A Creation Story
By Kirsten Higgins - Owner of Infinity Holistic Wellness & Yoga
These last few dark winter months of Infinity’s birth have been a time of great reflection for me. Opening a studio while pregnant with my second child has been one of the hardest things that I have ever done. Time has, all at once, seemed to move as a whirlwind and creep so slow that it is almost unbearable. When I think back to where I was 4 years ago, and compare to where my life is now, I am grateful for every challenge, serendipity, contemplation & decision that brought me to open my own yoga studio. To me, the creation of Infinity made sense alongside the tiny life growing inside of me; they seemed to mirror each other.
Going back almost 4 years: the first picture was taken in August of 2014. I had just been in a bike accident that left me with a grade 3 separation of my AC (acromioclavicular) joint. It was painful, it forced me to drastically change my yoga practice, stop swimming, weight training; basically— I had to stop all the things that, at the time, kept me sane. On top of it, I was pregnant with my first daughter Keira at the time and did not know. In fact, my husband and I had been struggling to get pregnant & I had an upcoming appointment at a fertility clinic. I was pregnant when I was thrown off my bike, and luckily, Keira held on tightly. My stubborn little Taurus was a fighter, even in utero.
Also at the time that this picture was taken, I was in the middle of my advanced yoga teacher training to be a yoga therapist. I was set to leave to go to Kripalu the following week. I had no idea what lay ahead in my future. In this picture, I have a smile on my face and probably had some cheerful Facebook post to go along with it, but on the inside I was terrified and shattered. All I knew to do was continue on my path, and follow my gut & intuition.
I have always been the type of person that marches to the beat of her own drum. It was completely intuitive to me that whatever career I chose for myself must be fulfilling and right for me. There was no way I was going to end up spending most of my life at a job that killed my creativity, my spirit, or my freedom. Yoga had become an increasingly important part of my life, throughout college, graduate school, and working as a school teacher. From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. I loved learning. I was a seeker. It became more and more obvious to me that I wanted yoga to be my life. I felt the most alive, connected, and joyful when practicing, teaching or learning yoga. I heard comments like, “don’t quit your day job if you want to be a yoga teacher,” or “wow, I could never be that uncertain where my paycheck was going to come from…” or “shouldn’t you be more ______ if you want to teach yoga?” Despite this, I did quit my day job. And I’ve never looked back.
In this picture, I was on the brink of having three life-changing experiences: 1) embarking upon pregnancy and motherhood 2) begin the journey of healing my shoulder (which still continues to teach and humble me to this day) and 3) attending Module 2 of Integrative Yoga Therapy’s program at Kripalu, in which I would, among many other things, develop a vision for what is now Infinity Holistic Wellness and Yoga.
I must say this: Being pregnant is freaking hard. Honestly, when I am pregnant, I am NOT one of those yoga teachers that flaunts, “I feel so beautiful & feminine…I feel like a goddess…” Blah, blah, blah. And if you are truly one of these people—good for you, really! However, I felt pretty terrible throughout (both pregnancies in fact). A tiny human literally sucks the nutrients, oxygen, and energy out of you, all while punching/kicking you periodically in the stomach, intestines, bladder, and rib cage. Don’t even get me started on the nausea, sleep deprivation, and mood swings. In modern day society, we are supposed to trudge through life normally: continue to work, clean, take care of other children, and—what is really hilarious—not gain TOO much weight. And we are supposed to do all of these things without coffee or alcohol, and look really good while we are at it. I’m calling bullshit on all of these expectations. Birth was not at all what I thought it would be…after over 24 hours of active labor her position required me to have a C-section (Keira was a stubborn Taurus through birth as well).
This is all temporary, just like anything else. The baby comes, and just like they say, it all is worth it. As Keira grew, I realized my capacity for both love and sadness grew. Her struggles were my struggles, her pain was my pain. This was a love that felt God-like, unconditional and pure. Becoming a mother is the closest I’ve ever felt to the Divine, to God, to being connected with all things. I finally understood the love that my parents felt for me. I felt changed, able to feel emotions which previously I was unable. When my child was sick, or cried for me, or even laughed, I felt this eternal connection to all mothers over the span of time who have tended to their own sick child, or heard their own child cry or giggle in delight. I also knew that this tiny human would continue to cause me pain even as she grew outside of my body, and I welcomed it with open arms. I would continue to give myself to her.
Being a parent opens up emotions and experiences that radically change your view of the world. It is a constant learning experience. It highlights my weaknesses as a human being, shows me how I can grow. It rips you open from the inside and exposes the rawness and realness inside of us all. It helped me access the divine within myself, which brought me closer to understanding the divine within all beings.
