Read More Books, Do More Yoga: Emilie Lamy
All good stories invite you to look outside yourself, to experience the world from someone else’s perspective. Reading can take you to a place of escape, a safe haven, on an adventure, serve as an inspiration, a tool, and so much more. The world of books is limitless, yet the structure of beginning, middle and end, the evolution of a character through chapters and transitions provide a familiarity that resonates with many. The duality of expansion, of infinite possibilities within the constructs of language, pages, and bindings, embodies many of the principles we explore in our yoga practice. Like words on a page, our body and mind on the mat take many forms, move through challenges and triumphs, expand and contract. Emilie Lamy, the owner and mastermind behind New Orleans bookstore The Stacks, Reyn Studios yogi and teacher training student, gracefully narrates her relationship with yoga, New Orleans and coping with trauma through the lense of a literary guru, hyper observant and ready to dissect. We asked Emilie to share not only her personal yoga journey, but also the role of her practice and training during a very transitional time in her life. For the past five years Emilie has made a life for herself in New Orleans, a chapter which is soon to conclude with her moving back to her home country of France.
Big life changes often induce a plethora of emotions. Full of anxiety, excitement and resolve Emilie feels herself pulled in all directions, both on and off the mat. Emilie’s vulnerability and unabashed honesty in sharing her story is intense, occasionally dark, insightful and approachable. It’s hard not to draw a few parallels between Beauty and the Beast heroin Belle and Emilie. Both are unpretentiously quick witted, compassionate women who draw you into their narrative with ease. The similarities extend past their French identity and love of books, both experienced profound personal growth spurred by a relationship with a deeply challenging partner. Unlike the Beast, Emilie’s love did not transform into a Prince with a “happy ending” seeped in romantic bliss; instead he became more emblematic of the villainous Gastone. Emilie fell hard, she plunged into uncertainty and dependance when she made a self-described impulsive decision to move to New Orleans from France. Her devotion was coerced through manipulation and toxic patterns that took advantage of her insecurities. He drew her away from her friends, family and career to support his art and creative aspirations. Isolated and disconnected she struggled to find herself. Books, and the eventual project of opening a bookstore where her saving grace.
In search for stability and community, Emilie accepted an invitation to a friend’s Kundalini class (a practice she was familiar with from her life in France), and the fragile armor she had cultivated to hold herself together crumbled. Like Kundalini rising she felt everything open, she cried, for what seemed like hours, a mixture of grief, relief, fear and hope spilling out of her. Waves of release, processing and allowing herself to experience the hurt, sadness, and trauma of the last year in a safe, controlled environment lead Emilie towards her yogic path, one of healing. Additionally, the comfort and safety of books bolstered this process, as she found herself fulfilling her dreams of opening a bookstore.
Listening to Emilie share this now, looking chic in her striped tunic, composed and purposeful in her expression is inspiring. The evolution of her practice is idelic of the hero’s journey. Her acceptance to embark on a journey of self discovery was not immediately obvious even as she took her first steps along the path. At first seduced by the beauty of the studio space in conjunction with the desirable physical aesthetic made accessible through the practice (ie the body image associated with a yogi) and the performative nature of vinyasa Emilie describes her dedication to her practice as almost accidental. It wasn’t peace, forgiveness or a quiet mind that initially established her practice, but a desire for the power, strength and confidence she saw in the imagery and instructors in the studio. Considering the circumstances that brought her to the mat it isn’t surprising to learn her journey started from a place of insecurity, but blossomed into a ritual that brought her safety (in her body and surrounding), grounding, and peace. The community she became enmeshed in through Reyn allowed her to soften, to connect with the sweeter side of life.
Therapy, yoga and her work, the success of her book store and her ability to share so much knowledge with her community have transformed Emilie. She has come to terms with the horrible relationship that brought her here and has come to see it as a blessing in disguise. The path that she has taken to get here, no matter how ugly, still brought her here. Here, in the present where she still gets overwhelmed, where she still feels anxious and unsure, but where she has tools and resiliency to take these things on. Navigating fantasy/expectations with reality and exploring independence rather than interdependence have been imperative to Emilie’s personal growth and healing. Finding the balance between hope and enthusiasm with manageable expectations is something profoundly human. Due to the scope of our imaginations we often romanticize an experience or seek satisfaction through achievement and attainment, in all facets of our lives. By setting boundaries, establishing safe spaces and slowing down, unwinding, undoing we grant ourselves permission to live more realistically. When we live within the parameters of the present, we connect with what is being offered. Letting go of blame, guilt and shame, or at least putting them on the shelf for a spell, can help you turn the page and have more control over your tale.
Finding a deeper sense of self worth has allowed Emilie to embrace the magic of transitions and uncertainty. Maybe it is synchronicity or simply the phase in life she has entered, but to Emilie it seems as if the entire world has undergone major transformations over the past year. This cosmic serendipity may simply be a shift in perspective that has come with the resolution of this particular journey, but to Emilie who has worked hard to manage her trauma and regain control of her life it feels like a universal shift towards mindful adaptability that she wants to be a part of.
Literature, yoga, and life have reinforced Emilie’s love of learning, sharing, and healing. The universal principle of suffering no longer seems dreadful, but comforting. The manifestation of turbulence and strife provoke a mild panic still but they no longer send her into a tailspin. Knowing that we are all in this together, each of us carrying our baggage, each of us healing and inflicting pain as we go is a touchstone, a place for us to see each other in our profoundly flawed reality, to reach out and connect. Lessons of inclusivity, systemic traumas, implicit bias and the potential to shift the paradigm are now the predominant themes in Emilie’s life. By healing herself she is able to extend further, to imagine more, to care for others in a way she did not realize she was capable of. By humbly accepting the generosity of time, knowledge and the gifts of others she has found herself looking at the bigger picture, and embracing her ability to contribute to a more just and unbiased world.