The Unintentional Yogi


I’m going to start right in the middle of my story.  I’m a 200 hour certified yoga teacher.  So, there’s that.  It wasn’t really a plan or a goal.  Not at first.  Actually, it was never even on the radar.

When I took that first yoga class, I was a disaster.  And, that is putting it mildly.  I had no clue what the poses were, regardless if they were being presented in English or in Sanskrit.  But, what I lacked in knowledge and skill, I made up for with total ignorance, a lack of pride, and sheer visceral-fortitude.  The fact that I DIDN’T know how to do anything only made me want to do it MORE!  Luckily I didn’t feel intimidated by the advanced students.  They actually had quite the opposite effect on me.  I saw them as inspiration!

I never knew that the body could be so strong and could be contorted in so many simple, beautiful, and unusual ways. So, I kept showing up to my mat because I liked seeing from practice to practice that I was making progress.  I eventually dove into beginner and fundamental workshops (which probably would have been a better place to start, but…hey, hindsight is 20-20).  I moved from practicing one day a week to two…and then to three.  I found changes happening in my body and in my overall mindset and well-being.  It took me an entire year of continuing to show up and put in the work to finally be able to hold crow pose (bakasana) for 5 breaths.  And, once that happened…I felt that anything was possible in my practice.

I was a regular at the studio.  I was “friends” with the teachers.  When a teacher-training was finally being offered at the studio location that I frequented, my favorite teacher suggested that I sign up.  I LOVED the idea.  I really wanted to expand my knowledge of yoga and to fine-tune my personal practice.  I didn’t have any desire to teach, but not everyone who goes through teacher-training actually wants to teach.  So, that wasn’t an issue.  When I presented the idea to my husband, he was fully supportive…in as long as I chose to MONETIZE my training.  He didn’t feel it was a great idea to spend a somewhat large sum of money to get certified if it was solely being used as a self-exploration and personal growth tool.  And, because I REALLY wanted to do this, I agreed to his terms, and I signed up (still not personally committed to the idea that I actually would teach).


The five and a half months worth of teacher-training classes were set to start in September.  In July, I unfortunately was unexpectedly injured.  In a freak occurrence, I was bitten by my own dog.  I had to have a plastic surgeon brought in to perform emergency surgery on my mouth and face.  My upper-left-lip was mostly detached, and it took countless numbers of artistically placed stitches to put me back together.

Recovery was physically brutal.  I wasn’t able to eat for 10 days, and I was in constant pain.  Emotionally I was a wreck, too.  In an effort to make sure our young daughter (and everyone/anyone else) would be safe, we made the heart-breaking decision to say goodbye to our well-loved 12 year old fur baby.  Through the course of all of this, people began sympathetically talking to me about how sucky it was that I also now wouldn’t be able to go through with my yoga teacher-training.  That really struck me in an odd way.  That thought never even crossed my mind!  At that moment, more than any other, I knew that I HAD to go through with teacher-training…that I NEEDED it.  So, I stuck with that plan as I continued to move forward.


I made my way back to my mat after a month of healing.  I slowly started to move through the practice and re-establish what yoga was to me right then and there.  Two weeks into it, I was feeling strong and motivated…so much so that I was engaging in a full-practice, including arm balances and inversions.  That is when another blow was delivered.

meganyoga3I was in side-crow, and I felt something “tweak” in my wrist.  That tweak turned into a whole bunch of pain.  Pain that didn’t get better.  Off to the wrist specialist I went where it was determined that I had torn my TFCC (triangular-fibrocartilage complex) and had perforated a ligament.  I was given a cortisone injection and was put in a fiberglass cast for 4 weeks, with the talk of surgery after that.  Again, everyone assumed that my opportunity to go through with the yoga teacher-training process was going to be inevitably delayed.  The way I looked at it, though, was that the universe was simply testing me.  It wanted to find out HOW MUCH I really wanted to do this….how much it really meant to me.  So, my game plan?  Show up.  Just as I had been doing, cast and all.  I determined that the only way that I wasn’t going through with the program was if one of the studio owners told me that I couldnt.  I wasn’t going to give them any reasons to think that I shouldn’t be there.  And, luckily, no one ever openly questioned my showing up .

