The following is an excerpt from "Yoga Wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring You On And Off Your Mat" by Stephanie Spence (Skyhorse Publishing).
The setting: a luxurious villa on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. A wife and husband, along with several of his clients, are partying on a terrace overlooking the glittering ocean and sun-kissed beach. They flew in from Pittsburgh aboard his private jet that morning. The woman seems to have it all—she’s a self-made success story, wife, and mother. But beneath her mask of contentment and complicity, she hides a terrible secret: the price she’s paying for this glamorous life is that she is living a lie. Their friends and acquaintances would say that she and her rich, powerful husband of twenty-five years never argue. Well, she doesn’t argue. Why? She is terrified of being bullied, verbally dismissed, and belittled.
As usual, she is expected to entertain her husband’s guests, which means fulfilling their every desire—no matter how illegal. Submissive and compliant, her everyday mantra. Soon, the revelers want to kick things up a notch with Thai Stick, some of the best opium-laced marijuana money can buy. And they expect her to join in.
She takes the Stick, feels her stomach rebel. Her mind screams in protest. She brings the smoldering joint to her lips . . . and hesitates. Her husband, waiting his turn, nods for her to take a hit.
She parts her lips, ready to obey. Wait. What am I doing? she thinks. Selling her soul. Giving herself away.
Putting toxic substances into her body because her husband expects her to be the life of the party. She drops the Stick in a most deliberate way, oblivious to the gasps and protests. No. No more.
She is done with drugs, drinking, and ass-kissing. Ignoring one man’s dash to grab the Stick, now rolling across the patio, she turns to the man who had once vowed to honor and love her. His mouth moves, trying to form words in his shocked outrage.
Before his drug-hazed mind can produce the vitriol he so clearly wants to spew, she blurts out, “I want a divorce.”
A startled hush falls over everyone as they wait for his reaction. She’s prepared for the worst of his explosive temper. Instead of denigrating her, threatening her, or pretending that he cares, he simply walks out of the villa. Minutes later, she hears him drive away.
She excuses herself and holes up in one of the guest rooms to await his return. The waiting is its own torture, and it’s for nothing. She finds out that he boarded his jet and left her behind.
But he wasn’t done. The following day, he sends her an email with only one sentence: “Your life as you know it will never be the same.”
My name is Stephanie Spence, a.k.a. Yoga Road Trip Girl, and that wife was me. That brave, bold declaration was only the beginning. As any survivor of abuse, whether physical, emotional, or mental, knows, you can’t go from living as a shell of your former self to empowered in a day, a week, a month. For me, it’s an ongoing journey of triumphs and failures, of heartbreak and joy.
I set off on my new life with nothing but a rental car and the clothes on my back and slowly rebuilt my life with the only lifeline I knew: yoga.
My daily yoga practice grew into so much more than perfecting a pose. Yoga became transformative, teaching me to live a fearless, authentic life of purpose and potential.
When I felt alone, it reminded me that I was part of a world-wide community. When I was hard on myself for falling out of a pose, it reminded me that this is a practice, not an end goal. When I felt powerless to master a pose, it reminded me to surrender to what is. When I hurt, it helped me to heal. And when I did master a pose at last, it applauded my strength—and showed me that I am a warrior at heart who can save myself.
When we are ready to grow, the Universe puts “coincidences” on our path to help us or send us in the right direction. These can be people, places, or events that your soul attracts into your life to help you evolve to higher consciousness or place emphasis on something going on in your life. Synchronistically, I met spiritual teacher Gahl Sasson through my yoga studio. My session with Gahl was infused with Kabbalah, the ancient Jewish mystical interpretation of the Bible. Gahl’s depth of wisdom and devotion inspired me to deepen my spiritual practice, along with my yoga practice. I devoured the exercises in his book, "A Wish Can Change Your Life." Starting from the first chapter, I had visual, emotional, and physical confirmation that the book was working. This was unlike any other self-help book I had read. I immediately saw results. For the first time in my life, I had a clear direction for my future.
By the time I finished the book, I knew that my dharma, my soul purpose, was to educate and inspire as many people as I could to try yoga and embrace it as a way of life. I loaded up a rented RV and headed on a month-long journey I dubbed the “Yoga Road Trip.” Waking up daily in my moving cocoon of yoga, I felt powerful and free. My morning ritual of writing and playing house in my adopted home electrified my soul. It dawned on me that this was the first house I had ever picked out and lived in that was truly my own.
Whether my morning meditation was in a shabby trailer park, busy parking lot, or overlooking the ocean, I had a space that was all mine. I embodied the new freedom and adventure I had always longed for but had never been able to manifest on my own.
As I made my 4,000-mile pilgrimage from Southern California all the way up the West Coast and into Canada, I had a simple mission: video-interview and practice with a different yoga teacher every day. Instead of solely words and pictures on my blog, I hoped the moving images would resonate on a more intimate level with the viewers, bringing them closer to these wise souls, my experience, and me. Hungry for emotional connection, I believed the world of online sharing would resonate with the yearning for kinship that I believe is at the root of all social media. I pictured the blog more as a vlog (video log) from a vision I had while in savasana. I also wanted to capture their wisdom and enlightenment to help me discover a part of myself I had never known. The me that I was before life taught me destructive love. I had never learned to listen to and trust my spiritual self, the wise and loving voice of my intuition.
I reclaimed my lost self on the road. I understood for the first time how to thrive instead of merely survive. I regained my unique power and my voice. And most important, I had a road map for physical, mental, and spiritual health to give others. The impressive souls I met on my Yoga Road Trip, and those I have engaged with as I continue my journey, are at the heart of this book.
I became a Warrior when I embraced the understanding that I had to crash so I could transform my life. I scoured the globe to find top yoga teachers, truly authentic givers, who make yoga a way of life just as I do. They have huge hearts and simple wisdom driven by compassion, experience, and kindness. We all hope Yoga Wisdom inspires the whole world to embrace yoga as a way of life, one person at a time.
Yoga Wisdom takes you on the road of life with people who are full of self-love and radiating balance, so you can create that for yourself. Once you meet these life instructors, you can manifest everything you need to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.
Physically showing up on your yoga mat is just the beginning. With determination and patience, the real secrets and power of yoga come with time. We’re here to inspire you to not only show up for class, but to become a yogi, too—a yoga devotee full of love and light.
It’s time to unleash the Warrior inside you.
(Continue reading for another inspiring excerpt in Breathing Love: Meditation in Action (Excerpt + Guided Meditation of Love).)
With an eye towards the future, but steeped in wisdom from 38 years of practicing yoga Stephanie Spence is a Yoga Educator, Author, Inspirational Speaker, Activist, and Creative Leader. Based in Coronado, California Stephanieis a trail blazer with an inspiring and empowering approach to self-inquiry and personal development. Stephanie is committed to helping ignite the desire for others to create a life of health and joy for themselves through a sustainable practice of yoga for a lifetime of transformation. Connect with her via her award-winning yoga blog, one-with-life.com or @Stephanieyogini. Her book “Yoga Wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring You On And Off Your Mat” is now available wherever books are sold.