After a tragic loss, Jessica Ritter finds herself again through yoga.
My yoga journey began in 2004, and I fell in love with the “workout” right away. At the time I wasn’t exactly sure what drew me to yoga, I just knew not only was it great physically, but it was the only time my mind didn’t seem to wonder off to a to-do list or replay events in my past. I found solitude and peace on my mat. I couldn’t form it into words, but I knew there was something special about being truly “present in the moment.”
I continued my physical practice and slowly started to delve into some breath work over the next couple of years, enjoying every second I was in a yoga studio. In 2007, I found myself pregnant with my first son. Wanting to keep my body fit, I decided to try prenatal yoga. I found a whole other aspect to enjoy while pregnant. I was more in tune with my body and felt a special connection to my baby when I practiced. My mind would quiet down and I could just focus on the life growing inside me.
However, tragedy struck when I lost my son during birth that year. As one could expect, I downward spiraled into depression and suffered panic attacks. I immediately ditched my yoga practice and hibernated from the world. Consumed with self-pity, I refused to hear friends’ and family’s words of wisdom. When I saw a pregnant woman, I became angry and resentful.
After a dreary six months, I grew tired of the constant anger and depression brewing within me. I no longer wanted to be the person who resented others for what I didn’t have.
So I returned “home” to the studio and got back to my yoga. I started to notice, as my body returned to pre-baby shape, the aching in my heart slowly started to heal. Then, I actually tried to pay attention during meditation, searching for any advice and help I could get in overcoming the loss of my son.
I found a whole new need for yoga in my desperation. I began to get stronger and felt more whole as I left class, determined to live in the present, and not let my past define me. I truly felt I was being healed by the practice. I no longer needed to take the antidepressants or anxiety medication I was prescribed after my son’s death. It took over a year, but I began to gain control over the games playing in my mind. I knew then, that yoga wasn’t just a workout practiced on the mat; it was a lifestyle. Through yoga I began to genuinely start living again.
In 2009, I found I was expecting a son. This time I felt different, stronger and more capable, ready for anything that would be thrown my way. Knowing the worst had already happened, I decided to simply appreciate my pregnancy and let the fears slip away. Again, I did prenatal yoga. In May, my son, Mason, was born.
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Today we do mommy and baby yoga together. There is something so special about doing a Downward-Facing Dog while kissing your little one, who is lying on your mat. In seated poses, we even use the little tikes as weights and get to see them giggle with excitement.
After the crazy, sleeplessness of being a new mother settled down, I decided to go through yoga teacher training. I realized this was the path I was meant to follow in life, and I wanted to share yoga and its benefits with as many people as I could reach. In 2010, I became a certified teacher in American Power Yoga, which emphasizes the link between breath and the body.
Not only have I become skilled at instructing over 100 poses and designing my own classes, I have also learned life skills in coping and excelling in relationships, personal interactions, nutrition guidelines, and overall happiness. When I lost my son in 2007, I, too, felt lost. Through the power of yoga, I have been able to rediscover my Self and learn that hearts can, in fact, heal. They can even grow.
Read more Tales of Transformation here.
Jessica Ritter lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Lance, and four-year-old son, Mason. She is a certified American Power Yoga instructor, a student of Kinesiology at the University of Texas, and a brand ambassador for KIND Healthy Snacks.