So, TAKE THAT, UNIVERSE!  I plopped down on that mat cast and all, full of excitement and naive anticipation.  I’ll mention that there is no preparing for the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with yoga-teacher training, injury or no injury.  There are days that we practiced for the better part of 4 hours straight with little or no breaks.  I gritted my way through it all.   I modified my practice and did everything on my fists.  My knuckles were bruised and calloused.  But, I wasn’t going to give anyone any reason to say that I wasn’t putting in the work.  I wasn’t going to use anything as an excuse nor was I going to jeopardize my certification.  So, on it went.  10 hours a weekend for most weekends.  Time away from family.  Time filled with mom-guilt.  And wife-guilt.  Time spent not knowing if I would get through, because, shit, y’all…yoga teacher training is H-A-R-D!  But, it is when you push yourself through in the toughest of moments that you tend to reap the biggest rewards, and that is what I wanted.  I wanted the reward.


When the cast came off, I again had to rebuild my practice.  I spent the entire teacher-training working to lift back into crow pose and fumble my way back into hand-standing.  Hell, down dog wasn’t even “easy.”  But, that is one of the beauties in yoga.  It is humbling.  You never know where your body might be from one day to the next…but there is still a place for you on that mat.  There is an opportunity to practice and progress, regardless of where you are at any given moment.  Drop the ego, pull yourself inward, focus, let go…and just see what happens.  That right there…that is what KEEPS me coming back.  And, that is what kept me going through the grueling and soul-searching process that is yoga teacher-training.  And, that is what eventually earned me my certification to teach yoga.

I just graduated in February 2016.  About 6 weeks prior to my final, I started teaching donation-based classes to get in additional teaching practice.  I taught my first “real class” the week right after I graduated…at the studio that has been my “home” for three years, the studio where I also took my teacher-training.  I’m not only teaching vinyasa, but I’m also combining my loves and am teaching running yoga classes!  And, I feel I am exactly where I should be, unintentionally or not.  Some things in life may not be planned, but they might turn out to be exactly what you need.  I discovered that I DO want to teach yoga.  I want to share my love of yoga with others.  I want people to discover that they have an inner-strength that maybe they have not yet explored or found.  I want people to know that yoga is accessible to EVERYONE, and that even if you can’t or don’t care to ever emulate all of the crazy poses that you see plastered all over Instagram…that you can still progress in your own practice.  That even in the most basic of poses, you are still “doing” yoga.  That it is ok to fall and to laugh at yourself, and then get right back up and try again.  I want people to know that yoga takes place on the mat, yes…but that most of the work of yoga takes place off the mat, and that is where the real magic happens.  I am a living example of that.  I am a healthier, stronger, more calm and patient, life-loving person than I ever thought possible.  My yoga practice makes that a reality.  I never thought at the age of 42 that I would be a head-standing, balancing on my arms, hand-standing, mantra-singing, peace-loving, breath-focused yogi…but I am, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

I encourage you to:  Throw down a mat.  Get on.  See where it might take you.  You might be surprised.  Om, shanti, shanti, shanti!  Namaste!

Megan currently teaches at Dhyana Yoga in Haddonfield, NJ. If you’re not close by (and even if you are) you can follow her on Instagram

Guest Post: Beauty and the Beast

We pretty much all grew up with the adorable (and, at moments, terrifying) fairy tale depicting the beauty, Belle, and her unlikely relationship with the big scary Beast.  Essentially, a story about two people that you might not put together at first glance, but upon further inspection, clearly fit well with one another.

Now, this might seem like a strange analogy for the way that I view the relationship between yoga and running…but that really is what it is like.  If you look at it from an over-simplified “10,000 foot view”…yoga is Beauty, and running is the Beast.  Some people might not think that they would form a great mutualistic relationship, but they do.  Oh, how they totally and completely do!

side by side shot of some of my yoga wear and some of my running wear

side by side shot of some of my yoga wear and some of my running wear

I have been running off and on since my sophomore year in college.  Prior to that, I firmly believed that I didn’t have more than a forced-gym-class mile in me.  I pretty much forever hated running as a sport and thought it was for crazy people.  As a matter of fact, I really felt that way up until probably 10 years ago.  (Wait, am I dating myself here???  Yeah, I’m kind of old.)  Even after I stopped thinking that running was for those who were certifiable, I still envisioned that it was for a special brand of people who were probably close to superhero status.  Why?  Because every time I took to lacing up and hitting the pavement, the novelty of it all would last for a few months, and then it would fizzle out.  Let’s face it.  Getting off the couch is hard.  Finding motivation to do something beyond that?  Well, HARD x 10.  So, the people who ran obviously had the super power of stick-to-it-iveness that most do not.  And, it seems I was better at quitting than I was at continuing or committing.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I actually caught the running “bug”.  This time,  for real.  I don’t know how exactly that it happened, but it did.  Maybe it was because I stumbled upon the realization that running was a cheaper form of therapy for a first time mom than prescription drugs or “real” therapy.  Maybe it was because I actually got time to myself, and I wasn’t about to stop indulging in that guilty little pleasure.  Maybe because I discovered it was a way of giving in and letting go and coming out stronger at the end…and, well, that just feels good.  Just for the record, I’m all for feeling good.

