Non-Fiction: How Yoga Saved My Life (and still does)

Sunday, June 01, 2014

How Yoga Saved My Life (and still does)
How finding the connection between mind, body, and spirit on a mat gave me strength, sanity, and peace of mind.

This is my morning routine:

Wake up.

Practice yoga.

Drink my coffee.

Start my day.

Pretty simple. But three years ago, I never would have imagined yoga as a regular part of my life. Three years ago, I was in and out of the hospital being treated for stress-induced convulsions which basically meant that my body handled stress by having a seizure. Seizures are a scary situation, especially when you have one in the midst of an already incredibly stressful situation. There is nothing I have experienced that is more alarming than the feeling of waking up in a hospital bed alone with the last memory being just as stressful as, well, waking up in a hospital bed alone! Obviously, I needed to find a better way for my body to handle stress.

I started my search for a better stress outlet when my then-boyfriend (who had been living with me for about a year at that point) left for bootcamp partly because I was terrified of having a seizure alone and partly because I finally had the space and freedom to discover myself wholeheartedly. Though I had practiced yoga before (my boyfriend and I had attempted the Yoga X video from the P90X program), I wasn’t particularly fond of it and I definitely didn’t associate it with any stress-lowering capabilities. So before I tried exercise, I tried Netflix. I think I watched every season of every tv show I had always wanted to watch but never got the chance to. But that didn’t help. I was only avoiding dealing with my stress; it was still there when I came out of my Netflix-induced coma.

After running out of shows on Netflix, I tried another form of escape: working. I transformed into the perfect workaholic, drowning myself in the woes of customer service to (again) avoid dealing with my personal stress. Working exhausted me, though, and so I took up exercise to boost my energy since I had read somewhere that exercise tended to have that effect.

I started with cardio: I tried running, swimming, Zumba, and playing Just Dance for a full five hours (sometimes more), but I couldn’t stand being out of breath and got bored easily. So I created a workout schedule and incorporated intense strength-training into my routine. I ordered book after book online, promising fast results amongst glossy pages of fat-shredding workout routines and strict diet plans. I think I tried just about every workout routine and diet plan that was ever popular, but to no avail. No matter how much I worked my body, the stress remained.

My dedication to online exercise-fad orders meant that I frequently received emails on the newest and most popular fads. One of these was The Yoga Body Diet book that promised a total transformation in just four months. I decided to give it a try. However, I only managed to read the first couple of pages before I tossed the book to the side with a scoff. I wasn’t ready to accept the yoga philosophy that everything was connected. It was all hippie talk to me.

I didn’t give up on yoga, entirely though. Instead, I ordered a book and the accompanying yoga video by Tara Stiles whose yoga philosophy and methods were much more tailored for my very Western-consumer, goal-oriented view of exercise. Within months, I had learned how to manage my stress, live healthy, and mastered the Crow Pose all without consciously realizing I was accomplishing it. The transformation, like yoga, had been a process that happened all on it’s own, naturally. I was finally ready to embrace the yoga philosophy.

Unfortunately, my transformation made me more aware not only of myself but of my entire life. I could no longer ignore the things that bothered me. The awareness was always bubbling underneath the surface. And while I would still go through some very messy and stressful situations, I would always come out stronger because my yoga practice would always remain with me. I’d always be able to turn to my mat to find the solace I needed, to release the stress I didn’t, and to remember, most importantly, that everything is connected. A healthy body starts with healthy thoughts starts with a healthy spirit.

It’s been three years since I last found myself lying helplessly in a hospital bed, though I definitely have been through my share of intensely stressful situations. But now I know what I didn’t three years ago. Now I’m aware the second I feel stressed, and no amount of Netflix, work, or other attempts of escape can make that awareness go away. And the best part is that I can take that awareness to the mat and beat stress from the source. Anytime. Anywhere. My yoga practice is always with me.


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