Our instructor warned us “This last week will go by in the blink of an eye, so savor each moment.”
Looming over my head was the truth: this amazing experience will end soon and I tried to let the feelings come and go, entering and wandering inside, only to pass through like water in a sieve. It was hard.
By the end of week three, the class was transformed, opened, and emotional bonds were forever forged. I became even closer to my amazing group of friends, I love them each and all, and even though we only had a few weeks together, I feel I know them deeply and personally. They know me too.
I sat out on a hillside one night, my malabeads in hand (traditional prayer beads given as a gift to us) and I said a simple “Thank you” as I rolled along each bead, bringing up the memories, faces and special moments of my time at Kripalu. It was what I needed to do in order to begin my transition out - to acknowledge and thank what had been so kind and wonderful, and seal the precious moments into my beads forever.
During the week we had our final practice teach where I was able to work in a theme which spoke to me: Queen Of Hearts. My class, where I guided three of my classmates plus a mentor, was all about power, confidence and letting the heart speak. After it, each one of the members said they felt “empowered”, “bolder” and “cared for.” I felt alive and happy - my class was fun and meaningful!
I also shared more about More to Love with the class - I didn’t want to come into YTT leading with my business and work, I was here to experience the environment and be a student. But towards the end, I felt a rush that now was the time to let everyone know what I was about: loving and experiencing my larger body so I can help others do the same.
During our closing circle, I shared that I used to pray every night to wake-up with a new body, a thinner body, and when I chose to love myself a few years ago, my life changed fundamentally. I told them my time here at Kripalu was exactly the right moment in my life because I’ve worked to make sure self-love is my priority and that all relationships, experiences and ideas stem from a deep sense of love and openness. I shared that being bigger in yoga is growing, that more people like me are willing to be seen for their body to enjoy yoga just like anyone else.
That night at our celebration, I read my Huffington Post article called “How Yoga Helped Me Love My Bigger Body” and for many, they had no idea about my work and presence in the body acceptance movement. It was the first time I ever read my work aloud and honestly…it was incredible. I learned the more I tell my personal story around body image, the less powerful the hurtful memories are. I’m moving into a new area beyond body acceptance, into something I’m calling “body experience” and I’m so thrilled to see how that expands.
Our closing ceremony was one of the most gorgeous, heart-felt, and tender moments I’ve ever had in my life. Those there know what I’m talking about, those not, it’s OK - just know that I personally felt a soothing flow of love, closing, farewell, and immense possibility for the future.
When I returned home to Boston, I felt different - the energy of the city was active, against the grain of the peace and calm I felt nearly the whole month. The next 24 hours I cried, wept, laughed, smiled, told stories to my husband - I let the emotions come and go, knowing that a closing is just as important as an opening. To end means you lived.
So now I’m going to soak - to let bubble up what will and take my time to integrate back into the every day. I know I cannot replicate Kripalu perfectly into my life, but I can take seeds and plant them. I’m confident that balance and self-care are rightfully placed in my life, and I am so blessed to have the experience of a month devoted to personal growth and knowledge.
I also want to write a special letter to my classmates and teachers over the next week or so while I’m feeling their echo in my heart.
But now, the yoga begins: I am Rachel Estapa, a certified life coach and now Kripalu yoga teacher. I'm the founder of More to Love, a community which educates and empowers larger women to apply body acceptance into their daily lives. I love my body and self, and it’s my passion to help others learn how to do it too.