Yogi, Heal Thyself

“Yoga found me,” Tracy Kendrick says. “I was sentenced to prison in 2008—what brought me there was drug addiction and alcoholism.” In her life before prison, she says, “I had no way of knowing anything about yoga.” It just wasn’t part of her world. 

Tracy’s recovery journey began while she was incarcerated, but she had no idea that yoga would become such an integral part of her journey.

“We stood around all day, and I’d put on some weight. There was a girl named Kelly who came in every Friday to lead yoga, and I thought I’d try it just for the physicality of it. I thought yoga was for ‘old people,’” she recalls.

From that instructor, Tracy heard a message she really needed: “There is no judgment in yoga.”

“That was the first hook,” Tracy says. “The reason it resonated so deeply with me is that I was coming from a place of judging myself and others. I was struggling with old ideas, perceptions and belief systems. Awareness is the first step to acceptance. And then I found my mind-body connection through yoga, and I’ve rarely missed a day on the mat in the 13 years since. Bringing my recovery and yoga journeys together for me has been a very deep, a very internal process of coming to that awareness that happiness is a byproduct of what we’re really looking for: profound and deep contentment. I found that through yoga.”

Yoga, she says, isn’t about touching your toes or doing the best pose: “It’s about your own personal experience—on and off the mat. There was a lot of emotional release for me on the mat.”

Tracy describes being incarcerated as being in survival mode. “The environment itself was very hateful, resentful, angry. Being around that, I had to develop tools and find my voice to be able to survive but not be mean, to say what I needed to say but not be mean. They say ‘our issues are in our tissues.” I was working through a lot of emotional baggage, and a lot of that came out through the mat. Even in that environment, I was connecting with a higher power, going through recovery and connecting with yoga. When I had that mind-body connection, I knew I’d found my passion, my purpose.”

She’s using yoga to reach into the community of women who are integrating back into society, women who need a voice, because as she says, “I found my voice on the mat.”

Yoga has also taught Tracy mindfulness and given her the gift of bring present in life. “‘Where are your feet right now, Tracy?,’ I say. I look down, and they’re right here, right now. And so I’m present in the moment right here, right now. I’m not back there in the past. I’m not up there in the future. I am here. Now.

“That’s what yoga brings me—and allows me to take it off the mat and into the world. For a long time I didn’t know how to show up and be present in relationship, as an employee, mother, daughter or partner. Sometimes life comes at me really fast. I have to learn how to gauge that; my plate gets really full really quickly. Being present allows me to set boundaries, be responsible and be vulnerable in my life. I can become raw and feel, so I’ve come to my truth in my life.”

Tracy is passionate about sharing yoga’s gifts with others; she led classes even as she worked toward certification. “During a private session with two teenage swimmers, I asked them both what they like about yoga, and they said it centers them and keeps them focused. Having that moment, having that pause to breathe before acting or responding has helped them tremendously. And I often think back: If I had that coping mechanism when I was growing up, when things were difficult, that moment of pause, that moment of breath before I reacted….”

Life might have been different.  

But Tracy loves her life now—the life she’s building for herself.

She relocated to Ocala two years ago to join the thriving recovery community there, and the first thing she did was search “yoga in Ocala.” And that’s how she found the Blissful Life Corporation, just two blocks from where she was living. “I would sit on their stairs and wait for yoga every day,” she says.

Blissful Life is “a beautiful nonprofit agency helping those suffering trauma from domestic violence, substance abuse and PTSD with a focus on veterans and first responders. I had no idea of the mission, but I checked out just about all of those boxes. And I had no idea how I was going to come up with the money to get certified, but I believe the universe is always conspiring in our favor. When our hearts and souls are aligned, it delivers.” And so Tracy was able to be an apprentice for her first year of training.

“It all worked out divinely,” she says. And she’s thrilled to share yoga with others. “I didn’t get certified to become a millionaire, I share yoga from the heart. It’s a gift. My heart is full. I light up.”

And she shares that gift every day to help others find that feeling for themselves.

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