How Handstands Gave Me My Groove Back
Looking back, it seems I’ve always wanted to be a healer. Even as a child, I liked to fix broken things. When I was 10, I learned about pollution and understood that Mother Earth needed our help, so I organized the Earth Club. Under my mom’s supervision, I rounded up the neighborhood kids, gave them gloves and garbage bags and we marched along the road picking up trash. I knew in my heart that if we could just clean up all the trash and convince everyone to stop littering, the planet would be okay.
As I got older, I found myself in relationships with men who were a little bit (or a lot) broken. I like to think it’s because I look for the best in people, so I saw their potential. It started with my high school boyfriend; I thought if I could just give him enough love to make up for the love he was lacking at home, I could fix him. As you can imagine, it didn't work, but try explaining this concept to a 16-year-old.
My patterns continued through college. Sophomore year, my friend and next-door neighbor died in a car accident. We were young, sad, and not quite sure how to process this revelation that we weren’t invincible. I was there for his best friend. We talked late at night, reminiscing about how everything was before we had to acknowledge that we were all going to die one day. We eventually started dating, and I thought if I could just give him enough love, it would help make up for the loss of his best friend. Again, it didn't turn out well and I started to feel broken and defeated when I realized my love couldn’t heal him.
I ran away to Paris for a semester to study abroad. I met a boy in Barcelona, and he was broken too. But he spoke Spanish fluently and wrote the most beautiful love letters so I pretended not to notice. It was a broken, one-sided kind of love so (you see where I'm going with this) things didn't end well.
After I graduated from college, I moved to a tiny island in the Virgin Islands. Things had just ended with another broken boy I'd met that summer and my heart hurt. I thought sunshine, crystal clear turquoise water and white sand would help me heal, and in a way, it did. I lived a carefree life without many responsibilities. I spent most of my time in the ocean and was tan all year long. I worked at a bar on the beach and offered warm smiles and stories of island life to tourists and honeymooners. I was there for five years, and fell in love twice – both of them were broken. Both of them I couldn’t heal.
So I left the island and moved to Austin, Texas. I partied a lot, found myself immersed in the live music scene and met a boy. To try to make up for his broken childhood, I gave him all the love I had, thinking if I could just show him that unconditional love exists, I could fix him.
I couldn’t. He broke up with me a few months later, and soon I was the one who was broken.
Almost all of my relationships in my twenties were with emotionally unavailable men and they rarely ended on my terms. I was broken up with over and over again, and the reasons they gave me were things like, “It’s just not working,” or “I’m not ready for this,” or“It’s not you, it’s me.”
Looking back, these were actually all valid reasons to end a relationship, but at the time, all I could hear was: Jaimis, you are unlovable.
I started to convince myself I was unloveable by searching for all the reasons why someone wouldn’t love me. I tried to figure out what exactly it was about me that was causing all of my relationships to fail and then tried to figure out how to change to become someone who was lovable - someone better, prettier, thinner, stronger, softer, smarter, funnier, more successful - anyone other than who I was.
It was a dark time in my life and I felt lost and disconnected. Then one night, I walked into the 8:30pm Monday night Candlelight Flow class with Hilly Flora at Black Swan Yoga, and I remember it like it was yesterday. The room was packed with easily 75 people but it was dark so I felt like I could hide since I had no idea what I was doing. It felt good to move my body and for the first time in forever, I felt free. When I closed my eyes in savasana, I began to cry uncontrollably, and I had no idea why. I was embarrassed and completely freaked out and right when I was about to run out of the room, Hilly came over, sat down and gently put her hands on the tops my feet. I was able to take a deep breath for the first time in a long time.
I kept going back to her class every week. For a few moments at the end of class and sometimes on my walk home after, I didn’t feel broken. Several months later, my mom sat me down over the holidays and told me she’d been doing some research and Hilly and her husband Ben were leading a yoga teacher training that started in a few weeks. She could feel my brokenness - she didn’t come out and say it, but I could see it in her eyes. I didn’t think I was ready and put it off for as long as I could, but after a lot of encouragement from my parents, I decided to go for it and signed up for training three days before it began.
A big part of yoga teacher training is the practice of svadhyaya, or ‘self-study.’ I was forced to look at my own shit: my self-destructive behavior and limiting beliefs and all the broken parts of myself I had been ignoring. I began to realize that my love can't heal someone else's pain. It’s an inside job – we have to be our own healers. I’d spent so many years trying to save and fix everyone around me that I wasn’t tending to my own wounds. I finally understood that my inability to heal all of those broken boys didn't make me a failure; it was an impossible task to begin with.
