If we wish for greater kindness, wisdom, and compassion in the world, we must start with ourselves. As someone always on the go, constantly thinking about what was next, I found myself missing out on the present, with little kindness toward myself. Juggling work, a full-time graduate school schedule, and life in general did not leave much room for stillness. The constant mental chatter was full of self judgment. I grew up in a deeply spiritual family, my father meditated daily, often twice a day. Yet I never understood the power of stillness or the sense of calm he strove for as he sat. With the need to find a release from the stress of daily life, I began long distance running. I found an ability to ‘sense the moment’. Long runs in the woods in Amherst, Mass. – a town full of history, buzzing with the energy of spiritual writers and naturalists – allowed my mind to soften and to be aware of what was around me in the present moment.It wasn’t until I moved across the country to California that I began a consistent yoga practice to compliment my long training runs. I began to rely on the depth of the breath I cultivated to get through long runs, which I used to escape the intensity of my work. As a speech therapist in inner-city schools in South Central L.A., I witnessed pain, suffering, and fear through the eyes of so many children. Often my long commute home was spent in tears.Following the unexpected death of my mother, I came home to Lansing – in every sense. After struggling with the emotions and fears of returning to the place I felt most at home physically, I began to allow the spiritual return to take place. As with many people, my battle was in the mind and that’s where I fought, forcing myself to be someone that wasn’t a reflection of my true self. The only comfort I found was within my practice. Through the moving meditation aspect of yoga my mind settled, and I felt at peace and at home. In every practice as a student, I continue to remind myself to be in the moment, accepting the challenge to be in a difficult space – spiritually, physically, emotionally – and to believe that I have the strength to be in that space long enough to release whatever arises – pain, discomfort, tears. That also comes with knowing that on the other side of the challenge is joy and lightness; laughter and compassion; the ability to feel blissful and full of grace.Teaching yoga has opened my heart in a way that my practice could not. To witness the beauty and grace of each and every student is a gift that I am grateful for. As a teacher, my hope is to guide every student into a space where they feel supported and have the willingness to open – accepting all the possibilities that this practice has to offer. As a sangha, we shed our baggage together, taking in the strength and support from others when we need it, and offering our own strength and support when we have it to give. It is through this letting go that we are able to find the inner light and grace we each possess, and allow that to lead us through life off the mat. Without compassion and kindness for ourselves, we cannot be compassionate and kind to others. Come and find your inner strength and allow it to shine out.