Finding yoga, peace, and contentment
To help understand my relationship with yoga, I want to give you a little of my backstory. Forewarning, this was very challenging for me to write and might not be the easiest to read because of the sensitivity of the subjects. However, I believe sharing your story lightens the weight of it, and you never know who it will help. It’s what makes me so passionate about the power of yoga and how it’s been so influential to my wellbeing.
Accepting who I was when I really didn’t like myself.
Most of my life, I wasn’t super athletic, never really stuck with a sport or activity, and definitely didn’t stick to any sort of healthy lifestyle. I “believed” but didn’t really necessarily like to be confined to one way of thinking when it came to religion. In my late teens and early 20s, I smoked about a pack of cigarettes a day, drank quite a bit among other things, and hated any form of exercise. My anxiety and depression was not only untreated but completely unmanaged. I didn’t feel good and had a bad relationship with myself. I’d get in especially bad rutts every few months. James jokes that he doesn’t even believe it because it’s so different from the life I live now, but it’s true. See the comical/embarrassing/kind of sad evidence below:
There are times that I wish I could tell this 19-year-old version of me what I know now, but honestly, I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. I needed her to become me. And you cannot love who you are without accepting who you were. In this photo, I appear to be having a good time at a party, which of course part of me was. Really though, I was depressed, insecure, and overall not in a good place. That’s really the best way to describe it. My depression is something I have coped with since I was young. It was responsible for a lot of self-hate and self-destructive tendencies that are not easy to share. I was not kind to myself. I made myself believe a lot of things that weren’t true and believed a lot of things that people who were not good to/for me would say. Bulimia, social anxiety, and crippling loneliness found me throughout high school and early college. Not many, if any, people in my life know the true depths of my darkness because I have always been good at smiling through or withholding anything too “uncomfortable”. It wasn’t even that it was completely insincere… It’s hard to explain, but I’ve always been pretty positive (or at least have tried to be) despite these other feelings. Kind of a contradiction, but in hindsight, I believe it’s really just been my true self poking through all these years, just waiting to be set fully free.
Losing my mom and coping with my own depression.
I lost my mom shortly after my twelfth birthday to suicide. Her passsing was the first major loss I had gone through, aside a dog and cat when I was really young. I had trouble processing it. I remember saying the same day that “she wouldn’t want us to be sad long”, which I do think is true, but shows how naive a child can be about death. It’s hard at that age to grasp the finality of it. I remember almost everything about that day, though. Nearly every detail.
I have never been mad at my mom for doing what she did because I understand where she was. I have been in that place and know she did the best she could with what she was going through. I share her darkness. But.. I was 12. My brother was almost 14. There was a lot going on surrounding her passing, but we were kids that needed her, no matter what. And I wish more than anything she could have gotten the help that I have. It’s because I have experienced what suicide does to a family that I knew no matter how deep my darkness went as I got older, I could never leave. The days when I felt so, so alone, felt that no one loved me (even though rationally, I recognize I have an incredible family & support system), I would at least have my dogs. At my very darkest days, they kept me here, kept me going. Maxx was my rock through my mom’s death, the aftermath, and through my darkest hours. I would just grab him and cry on his shoulder, and he would just listen. He was my everything, that boy. My literal life saver.
Being grateful for all the good.
It’s a pretty bleak picture I paint, but it wasn’t all bad, of course. I have many wonderful memories of those days and have SO many wonderful memories of my mom. I went through a lot of “normal” things too. Plenty of typical heartbreaks and joy. Fun times with family and friends, young love and breakups. Everything documented in my life-long habit of journaling. And like I said, I tried to be positive, even when I didn’t totally believe it. Showing gratitude for the things that I had, though, was something I did believe. Through the my mom’s passing and what followed, I’ll never forget when a friend said to me “even with all this stuff happening to you, you’re still one of the most positive people I know”. And I said “that’s because I know it could be a lot worse”. Losing my mom made me appreciate the bare necessities more than I ever had before.
Hitting rock bottom mentally.
Flash forward to September 2014, I hit my lowest point, especially with my mental health and knew I needed change. I wasn’t surrounding myself with people that were best for me, but that took a little longer to recognize. I had thankfully kicked my smoking habit a couple years prior. (I really don’t have a story for this. I pretty much decided I didn’t want to do it anymore and quit nearly cold turkey. I felt guilty for smoking around the animals – shocker! – and was tired of smelling like smoke & being out of breath all the time. I had an e-cig for a little bit but did not end up using it for long.) I had also been working on improving some areas of my life, like with my beauty products, so I was open to other healthy changes.
Finding the tools to heal.
It was at this time that I started seeing a therapist. I did not want medication for my depression (although I don’t have anything against other people seeking that kind of help), so I sought a talk-therapist. I still go to her regularly to this day. I made changes to my diet because I was tired of eating like garbage, thus feeling like garbage, and of course was also always feeling guilty about the animals I was consuming. I slowly transitioned to a vegetarian diet, which made my conscience and body feel really, really good.
At last, this is the time I also found yoga. I developed a solid home practice through YouTube classes, especially those from Lesley Fightmaster. I practiced everyday. I’d sometimes do several classes back-to-back in my living room with the dogs alongside me. I craved the peace it brought my mind and loved how strong my body was becoming. For someone who could barely do a pushup, being able to do dozens of chaturangas made me proud! I learned about self-love and learned it was okay & necessary to fall in love with myself – mind and body. I no longer saw myself as broken but whole – flaws, troubles, and all. I found myself. I finally let my true self shine through.
Learning to love myself unconditionally.
After a few months of finding the asana (physical) part of yoga, I went through a pretty bad breakup. It was rough for a while, but I am so grateful that I had the tools to get me through. My self-love and self-care practices were blossoming. I also learned about the spiritual aspects of yoga. A friend and I took a month-long workshop to learn about the eight limbs of yoga from one of my most influential teachers, Maria (who is actually the teacher I am training with for my YTT!!). Through this workshop, I felt so welcome in the practice, like I found where I truly belonged. The codes of living a Yogic life really struck a chord within me. I found a practice that aligned with my core values. It’s not a religion per se, but it is sacred and the expression of my spirituality. Yoga has been the glue to my wellbeing. I now am able to manage my depression through a combination of steady practice, reflection, gratitude, therapy, diet, and surrounding myself with people and things that make me feel good & supported.
Maintaining a healthy balance for the first time in my life.
Most of my life, I had never been athletic, consistent, healthy. I was lost. I was depressed. I found myself within the four corners of my yoga mat and haven’t looked back since. Yoga has brought me peace, clarity, and physical strength. It has been my constant and is the cornerstone of who I am today. It is because of my journey that led me here, and the healing that took place, that makes me so passionate about this practice. It’s this passion that has led me to pursue my teacher training so that I can continue to share yoga with others!
Yoga has done nothing but change my life for the better, and I believe it can do the same for you. Whether it’s through a home practice or venturing to a studio, peace of mind and an abundance of love await you <3