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This post is part of ourViewer Journeysseries, in which we introduce you to a yogi or yogini from our community whose story has inspired us. We feel that sharing their stories will enrich your own journey. In this post, Namaste Yogini,Heather Gregory, interviews Nicole Ann Neetz Haradaabout her Namaste experience.

A school-based, certified Occupational Therapist and mother of two young boys, Nicole Ann Neetz Harada's transformation shined through the Namaste Yoga Sadhana Journey. The Namaste Yoga Team began to recognize her name on the Facebook Wall early on, and watched from afar, as it was obvious real change was taking place. When it was time to nominate a grand prize recipient, the following was written on her behalf:

"Nicole Ann Neetz Harada has embodied, over the entire course of this journey, the spirit in which we initiated this challenge. She has approached every new sequence with a sense of openness and discovery. She has encountered obstacles and limitations, and found ways to embrace them, while simultaneously working to improve in these areas."

Nicole was surprised to learn of her award. "I didn't even know I was on the radar," she exclaimed. As is often the case with someone experiencing a life transformation, Nicole was so engrossed in her own path, she had no idea how many others she was inspiring along the way. One thing was clear: Nicole was ready for change. A fan of the show when it was televised in the United States, she decided this year was the perfect time to become reacquainted with the series.

"2011 had been a rough year for me," Nicole explains. "I found the Namaste website, blogs and DVDs and realized if I ordered right away, they would arrive just in time to start the journey."

Nicole realized one of her first challenges was not accomplishing a tricky pose, but overcoming her ego. "I wanted to push harder and faster and be further, right away. After two kids and a rough patch in my marriage, I had gained weight. I was disappointed with myself," she recalls. Nicole learned to be gentle with herself when she was short on time and patience. "I really learned to take life (and yoga) as it comes and do what I could and be content with that," Nicole said. "I really needed to reshape the way I thought about myself."

"I Have Stepped Into a New Skin"

Nicole decided the path was more important than the accomplishments. Her attitude and approach began to lighten as she learned to look on the bright side and found she was much more capable than she ever realized. "I learned to laugh at myself," Nicole shares. "I learned that I may not always have the answers, but if I breathe and keep calm, I will be able to keep my head, my balance and my peace; not only physically, but mentally and emotionally."  

As it so often does, yoga followed Nicole off the mat, and into the rest of her life. "I am more patient with those around me, especially my two 'monkeys'," Nicole explains. "I even started taking yoga in the classroom with me. I work with students with special needs and their teachers. I have started encouraging teachers to take sensory breaks which include some yoga breathing, balance and stretching My students love to challenge themselves with the balancing postures, the teachers love to stretch their muscles, and the class as a whole takes on a calmer, more centered feeling."

"With Perseverance and Flexibility, I Can Do Anything I Put My Mind to"

Aside from the personal revelations, Nicole had some fun moments on the mat with the more challenging poses. "I remember watching the episodes with the Crane and thinking that I would NEVER be able to do that. I remember thinking it wasn't even worth trying. I surprised myself that by the time we reached the Crane that within three days I had it down," Nicole said." When I was finally able to hold the pose I let out a yip for joy. My husband and boys came running because they thought something was wrong. I even had to show my mom, I was so proud of that moment!"

Nicole continues to practice at least three to five times a week. She says Dancer Pose is among many favorites. "It was the perfect way to end the Sadhana," she said. "I love the need for strength, balance, a bit of flexibility, and grace. It really feels like a pose of both exaltation and thanksgiving."

Nicole encourages anyone interested in beginning a yoga practice to go for it. "I encourage everyone to find a bit of time, and even tell them there is afree Namaste Yoga episode online." Nicole suggests just starting with the warm-up, "it is really about five minutes that would change your day for the better."

When asked for one thing she would like the community to gain from her experience, Nicole shared a piece of her wonderful insight we have come to enjoy:

"It is less about how far you can bend or how long you can hold a balance, and more about how far you can expand and how balanced you can become."

Congratulations Nicole!


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