I made a conscious shift and started to do my own work. Healing yourself isn’t a one-time thing – you have to continue your self-studies, every. single. day. You have to learn to sit with yourself and acknowledge whatever comes up - even the hurt, insecurity, judgement and pain - and resist the urge to bury it or push it away.
Two months after I finished teacher training, I quit my office job in Austin, came back to my hometown in Virginia and moved in with my parents to try to become a yoga teacher. I continued my studies and began a 500-hour teacher training program where I discovered Ayurveda, the oldest science of self-healing. I began to look at myself in a different light: what if my so-called flaws aren’t really flaws, they’re just a part of who I am because of my genetic, energetic, elemental makeup?
I learned from my teachers that the key to happiness is living a life of balance, not perfection. I realized I’d never been in a balanced relationship before and made a choice, at 28 years old, sitting at home in my childhood bedroom: to heal myself from the inside out, and no more broken boys.
I spent that first summer at my parent’s house focused on studying, healing and getting stronger. I decided I was going to learn how to do a handstand and I practiced every day. I fell a lot and scared myself a few times, so I started practicing outside in the grass like a kid and found I grew to trust myself a little more. It felt impossible for months but I started to grow stronger. I went to New York City for a weekend of Forest Yoga Workshops with Erica Mather. She was kind and intuitive and taught me to trust in my own strength and ability as both a student and teacher. I kept practicing. Then one day, it just happened – I held a handstand for .25 seconds, which turned into one second, then eventually turned into 10 seconds, and suddenly, I had done the impossible. For the first time in years, I felt absolutely invincible.
Handstands sometimes get a bad rap these days because of the craziness of Instagram and the online yoga world. But to me, handstands represent faith, determination and doing the impossible. It’s a pose that both empowered and healed me, and every single time my feet float off the ground, I’m reminded of my own strength – not just physically, but of my inner strength and resilience. I remember how far I’ve come from that first candlelight yoga class and the lost, broken girl I was back then.
Recently, a student asked me why I wanted to become a yoga teacher. I chose this path because Hilly changed my life that night just by reminding me that I wasn’t alone. I became a yoga teacher because I want to do the same. I hold space for students to do their own self-healing and help people learn how to breathe again. I encourage them to move their bodies as a way of unraveling and softening after a long day. I remind students, friends, strangers and loved ones that they’re not alone because I know what it's like to convince yourself that you are.
The more you get to know yourself through self-study, the easier it is to become the best version of who you truly are. It’s not about changing, it’s about understanding your patterns, deeply ingrained habits and tending to the wounds from your past. This takes time. Sometimes old wounds show up when you’re in pigeon pose for too long, and the tears start to flow and you don’t know why. But you let them flow, instead of holding them back and trying to be strong. You learn that being vulnerable and open-hearted is just a different kind of strength.
In our own way, we’re all a little broken. And we are all healers.
We’re not defined by the stories of our past, by the people who have hurt us, or the people we’ve hurt. But we can learn, grow and evolve from these experiences by allowing ourselves to feel pain instead of pushing it away. When you know what brokenness feels like because you’ve been there before, you’re able to offer a deeper level of understanding, compassion and support to people who are going through it. Pain - just as much as joy - is part of the exquisite beauty and mystery of experiencing human life.
On my 30th birthday, I met a man who is kind, intelligent, self-aware, funny, full of love and beautifully unbroken. He made me laugh, wrote me love letters and he didn't need me to fix him. The year leading up to the day we met was dedicated to self-love so I didn't need him to fix me, either. For the first time in my life, I was in a relationship that felt balanced. I fell in love with him like I never had with anyone before. It’s a love that is honest, real, receptive and effortless. We elevate one another and we keep each other grounded. The beautiful thing is: we don’t need each other. We’re equal partners and we choose to do life together because it is infinitely more vibrant and fun than doing it on your own.
Life is hard and sometimes it breaks us. Know that you’re not alone in your brokenness – I’ve been there, too. Whether its handstands, creating art, signing up for yoga teacher training, learning an instrument, moving to a new city, running a marathon or climbing a mountain – sometimes we've gotta set a seemingly unattainable goal and then crush it to get our groove back and remind ourselves of our own power.
You are and always will be your own greatest healer.
And you're never alone.