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Meet Marla

For a long time now, maybe even my whole life, I’ve been chasing what comes next.

The next goal. The next thing to accomplish. Tunnel vision for that next stage in my life, which surely must be more satisfying than this one. I’ve predicated my happiness on all of those “nexts.” “I’ll be happy when I’m finally done with school,” I told myself first. “I’ll be happy when I get this next job; I’ll be happy when I can take this next trip; I’ll be happy when it’s the weekend.”

It’s not that I was unhappy. But rather, behind every emotion I experienced remained a quiet aching that was waiting for the next thing to happen so that I could, finally, feel completely fulfilled.

And then one day in my late 20s—when I was done with school but wishing I could go back, when I was on to the next job but reminiscing about all the good things from the previous one, when I had taken that trip but it wasn’t enough—a thought struck me.

Maybe there was always going to be something to wait for. Maybe there was always going to be more work to do, and I was always going to have a “next,” and I was never going to be “settled” into this completely fulfilled life like my younger self imagined I would have been by now.

I came across the phrase “slow down, you’ll get there faster” some time ago, and it’s been written in a note on my phone ever since. It was one of those things that resonated with me immediately, even if I couldn’t fully understand why at the time. Sort of like that feeling you get when the word you want is on the tip of your tongue, I could feel I was on the cusp of grasping something bigger.

We’re all different, but we’re also all the same. Rooted in the unavoidable realities of living in this world, but still searching for something to give it all meaning. A constant tug of war where we tell ourselves “if I just reach this next goal, then I’ll have it.”

That is until you do achieve that goal and immediately set the next one. We look toward the future for our fulfillment, and yet the future never seems to arrive.

It was yoga that taught me to pause and focus on the present moment

The physical practice gave me a way to mute all of that noise and longing in my head. During what started as a one hour class per week, my mind went from relentlessly rattling off a long list of things to do to concentrating solely on where my body was in space and how far off my breathing was from the teacher’s cues.

Forced to think only about what I was doing in that very moment, I soon recognized: this is what it feels like to be fully present. My body’s connection to my breath and my mind would grow over time, but from the very beginning, I learned what it felt like to be content.

Presence led to contentment, and the two feelings became synonymous.

That feeling was freeing.

And the more I practiced, the more I sought this freedom elsewhere in my life. The kind of freedom that had only ever existed in one of my “nexts”; that I had always believed was right around the corner—if I could only find a way to turn the bend.

I have been practicing yoga since 2018 and, after completing my 200hr YTT, am now a dedicated practitioner of the Intermediate Series of Ashtanga Yoga.

I am a student and teacher at The Shala Pittsburgh and also study under the guidance of Taylor Hunt.

Some of you probably practice yoga. Some of you have maybe never tried. Regardless of the sophistication of your practice or of what led you here, I’m glad you are here now. Maybe you can join me in my yoga practice, or maybe you can simply join me in finding fulfillment in the every day.

Marla Tortorice