Well… How did I get here?

by Djuna Passman

As I write down dates for the two teacher trainings and retreat I’m co-leading in 2020 the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime” pops into my head. “And you may ask yourself, ‘Well…How did I get here?’”

Eight years ago I embarked on a journey that changed my life, which sounds cheesy and cliché, but it’s true. In the summer of 2011, I partook in a 200-hour yoga teacher training, the same one I have co-lead for the last two years. I had an inkling that I might want to teach yoga. I had been happily teaching dance on and off for close to a decade. Mostly, I just thought I would incorporate yoga into the work I was doing as a dance/movement therapist. I was constantly being asked to lead yoga groups in addition to my therapeutic groups. My response remained a steadfast no because I was not a certified yoga instructor. Now, I would finally be able to incorporate yoga into my therapeutic work. That was the only path I really saw for myself at that point in time.

I had shelved the idea of doing a yoga teacher training after half-heartedly researching different programs and not finding one that felt like the perfect fit. When the studio that had become my yoga home four years prior announced their inaugural teacher training my gut instinct said, “Do it!” Having finished my graduate degree just two years earlier, the whole school thing was still fresh. My yoga practice had become an integrated and integral piece of my life over the last five years. I went in to the teacher training believing I was well prepared.

Sparks of nervous excitement were woven into even the calmest of moments as four teachers, leading their first teacher training, and nine students spent four weekends during one of the hottest Augusts in New York City history nestled inside a tiny yoga studio in midtown Manhattan. We were all embarking on this brand new journey together. It was simultaneously messy and magical, and really hard.

During the week, I was working as a per diem dance/movement therapist in nursing homes. The beautifully fleeting moments of genuine connection where I felt I was truly doing worthwhile and fulfilling work were too few and far between to sustain me through what felt like wading in knee-deep mud with no help or shore in sight 90% of the time. The work simply was not for me, although I wasn’t ready to admit that just yet. During the teacher training, I was interviewing for a position as lead therapist at a preschool for children on the spectrum. While I looked like a shoe in for the position there was a nagging voice in the back of my mind that kept whispering, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” In desperate need of a full-time job to replace the per diem work I was doing I forged ahead full steam.

Hurricane Irene swept across much of the Caribbean and East Coast while we were safely sequestered at a retreat center upstate New York for the final seven days of our teacher training. Completely unaffected by the gusts of wind and torrents of rain wrecking havoc and causing widespread destruction, we practiced teaching sun salutations during the day and discussed the Yoga Sutras by night. While the landscape of our retreat center remained serene, internally, I was in the midst of my own personal hurricane. I hadn’t been prepared for so much personal and emotional stuff to be unearthed while studying yoga philosophy and dissecting asana (physical poses). I had explored myself extensively through individual and group talk and movement therapy. I truly thought I had worked through all my stuff, and the stuff I hadn’t yet worked through I was at least super aware of. Oh, how wrong I was.

The humidity of summer still thick in the New York City air, my phone quietly rang as I was stepping off the M15 bus just south of E 42nd Street on 2nd Avenue. I was unsuccessfully trying to keep my anxiety in check as I began walking toward the yoga studio to take my final written exam for teacher training. I glanced at the phone, not intending to answer until I saw it was the supervisor at the school where I had been interviewing. Not knowing if I had officially received the job would be too great of a distraction while I took the four hour exam, so I answered. A classic case of nepotism – I was regretfully informed the position had been given to someone else but my next employer would be very lucky to have me.

I felt on the precipice of something as summer gradually turned into fall. I busied myself with performing and creating new work for my dance company, attempting to navigate but mostly trying to forget the raw confusion I felt when pausing to look at my life. The healing power of movement had been saving me for close to three decades. I wanted to share this with others, I just didn’t know how that was going to manifest. My life was about to shift in ways I never could have dreamt for myself. I was about to learn the real magic of yoga – if we remain open, it will guide us exactly where we are meant to be.

Djuna Passman

Djuna’s aversion to yoga quickly dissipated after she discovered the strong physical, emotional, and spiritual effects of a daily practice during a time of personal upheaval.

A lifelong love of moving and firm belief in the healing that comes from developing and deepening the mind-body connection have led her to successful careers as a dancer, choreographer, and dance/movement therapist. Feeling a strong desire to share the wonders of yoga with others she received her yoga certification through mang’Oh as part of their inaugural teacher training in 2011.

Blending extensive knowledge of the body with choreographic skills and the ability to create and hold a safe space for self-exploration and play, Djuna aims to challenge and inspire her students. She loves sharing her passion for yoga with the mang’Oh community.

This blog post can originally be found here.