My Story and the Birth of OCDY:
DIVE INTO THE SELF AND SEA
**Disclaimer: This is my personal story that led me to this point. I am not a doctor, I am not here to tell you what you should do. I am sharing my direct experience and struggles with mental health in order to illustrate that you are the one in control of your mind, and thus, your life. Yoga made the most sense to me and application of these teachings has benefitted me greatly and I wish to share my story and methods with any who struggle with finding their place in life.**
Like many, I have a personal and family history of depression and addiction and it was taught to me that I am at a high risk to repeat this pattern. The thought of putting myself through years of addictive habits, being in and out of psychologists’ offices, putting my family through the heartache of intervention and living in a pattern like this, was unacceptable. I knew, somehow, that there was a version of me that I did love, aspects of life that made it worthwhile, and people who brought joy and fulfilment to my life. It was just a matter of finding out how to get my reality to reflect what I knew in my heart. So I took the bull by the horns and wanted to confront my inner demons in order to commune with the blissful Self I knew to be just beyond my grasp.
I first came to yoga near the end of college. After my studies and experiences thus far, I felt like I had received little more than the tools to fit someone else's mold, do what a 'good job' would expect, put on a mask and treat my inner dreams and desires like mere fantasy, and worse, I felt like exploration was a waste of time. With a cursory understanding of Yoga, Buddhism and more Eastern modes of thought, I began to look deeper into philosophies, attitudes and practices that produce happier people, and began my journey.
One of the first books I read was How to See Yourself as You Truly Are, by the Dalai Lama. I learned so much from this book about afflictive emotions – how they are conditioned sets of limiting beliefs that keep us apart from our divine nature or from understanding who we are and what makes our life worth living. A key element which sparked my interest was the firm understanding that I was not my thoughts, and my thoughts are what dictate and create the reality I experience. At the time, my self-image was something like this: I have a chemical imbalance that is unavoidable, permanent and I will always be dependent some substance (prescription or non) in order to function optimally. And so the process of disidentification began.
I had been prescribed different medications for ADHD and Depression since the age of twelve but had never liked it. Something always felt ‘off’ or that I wasn’t quite myself when I was on these medications. I later came to realize they were interrupting a vital dialogue between my true inner Self and my outwardly expressed self: my ego: the version of myself that was the result of my conditioning up to that point in my life. In other words, outer world did not reflect my inner world, thus I experienced very little personal fulfilment and true happiness. Depression was a very logical and normal response. As this realization set in, and I began to actively fight against my conditioning, my mental and emotional state got worse and worse for a couple years. I experienced severe depression, sadness, rage, abandonment, loneliness, meaninglessness, and panic. Through this time, I remained steadfast with the wisdom I gained by reading into Yogic philosophy trusting fully that what I was experiencing was temporary and necessary at the time.
My love of yoga grew. I knew I could use these tools to help people who have faced, or currently face, similar struggles. My journey led me away from the lessons and conditioning I received from Western culture and toward my inner source of happiness from my childhood, which was playing the guitar and being in nature, particularly in water. I regained my strong connection with this vital, neglected component of who I am, and my life has been better ever since. Seeing this transformation in myself, I wanted to provide something similar for others.
I found myself in my first Yoga Teacher Training with One Yoga in Koh Phangan, Thailand at the end of 2018 and all the pieces from my previous years came together. Interestingly, six or seven months before my flight, freediving came onto my radar via YouTube, illuminating all the overlaps and similarities between the sport and Yoga. I knew right then I had to give it a shot once I got to Thailand. I fell in love right away. More recently, in 2022, I completed my 300-Hr Yoga Teacher Training online with D'Vine Yoga. It was a joy to learn directly from Swami Sachidanand, whom I met while at One Yoga. Through hours of practice, and authentic, excellent instruction, my asana practice grew immensely as I was challenged by my primary asana teacher, Dilwar. All the while, my fascination grew with pranayama - breathing exercises - and kumbhaka - the yogic practice of breath retention.
I was excited to learn that the highest form of pranayama is when the breath stops entirely. Normal humans like us may never achieve this state but we can still reap huge benefits from practicing breath-holding. In this deeply relaxed state, in between breaths, we are more able to disidentify from our conditioning. We are more able to observe our own stories and thus have more power to influence their outcome according to our will. I was, and still am, enthusiastic about the ability to manage the mind and emotions through breath and it is an integral part of my personal yoga practice and my approach to freediving. Freediving blends my organic need to be in the water and is an extension of my yoga practice. The yogis teach that, before one can practice pranayama, they must first prepare the body. That is the role of asana, or postures.
All asanas are aimed to facilitate the movement of prana, or energy in the body. This energy is equated to the breath. The breath gives life to all of our cells and if it is limited only by tension and stiffness in the body. With such restriction, our ability to relax fully and go inward will be affected. Asana does not mean anything complicated necessarily. It can be as simple as sitting in a chair and finding the connection between mind and body by lifting your spine as you inhale. Yoga means 'union.' The process of creating harmony and coordination throughout all the systems in the body is yoga. I use these same yogic principles to guide my approach to freediving and love teaching freediving to others and sharing the stoke!
I never imagined myself freediving but now that I have, would never go back. Apnea and freediving are akin to meditation for me. It is a direct experience of the inner world that I cannot avoid. When I have regret or shame lingering from a choice I made that affects my inner self, freediving clears my mind, brings me to the present, and promotes harmony and peace. I say to myself often, “you can’t fool yourself underwater.” Freediving is a direct way to experience the inner world. Any thoughts or emotions that cause unease, tension, anxiety, depression, or fear must be acknowledged and then let go of in order to fully relax and receive what the present moment has to teach.
It is my great joy and honor to be a resource for those seeking more out of themselves and life. I want to serve as a reminder to those who have forgotten their own potential and greatness. By combining modern PFI Education and ancient Yogic methods, I provide the tools, knowledge and support to dive into the Self and sea. I have created Ocean Deep Yoga to teach that freedom is possible here and now, and to improve the quality of your life by improving the quality of mind and body.