March Mantra: One step at a time.

One step at a time.

When I first signed up for the aerial yoga class in September 2019, it was probably my 34th stint at trying to stay clean and sober. I was looking for a “healthy” activity to do with a friend that didn’t involve alcohol or drugs, and had remembered seeing ads for aerial yoga somewhere in Coquitlam. I hadn’t been to yoga in years, and had no idea what to expect. The class was so fun and new to my body that the hour flew by, and challenging enough to keep me wanting more. Plus, the teacher, Nancy, had been so kind and easy-going. It felt like an inviting studio and the introductory month with unlimited classes just made sense. The Chinese parent voice in me said, “the more you go the more you save!” So I literally went five days a week and tried out all the styles of yoga and ended up loving the stretch, and the routine of having somewhere to go that got my mind off wanting a drink after work. After the first month I was hooked. I signed up for a year and continued going as frequently as I could, as I was quickly coming to realize how safe this place felt compared to the loud. chaotic and aggressive environment of my job in construction. The instructors all provided choice and encouraged agency, something I didn’t feel was always available at my work. And it was a place of nurturing, a place that was quiet, peaceful. For the first time I felt myself being still in a yin class, something I’d never thought I’d be able to do. My body had gotten so used to being in fight or flight mode, or working out that stress and aggression in the gym. Softness was something completely foreign, and up until then I hadn’t known I’d needed it.

I found myself starting to cry sometimes in class. It always caught me off guard, but I think my body instinctively knew it was in a safe place to do so. One of the first times I remember was when Nicole began the class by sharing how around January 1, she’d in previous years felt tied to a number that she had to reach on the scale, and how she’d decided that this no longer resonated with her and her decision to just love her body more and nourish it in the way it needed in the coming year. It was a short talk at the beginning of class but I was blown away by her vulnerability and made me examine my own relationship with my body and struggle around being a certain weight and size to feel acceptable. Another class that stands out in my memory is when Prestonne asked us to repeat a certain mantra that day in class, that as we inhaled, we’d say, “I love myself,” and as we exhaled, we’d say, “just as I am,” in our heads. As soon as she finished the sentence the tears came. Because I felt how excited my heart was to hear these words, finally, and just how long I’d been withholding this love from myself due to some perceived lack and brokenness that I’d never learned how to fix without drugs.

In March 2020, Covid hit. I was suddenly provided with the unique opportunity of social distancing and not being around people who triggered my addiction. That, plus all of the new insights both physically and mentally that practicing yoga regularly had provided me the last six months, helped me finally end my 14-year relationship with cocaine. Looking back, I can also see that previous attempts at kicking the habit hadn’t stuck because I didn’t have another habit to replace it with. Yoga not only replaced the dopamine I’d lost with cocaine, it helped me form a deeper connection with myself that made me feel brave enough to try life without it. I got clean and haven’t looked back. Yoga and Yoga Gen kept me sane throughout the pandemic. Having a place to go to, a community that shared a common goal of caring and cultivating peace for ourselves and those around us made all the difference.

Yoga changed my life so much that I knew I had to share it with others, so in November 2021 I started my yoga teacher training, and in June 2022 had the amazing opportunity of being given a chance to teach at the place where it all started. But I knew my journey was just beginning. In Feb 2023 I traveled to Thailand to further my teacher training and had my last drink the night before I got on the plane. Since January 31, 2023, I have been sober from alcohol and cannabis. I knew that if I wanted to be the teacher and person I needed myself to be, I could no longer be held back by my addictions to substances. I needed my mind back. Yoga and meditation showed me it wasn’t that scary, after all, to be with my emotions. And the community and support I’ve received showed me that I’m worthy of love and belonging just as I am, without needing a crutch to show up a certain way in order to be acceptable.

I still have so much to learn as I continue my journey as a teacher, coach, and human, and as I sit here reflecting back on my life thus far there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel immense gratitude for all the amazing teachers and members at Yoga Gen. It was the one small step and action of taking that first aerial class, and then the next small step and the one after that, that ultimately changed my life completely. The mountain that seems impossible to climb is not as scary or insurmountable when the focus remains on only the next step – especially when the right people are alongside you, reaching out with open arms to help and guide you as you find your way.

Written by Vera Thomlison. To read more of Vera’s blogs, visit

Posted in Blog.