep internal wounds and a damaged sense of Self.  It was clear that I needed to heal on a level that was so subconsciously driven I could not put it into words. Isn’t that how it often works?  The suffering comes from a clash between these deeper levels and the outer mind that desires and thinks. 

As Yogis, messages come through our bodies, our health, and, if we are quiet enough, the rhythms of our minds and Spirit.  I was at that time too ramped up to hear.  My mind needed to quiet more and adding more intense movement was no longer the answer… this was difficult for me to accept - growth and forward movement do not always equate to more advanced and perfected asanas.   

All at once everything started to fall apart. My body, my health, and my life…  In one year, I experienced the most painful break up of my life, the death of my best friend, followed by the passing of my loyal canine companion Yoda, who was my rock for 15 beautiful years.   

As far as my health was concerned, I started to notice red flags screaming to me that I was out of balance. And the final blow was increased back pain that use to happen on rare occasions was starting to become chronic.   

I was forced to change everything after returning from teaching a Yoga Retreat in Nicaragua.  The traveling, sleeping in a bad bed, in conjunction with my intense practices put my back out for the last time. Luckily, I had planned to stay over with my Mother and her partner - who I refer to as “the Colonel” - upon returning to the states.   

When the Colonel saw me limping around the kitchen he said, “Michelle. You are too young to be having back pain like this. Something is wrong. You need to see a doctor, and I don’t want to hear you writing this off as some sort of emotional issue.”  LOL!  Let’s just say the Colonel was the blatent message I needed for me to be delivered to my Higher Power.  This is the moment I stopped being stubborn and decided to change directions.   

The Colonel was partially correct, as there was a mechanical issue going on in my back. I made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor who gave me positive news!  Lucky for me, it was not a serious problem at this point. However, if it had not been addressed it could have been. In a nutshell, I was developing a weak spot in my lower back near my SI joint. The never ending increase of my flexibility (as I love me some deep back bending!) and underdeveloped strength was increasing this weakness and causing more pain.  This sent me on an incredible journey to relearn muscle memory on a level that has become a HUGE fascination and has made me a much better teacher!   

But my back had nothing and everything to do with the deep emotional suffering I was experiencing. At the time, I was disgruntled and unhappy about this. My reality was being shattered.  I sought out an amazing physical therapist who has become my best anatomy teacher.  She brought me back to ground ZERO! Although my superficial abs were very strong my deeper interior abs (transverse abdominis) were weak and my glute muscles barely existed.  I had to let go of my super power practice and start redeveloping my muscle memory from the beginning. 

This process started in January 2017.  Exactly four years to date, and I am just now realizing how incredible the journey has been!  I completely rewired my Yoga practice very slowly, truly re-teaching myself the foundations from the beginning.  I also ended up letting go of my Yoga studio of 13 ½ years to re-organize my career, moved to a new personal residence, welcomed two AMAZING baby cats, and found a new modality of therapy that has brought me more peace and serenity, gained ground in getting my health balanced and developed my craft as a teacher in the post-pandemic world.  All this movement was being done subconsciously preemptively in preparation for the global pandemic I did not know was coming. 

Finally, I discovered that balance and equilibrium are the keys to healing, happiness, health, and deeper levels of spirituality.  I had no idea how my Higher Power was working for me, but She was!  All I needed to do was say, “Ok. What now?”  and trust that all was going to be not only better, but more than I could have imagined!  And, more is coming from this re-building of my foundation, I am sure!  This is just the beginning. 

This is the physical explanation of this process, but can you imagine what this means and how this translates to the spiritual emotional plane?! Yeah, that’s a whole other story, one I hope to share with you soon! 

If you would like to meet your newfound and discovered teacher, check out my website for weekly and monthly class offerings, workshops, or contact me to schedule a private Yoga consultation:  www.ashtangayogaobx.com.   

I am wishing peace, love, good health, and happiness to All!  


With Love. 

Michelle Dorer  
Ashtanga Yoga Outer Banks, NC – Owner, Director, Teacher 

Categories: Announcements, Off the Mat