By Julia Jonson, E-RYT 500

Typically wolves are portrayed as villains in popular culture. Yet there is wisdom to be drawn from these mysterious pack animals. Individual wolves are the epitome of strength, intelligence, and fearlessness. Experts who have studied them say that, collectively, they live in highly organized social structures (packs) that enable them to benefit from maximum cooperation. And while yes, wolves are predators, researchers say they are wired for teamwork and they thrive in the midst of change. 

While listening to Abby Wambach’s book Wolfpack, I was inspired by the soccer star’s musings on wolves as a metaphor for women. The short book is based on Wambach’s 2018 commencement speech to Barnard College’s graduates. (Barnard is an all-women’s school.) In crafting her speech she says, “as I focused on what I wanted to share with the women of Barnard–a directive to unleash their individuality, unite the collective, and change the landscape–my thoughts turned to a TED Talk I’d watched recently about the wolves of Yellowstone National Park”. The wolves were eradicated from Yellowstone for seventy years, and after being reintroduced in 1995 the entire plant and animal ecosystems in the park regenerated. In short, Abby shares, “The wolves–who were feared by many to be a threat to the system–became the system’s salvation.” 

Wamback reflects on possessing extreme star-status (alpha wolf!), then being benched as an aging player only to find her new power in supporting and uplifting her teammates from the sidelines. The two-time Olympic gold medalist who holds the world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players says “failure means you’re finally in the game,” and “A champion never allows a short-term failure to take her out of the long-term game. A woman who doesn’t give up can never lose.”

Wambach reflects on feeling like a bit of a lone wolf after retiring from soccer and expanding her pack as she redesigned her life. In my case, the change is from co-owning a yoga studio – then not owning a yoga studio, and I’m feeling hopeful about what’s next.  As I go back to being a yoga teacher minus the studio owner title, the possibilities seem endless and perhaps a little scary. I definitely had a picture in my head about how things would go with our beloved business, yet life had other plans. The strife and challenge of the past year have brought many silver linings. Deepened relationships with family and close friends, the creation of a 200-hour yoga teacher training program, designing a 30-hour intensive on the art of teaching restorative yoga, and a heavy focus on teaching one-on-one specialty sessions. It’s as if my career got a make-over because of a Covid-19, and I didn’t even know it needed one. This unexpected change and my ability to make the most of it go right in line with Abby Wambach’s rules for success in her Barnard College address.  She writes, “you were always the wolf,” and the old rule was to “stay on the path.” The new rule is “create your own path.” 

After all, aren’t we always stepping into an unknown future, recreating ourselves, and trying to find our way in the world with our pack?