The Beauty of Transitions

Learning the art of traditional pottery in Vume, Volta Region, Ghana, studying abroad with Student International Training (SIT)'s Cultural Expression and Social Transformation program in 2011

By Erica: Glow Flow Tuesdays and Kids Yoga  

A life change, often times is a window to transformation. What has been your “aha” moment, in terms of your transition to Ghana. How do you embrace change both on and off the mat.

This time last year, I was as settled and happy with my life as I thought a person could be. I loved my life in Burlington, Vermont, where I have a wonderful community of friends and limitless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors – biking, hiking, running, swimming, skiing –  you name it. I had found my niche, made my mark, and was thriving being able to live in the place I love surrounded by people I love while supporting projects from afar ranging from Colombia to Albania, working in international development.

In April 2016, a work opportunity came up for me to leave my quaint Vermont life to return to Ghana to work on a regional climate change program for 2 months. I had not been back to Ghana since I studied abroad as a student in 2011 and jumped at the opportunity to return.

When I returned, I was met by a very different world than the images etched in my memory. Instead of traditional pottery lining the street, water pumps, red terra cotta colored soil, and the greenery of plants and trees I had come accustomed to in rural villages in the Volta region where I spent most of my semester studying, I was overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of life in the Big City in Accra.

My first week returning to Ghana, I felt like I had made one of the biggest mistakes uprooting my familiar life in Vermont. I was not sure how to navigate or make sense of the city I was supposed to call home for the next 2 months.

When all feels lost, I turn to the things that make me happy. I turn to yoga. I felt called to get back onto the mat to feel the familiar routine of matching breath with movement to help get back to myself and feel at home. That’s when I found Bliss.

Returning to Ghana - Celebrating life, sweat and all that is awesome atop the summit of Mount Krobo, Ghana

I never expected to take organized yoga classes while in Accra, but through an Accra Expat email advertising a Bliss Yoga Retreat, that called out to me and I knew that was what I needed to embark on. Part of the retreat package included 10 complimentary classes to Bliss so I was able to give them a try.

Almost immediately, I was hooked. The welcoming community and atmosphere at Bliss was the positivity and sense of home and familiarity I was searching for. The Bliss Family of students and teachers soon became more than fellow yogis, but my community of friends off the mat, too.

Those two months flew by, and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to the newfound community I’d made and my Accra life. I did not know if or when I would return, but had this sneaking suspicion that this was not my last rodeo in Accra. I made a pact with Bliss Yoga instructor Thomas Bentil that if I did return to Ghana in time for the next Bliss Yoga Teacher Training I would sign up (a long shot I thought since I did not know when I would be back or under what circumstances).

Well, I am a woman of my word, and when my company offered me an opportunity to come back to Accra to extend my assignment for 1 year, (just in time to join the Bliss Yoga Teacher Training), that’s exactly what I did. I packed up my Vermont life, got renters in my condo, sold my car, and shipped out. This time I was met by the Big City life and Bliss Family I had come accustomed to.

Throughout transitions we learn that what we exude is what we receive. If we exude openness, positivity, love, and happiness – this is what will meet us. From stepping back on the mat and trying new postures and poses I ordinarily have been too scared to try (crow, shoulder stand and wheel to name just a few…) I found that I was trying new things off the mat, too. On the weekends I was going on bushwhacking and river adventure hikes with the Ghana Mountaineers, rappelling and mountain biking with Ghana’s Bravehearts Expeditions, and seeing lots of live music. Trying new things and doing what you love in any place (for me some of this long list includes yoga, hiking and seeing live music), is what helped me through my transition and got me back to myself.

Sometimes when we think everything is great and we’re settled in our routines, that is the best time to shake things up and start anew someplace else. Just like with each stand in tadasa at the top of your mat we get a fresh start, we can make fresh starts in our lives whenever we’d like – and we don’t need to travel to it, either.

We have the ability to find that sense of home and happiness wherever we are, we just have to allow ourselves.

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