Please meet Penny Nelsen. She is Mind Body Flow Yoga’s featured student for this month’s newsletter. Penny has a beautiful yoga practice and was generous in sharing it with us, as she demonstrates Triangle Pose (Trikonasana).
Penny Shares Her Yoga Journey
Growing up in Clarence Center, NY, I was the kid with posters of palm trees and sandy beaches on the walls of my room. I longed for warmer weather and the ocean beckoned me. After graduating college, I left home, certain I’d never move back to Western New York – there was a big world out there to explore and conquer.
I was also raised in a home that put too much emphasis on what others think of you; as a result, I was taught to have things together, otherwise people would think badly of me. So in October 2017, when my husband and I moved back to the area after my dream had failed, I was devastated and felt very little of myself.
I had pursued a dream in co-owning a SCUBA business in Mexico and in the end, it wasn’t meant to be. My dreams and hopes were crushed and the heartache was overwhelming. I found myself in a care-taking role for my father and I felt like a complete failure.
I was defeated and felt trapped, mourning the loss of a dream and the passion that burned in my soul was fading. I felt like I was stuck in a life I didn’t want, my past successes were gone, and what would people think of me – a failure?
I had a successful career in IT and project management, got certified in SCUBA and completed my divemaster course. I took frequent dive trips and was considering moving to the Caribbean – then I met my husband. When I got married, I moved to the New York City area and worked in lower Manhattan. Having had our fill of the rat race, we moved to Colorado. I came to learn that Colorado has the most SCUBA divers per capita of any state and I completed my instructor rating and loved teaching and sharing my passion with others.
While I had taken some yoga classes over the years, I found a great yoga studio in Colorado. I attended regularly and made great progress in poses and flexibility and met some great friends. Yoga became part of my regular routine in life and I also continued my SCUBA education and completed a degree in Oceanography. I started working with a new dive shop that was sponsoring me to become a SCUBA instructor trainer. After working to meet all the prerequisites and completing the extensive application, I was accepted into the training course for SCUBA instructor trainers.
Just prior to leaving for the training, the dive shop owner informed me that I would no longer be teaching at their shop. Something happened and the manager of the dive shop, who I thought was a close friend, betrayed me and to this day, I’m not sure what happened. That meant a year of preparation was for nothing and I lost one of my best friends. I was gutted. Never in my life had I been hurt so badly by a friend or been so viciously betrayed.
Earlier that year, the company my husband worked for was sold and his job was redundant, so we were both looking for what was next. I still attended the training course and was invited to teach at a location I had trained at in Mexico. We decided to move to Mexico and ‘live the dream’ (as we say in the SCUBA industry).
The first night we were in Mexico, the owner of the dive shop told me he was retiring and that either I could buy part of the business, with an existing employee, or he would close it. I could write pages of stories of what happened next, but in the end, our business partner and the previous owner betrayed us and after four short months, we sold our share of the business and left Mexico. I was devastated.
In October 2017, I returned to Clarence Center. I wanted to disappear and rarely made it through a day without tears. Knowing I needed to do something for me, I attended my first MBFY class on a Sunday afternoon. After class, I was speaking with Carly and Rebecca and I burst into tears, as the pain and heartache poured out. I felt like such a failure: I chased a dream and failed, I was now back where I started and was now simply a caretaker for my father and all just in time for another Buffalo winter. What about my dreams, my ocean, my passion? Was that my only shot? What would people think of me?
Practicing at MBFY has helped me in this season more than I realized. It has provided a sense of community, encouragement and strength, helping me to face the difficult days with a deep breath and grace. The community has welcomed me, for who I am, not for my successes or failures. On my mat, I learn to accept myself as I am. I am learning to challenge myself, but also be kind. It’s OK that I can’t do a pose the way I used to and I no longer care what others may think when they see me doing a pose. As long as I’m true to myself in the pose, it’s OK. I’m learning to translate that off the mat too. As long as I’m true to myself, it’s OK.
Through practice, I’m also working on processing the emotion and hurt of the past year. The facts haven’t changed, and those who betrayed my trust haven’t asked for forgiveness, but I am becoming different each time I get on my mat. I face who I am (and who I am not) and learn that it’s OK. As the emotions come up in practice, I am learning to acknowledge them and let go and look to what’s ahead.
When Marina asked me to be the featured student for May, my initial reaction was, “What would people think about my failure? Would they think less of me”? Ironically, sharing my story has been a healing process for me, helping me to continue to process and let go. I now believe that returning ‘home’ is a season where I can renew and come to accept who I am. MBFY has provided a safe, encouraging place for me to heal and grow. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the MBFY community, as I strive to become my best self, as I prepare for what’s next.
Thank you for welcoming me into the MBFY community,
We appreciate Penny for who she is and for what she shared.
What stood out the most for you in Penny’s journey? Please share it below to let Penny know you appreciated her story.
What is this Pose About?
*If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
This is standing, grounding pose that stretches your thighs, knees, ankles hips, groins, chest, and more. The resulting shape is a deep opening through these areas. Watch Penny enter into this asana from Mountain Pose (Tadasana). She will exit the pose and land back in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) as well.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you decide to try this pose, or if you have already started to experiment and play around with it.
- Stand in Tadasana. With an exhalation, step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades to the back, palms facing down.
- Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the center of the right knee is in line with the center of the right ankle.
- Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, the floor or a yoga block, outside your right foot, whatever is possible without distorting the sides of the torso. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes gazing softly at the left thumb.
- Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale as you come up, strongly pressing the back heel into the floor and reaching the top arm toward the ceiling. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.
- Stretches and strengthens the knees, ankles and thighs
- Stretches the groins, hips, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine
- Stimulates the abdominal organs
- Helps relieve stress
- Improves digestion
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Relieves backache, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
- Therapeutic for anxiety, neck pain, infertility, flat feet, osteoporosis, and sciatica
Avoid this posture if you have:
- Diarrhea, low blood pressure, heart condition (practice against a wall and keep the top arm on the hip), high blood pressure (turn the head to gaze downward), neck problem (don’t turn your head to look upward; continue looking straight ahead and keep both side of the neck long).
Enlist the help of an experienced instructor with Triangle Pose if this is your first time trying it.
Have you tried this pose before? What has been your experience?