The idea of showing up as a 10 is hard to conceptualize until you are put in a situation that draws the 10 right out of you. Level 2 Baptiste training in Austin last month, did just that.

Like a reference point on a map, Level 2 has helped to me to center, helped me to know what it feels like to get outside of my box, live powerfully from full expression of who I am, and be happy to let go of who I think I am, to give way to opening and experiencing a life I could have never imagined. I know, it is a pretty tall order to live up to. The end result has been freedom.

My practice went through some profound shifts at Level 2 and after 4 years of practicing Baptiste yoga, I can truly say I experience freedom in poses that I long felt stuck and stunted in. For me, this is phenomenal. Beyond feeling more powerful than ever in my own body, integrated and whole, you should know that prior to Level 2 I was suffering tremendous back pain, to the point that I was cutting out almost all backbends. I was also nursing a fascial tear in my upper hamstring, again, I have not done Triangle pose on the right side for nearly 9 months. I was nursing my wounds and, though I didn't know it, my body was completely disintegrated...

I hate to say it, but I was fooling everyone, including myself. I can make poses look really beautiful, it is one of the reasons I love yoga, the beauty of the movement and the asanas. My exterior was still carrying out each pose and transition, but my inner body was screaming with pain, having me cut out more and more of the practice. This was the state I entered Level 2 in. To be honest, I did not even want to practice Baptiste yoga intensely for a week. I can see how I was dragging myself along, trying to be a good sport.

Somewhere around day 3 of the 7 day training, Baron spent extra time teaching us more alignment principles in Tadasana (standing mountain pose). We worked with partners, one partner was on the floor. We learned how to keep our femur bones hugging into the pelvis and inwardly rotated, it was a light bulb moment for me; first in body, then mind.

After the exercise, Baron asked what opened up for us in the exercise, I raised my hand and stood up. I said, "I have had low back pain for the past year and a half and have been vexed (I am a yoga teacher and massage therapist, by the way). I noticed when my femur bone was pulled away from my pelvis, my low back hurt, when I hugged it in, my low back did not hurt." I went on to say that I had wanted someone to tell me what was going on with my back, but I experienced it in my body through the exercise.

My practice took off after that and I fell in love with Baptiste yoga again. I had no idea how dis-integrated my practice had become and I was trying to work around all this pain. I am pretty sure that at the rate I was going, I would have only been able to do Savasana soon enough, which makes me chuckle now.

This practice of Tadasana in every pose has transformed my practice and revitalized my whole body. I literally feel new presence when I practice and vital prana moving with more energy than ever. And it is more important than ever. That is why Baptiste yoga is so powerful. It calls you to awaken to your life and realizing that your life does depend on your awakening and what you do with it.

I can't even tell you all the profound things that occurred outside of the practice at Level 2. I made a commitment to my small group at Level 2 that I would connect with people in a way I never had before. That happened and I learned that I have been missing deep, nourishing connection my whole life. What an eye opening experience it is to see the truth. I cried a lot. During the practice, after the practice, before the practice. I realized that I stopped showing up for myself many years ago, as a little girl....and now I am a young woman. I realized that I was letting all my students off the hook in my classes, the same way I let myself off of the hook in my life.

One particular practice, I was in the throws of realizing a lot about myself and the stories I have created and re-created. Three-quarters through the flow, a strong, sturdy, and imploring voice bubbled up from within, saying "Jessica, please, I need more from you right now." This was not a critical or demanding voice. It was the truest voice I have ever known and I continue to let her speak. “Jessica, please, I need you to show up right now, don't leave. Stay in it, believe, believe in your dreams, believe in this moment, because each moment pieced together makes a lifetime, and you are the creator of this art you are the artist and can change at any time.”

As Level 2 has impacted me to take back the reigns and create anew, to pick up where I abandoned, to let go of what I know, I too, hope this helps to spark curiosity and possibility for yourself. And yes, I do recommend Level 1 and Level 2 to anyone; it is not just for yoga teachers. In the meantime, I hope to see you in the studio, coming into Tadasana in a new and transforming way, living in your True North.