As a great surprise to myself, while I healed my body after the shoulder injury and C-section, I befriended my body. Like many women, I have always been very critical of my body. I would tell myself that my arms were too flabby, that my shoulders too broad, hips too narrow, stomach not flat enough, breasts too small, skin too pale…and the list goes on. Throughout my life, I have struggled with body dysmorphia, anorexia, and exercise bulimia. I was honestly very worried during my pregnancy with Keira that I wouldn’t handle getting bigger and “losing” my body. In stark contrast to what I thought would happen, what arose was compassion. I looked at myself with great love and understanding. I just did something fucking amazing with this body. I made a life. When I gave birth, I somehow released decades of judgement of this body…perhaps it was what needed to make room for all of the love that was to flood my heart.
Healing my shoulder continues to be a learning experience. This injury, that caused great suffering at the time, has been a great teacher. I realized that I held a strong, desperate attachment to my physical body as being my primary way of defining myself. I was strong. I was capable. I was fit. Who was I when I couldn’t rock out arm balances, do a handstand, or lift weights? How would I connect to my body without these things? I was so used to killing my body with sensation just to feel it. The first step was releasing this attachment. I was not only this physical body. “I am not my body” became my mantra.
Deeper investigation, which came with guidance from my teachers and my studies to become a C-IAYT (a yoga therapist recognized by the International Association of Yoga Therapists), shined light on the ways I could heal and connect with my body at subtle levels. I learned how powerful smaller movements and mudras could be. I learned the importance of self-care and self-nourishment. I studied shoulder anatomy and took workshops, I use what I have learned to work on myself, and when I need to, I seek help from other modalities. I patiently gave myself time to get stronger. With love, knowledge and awareness, I have healed and will continue to heal.
This has given me an entirely new perspective on teaching yoga. Yoga in its purest form is awareness and unconditional love. Everything else that we define as “yoga”--the asana/poses, the pranayama/ breathing techniques, meditation)--these are just methods for reaching this level of pure awareness and unconditional love. When I practice or teach yoga, I treat it as much more than just a physical work out. It is sacred. If it is a vinyasa practice (which means to move in rhythm with your breath), it is a moving meditation. Unfortunately this fast-paced, technology-worshipping world we live in can cause a great disconnect with our own spirit. My yoga practice helps me re-connect with myself; and when I teach, my intention is to guide others towards connecting with themselves as well. It makes me so sad to meet people that are constantly trying to “fix” their bodies, that disrespect it constantly, and that only use their physical body to create their own suffering. They are trapped in the same rut that I once was. Our physical form is simply one layer of our being, and when we respect it, love it, understand it, and move it with intention, it can be a source of pure joy.
As I developed a connection to my body again, I also began to develop a healthy detachment from it (whereas before I was SO attached to how it looked that I defined myself by it). I dove into the study of the psychological and emotional benefits of yoga by taking a Trauma-Informed Yoga Training with my mentor, Genevieve Yellin, a brilliant yoga therapist and scientist. From the first time I heard her speak, I thought, she is the real deal. I need to learn from her. Although we have certainly had our own struggles and experiences, when she shared her story about how yoga helped her “crawl back towards sanity,” I felt like she was speaking directly to me and about me, like she understood my struggles, too. Through her encouragement and guidance, I have learned how to work with people that have experienced trauma, experience anxiety or depression and other psychological issues. Through Genevieve’s unapologetic willingness to bravely share her story, I do the same. Our struggles make us stronger and make us who we are.
When I envisioned my own therapeutic yoga studio, one that offered yoga classes, yoga therapy as well as Ayurvedic services & other healing modalities, I had no idea that this would become a reality. My amazing husband, Ryan, has been my partner in this vision. Without his wisdom (and sweat) Infinity would not have been born. He has believed in the manifestation of this studio, and I am so grateful.
This brings me to the present. Keira is almost 3 years old, Ryan and I are pregnant with our second daughter-- due to arrive in just a couple days, in fact-- in February of 2018. As I stop and look back at the last several years, I am astounded by the way things have come to pass. Life has required of us an enormous amount of bravery and grit (and will continue to ask these things of us). The greatest blessings and lessons learned have come from the most difficult of situations. I have listened to my gut and my heart, and have purely let my spirit guide me at times. I believe wholeheartedly in the services that Infinity provides—my own life as proof of the infinite healing power of yoga that is within us all. So, this creation story is not over yet. We are all a work in progress. In a way, this studio is also our child: one that will teach us and help us to grow as she grows.
Kirsten Higgins is the founder of Infinity Holistic Wellness & Yoga in Chicago. Kirsten received her 800-hour certification from Integrative Yoga Therapy, holds a master’s degree in Special Education, and is a 500-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). She has a deep commitment to being a lifelong student of yoga. Becoming a mother has helped her realize how our personal definition of yoga can change a great deal throughout different stages of our lives. Whether she is creating a creative vinyasa sequence, studying yoga philosophy, or teaching meditation, yoga continues to be a source of wisdom, solace, joy and connection.