this is a selfie from one of my fall runs last year in my beautiful outdoor gym

Selfie from one of my fall runs last year in my beautiful outdoor gym

At the same time, though, I was starting to realize that my body wasn’t as into running as my head was.  My body was viewing running as the Beast that it can be for some.  See, I have an ever-growing list of injuries / aches / pains that often hinder my want or ability to open up that front door to my outdoor gym.  I would often wake up the morning after a run, step out of bed, and limp my way through the rest of my day, courtesy of: sesamoiditis, a newly forming bunion, an uncooperative and often angry heel and ankle, IT bands tighter than my husband’s grip on the bank account when I go out purse shopping, etc.  Well, you get the idea.  I’m sort of a mess (and my husband is stingy when it comes to purse shopping).  Enough of a mess at a few turns that I was starting to cut back and contemplate stopping my running activity YET AGAIN.


Until, I sort of accidentally met yoga.  Ah, enter, Beauty.

I say that I accidentally met yoga because I really had no intention of being a yogi.  (Sort of like I never really intended or expected to be a runner.) I had taken some prenatal yoga classes, and they were “fine”.  Outside of that, I had unwarranted opinions about the practice, and I just didn’t think yoga would be for me.  But, life works in mysterious and awesome ways…and, so it happened.

I decided that I needed to do something else besides JUST running.  Something that would break up the monotony of my routine, challenge me, and get me another form of exercise all while still allowing my body to recover from my running Beast.  I was searching out a unicorn of sorts.

Another mom friend had mentioned the prospect of us trying out an all-levels Vinyasa class at a local studio while our kiddos were at preschool.  I swallowed all of my group exercise, “oh, I look like an idiot and have no idea what I am doing while you all look amazing in your Lululemon everything” insecurities, rolled out a mat, and took the class.  And, I almost died.  Turns out, yoga can be seriously HARD, y’all!  I like a good challenge, though, so I stuck with it.  And, I learned a whole bunch of things in the process:  yoga IS exercise.  It can be intense. Or restorative. It works every part of your mind and body. It can energize you and calm you, all at the same time.  And, it really, really, really helps to loosen up your muscles and stretch you back out after a run (see: pigeon pose, double pigeon pose, lizard pose, forward folds, downward dogs, legs up the wall, etc).  Hallelujah!  Beautiful, wonderful, magical unicorn found!

This is a pic of myself (10 lbs heavier, but still including despite that fact...ha!) and my best friend Canella (yoga instructor extraordinaire) doing back to back tree poses on the beaches of OBX in 2012

This is a pic of myself (10 lbs heavier, but still including despite that fact…ha!) and my best friend Canella (yoga instructor extraordinaire) doing back to back tree poses on the beaches of OBX in 2012

Working yoga into my weekly routine, and limiting my weekly running to 3 or 4 days at the most, has made it possible for my body to be “ok” with the beatings that it takes when I’m out hitting the roads.  The pairing of both exercises, in turn, has allowed me to run longer distances than I ever imagined and to improve my pace (without even consciously working on it).  I actually ran a half marathon in September, and that is something that I never even imagined being remotely possible.   So, I might be old, achy, and held together by KT Tape, but I am now also officially one of those certifiable superhero-y sorts of people that I used to emulate…all thanks to introducing Beauty to the Beast.

So, what do you do besides run?  Is there anything that makes it more enjoyable or more possible for you to run or for you to be a “better” runner?  Please share!

Happy Running!  Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!  And, Namaste!

Megan Ritter is a stay at home mom, blogger and fashionista. She enjoys yoga, running, photography and the laugher of her daughter. Her secret powers include sarcasm and baking without a recipe. It’s quite possible that she was a cat herder in a past life. A Chicago area native, Megan now lives in Haddonfield, NJ with her husband, 4 year old daughter and dog, Batman.