I was one of those lucky girls that could eat whatever they wanted to eat and never gain an ounce. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about that, but other people seemed to think it was an enviable trait. I’ve always been fairly active, so I wasn’t really looking to become more fit or healthy either. I began practicing yoga in 2009 mostly because someone told me that I should and that I would probably like it.
Although I wasn’t overweight or out of shape, I did suffer from bouts of depression and anxiety that would come and go at various points in my life. In early 2009, having experienced the loss of my mother, the loss of my beloved dog, and the loss of an early-term pregnancy, I was falling deep into a sense of listlessness, thinly masked by the cheeriness I was painting on to try to keep the well-meaning questions about how I was doing away. I had begun to feel like adult life was mostly loss, and I was losing my sense of stability and perspective. I felt disconnected and dissociated from what I really wanted in my life, and I found it hard to feel anything, positive or negative.
When I was in my first class however, I found it to be so challenging that I felt invigorated. It was a hot yoga class, and it was hot. Just being able to stay in the room for the entire hour-and-a-half felt like something to be proud of to me. Getting through the poses with the weird names that I’d never heard before was awesome. I had never paid so much attention to my body, and I found that I could move it in subtle ways and in sweeping ways. The fact that something I had never heard of before existed in the world and I could love it so much made me drunk on hope and giddy with excitement. I immediately got an unlimited membership and signed up for a thirty day challenge.
Yoga forces you into your body and into the present moment. It makes you communicate with yourself in ways that you never really would unless you’re used to trusting your body as an entity that is completely part of and yet completely separate from your identity. The word yoga actually means “union,” and through practice of asana one becomes more grounded in the experience of the body yet less attached to it. I remember, several years into my yoga practice, I was bitten by a dog. I instinctively began to breathe in and out through my nose, counting to five as I flexed my fingers, one by one. I didn’t really think about why I was doing it at the time, but I realized that yoga had taught me to breathe through difficult situations, and that life on the mat was really a training ground for life off the mat.
The way you do anything in life is the way you do everything in life. If you can learn, even in small ways, to breathe through discomfort and separate what happens to you from your reaction, then you are doing yoga—even if you can’t touch your toes.