In honor of the U.S. Coast Guard’s birthday, we’re sharing a personal story from Coast Guard spouse and Warriors at Ease teacher, Alli Houseworth! Below is her story about her relationship with yoga.
By Alli Houseworth
The first time I was exposed to yoga was in college. I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Acting and one day during one of our movement classes, our professor made us do some sun salutations. My takeaway from that experience was that yoga was a lot harder than it seemed. Sometime later, I took a workshop series on chakras at school, which I remember being somewhat interesting. Then yoga fell away from my life and didn’t reappear for years later.
Flash forward to what I like to call the “dark days.” I found myself in an unhealthy relationship, eating too much junk food, drinking too much beer, not getting sleep and not moving my body. I was depressed and lost. I tried out a yoga DVD and eventually found my way to Bikram Yoga. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done – not just because of the heat and the physicality, but because if my brain thought of anything that was happening outside that room in that moment, my body wanted to vomit. It was probably the first time in my life I was truly present.
I dabbled in yoga during that time – snatching up every Groupon in town, trying different styles, and eventually accepting that I was a girl who needed hot yoga because of the challenge, the sweat, and what it did to my mind.
At the time I was self-employed, working as an arts marketing consultant and had no money, so I never joined as a member anywhere and lacked the discipline to do a solid home practice. Then I met the man who would become my husband.
Russ is active duty Coast Guard and when we met he had been in the service for ten years. I was fiercely independent and super wary about marrying into a lifestyle where someone else — or something else — would dictate the moves I would make in my life. But love won and we married two years after we met.
My husband, being so talented at what he does, has advanced quickly in his career in the five years we’ve been married. In that time, we’ve moved four times across the country and back and then to Hawaii (our current duty station). During one of these moves, when we didn’t know how long we’d be at our current duty station, I felt myself slipping back into the “dark days” again – unsatisfied with my career, not taking good care of myself – and knew that I needed to quickly add yoga back into my life.
My husband had just started his Chief’s Call to Initiation — an intensive leadership on-the-job training program — where he would be mostly absent from my life for a period of six weeks. Seeking to bring more yoga into my life on a limited budget, I applied to clean the studio at a CorePower Yoga where we were living (a practice I enjoyed because of the heat and because of the physicality – I was never a runner or fitness person so power yoga was my exercise). When asked why I wanted to clean a studio I replied with something like, “Well maybe when my husband retires we’ll go sell bagels to the surfers in Puerto Rico and next to that spot there’ll be a yoga studio I’ll run.” Turns out a teacher training was starting in just a month and they invited me to join in order to get the experience I’d need to run the fantasy studio I randomly contrived in my mind. As a minor repayment for his absence, my husband said, “Sounds good. I’ll pay for it.” At that point, my life shifted greatly.
The same time I was in my teacher training I was also working a seasonal job in the jewelry department at the Walter Reed NEX in Bethesda, MD. During the day I received incredible satisfaction helping our active duty, retired, and injured servicemen and women acquire simple things like earrings or sunglasses. It was satisfying in a way I never thought possible. When it was slow I’d recite my yoga sequence and go to training at night.
I thought, “If it can feel this good to help a service member choose a pair of sunglasses, imagine what it would feel like if I could share with them the gift of yoga. Plus, if I became a yoga teacher I’d have a portable career I could take with me through the remainder of my husband’s time in service.”
I successfully graduated from teacher training and started teaching at CorePower right away. One month later, after a mere few months on the east coast, we got orders to Honolulu because of my husband’s promotion to Chief Warrant Officer. I learned I could transfer to a CorePower on Oahu, which I did. It was then that I also started teaching at Hickam Air Force Base. I also learned about the Warriors at Ease Level One training during this time, completed it the fall after we moved, and then completed the Level Two training just a few months later. During Level Two training I learned about iRest Meditation, and I completed the Level One training this past year. Since then, I’ve taught a weekly iRest to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Schofield Barracks and hosted various iRest workshops across the island.
Teaching yoga to our military members fills my cup immensely. I feel my training has taken place at opposite ends of the spectrum – power yoga and iRest meditation – and between both of those extremes, there’s a place for everyone.
Sometimes we have to work the body to get to the mind, and sometimes we need to find stillness and deep rest in order to heal.
I love to teach power yoga to military folks who think yoga is for “sissies” and make their bodies work harder than they ever thought possible; conversely having a soldier who has trouble sleeping fall asleep attend an iRest class is immensely rewarding. In both examples, the persons’ belief of themselves is challenged, and in both cases, the individual has been able to experience more peace and acceptance.
I teach, and will continue to teach yoga and iRest, to serve, enlighten, educate, and most of all provide our service members, their families, and our veterans simple, replicable tools to help them feel better, heal physically and mentally, and build resiliency. Yoga truly allows the practitioner to be more prepared for whatever life throws their way and our military deserves to have those tools. Semper Paratus!
Alli Houseworth is a Warriors at Ease Certified Teacher living and teaching on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. You can find her teaching weekly classes at Schofield Barracks, on Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, and in the local community.