A few weeks back I was asked to give a short version of my personal experience with my yoga practice on the Facebook Page Humans of Bikram Yoga. I was nervous to put it out there, but in the post I admitted to having an eating disorder in my past and touched on how practicing yoga helped me to get my life back and develop a healthy respect for my body. I have talked about body issues in past posts, but never revealed that there was way more to it. That, though this was over a decade ago now, I was someone that denied my body the very right to eat for days at a time and was cruel to myself in countless ways. I was not a woman that worried about gaining weight. I was a woman that obsessed about gaining weight.
But aside from helping me put that part of my life in the past, my yoga practice has helped me gain what most would consider the good things in life over the years. I am often encountered by people that balk at the fact that I practice every day, whether at home or at the studio. They are amazed at the time I spend on my mat. They think of all the time that would be lost if they did the same – if they truly committed to a yoga practice. They see the loss, but I see the gains.
For you see, for someone that for years worked to see the loss of my bulk when I looked in the mirror, I now notice and admire the gains. And each of these gains comes directly from spending time on my mat. Time that I will never regret.
Here are the gains:
- I have less anxiety. I am a worry wart. I always have been. Something happens and my brain goes to the worst-case scenario. When I practice this all burns away. It makes me feel that everything is as it should be and the best possible outcome is on its way even if I can’t see it yet.
- Self-knowledge. I know myself and like myself. I think I’m pretty fun and funny even if no one else does. I am my own best friend.
- I am less reactive. Every day ups and downs don’t throw me for a loop. I handle what is coming my way as best I can. Some days I wish I could do better, or be better, but I forgive myself and move on, instead of beating myself up.
- I love and respect for my body. For me this was huge. I eat to be kind to myself, to fuel my practice, and to nurture a healthy lifestyle. I am able to acknowledge all that my body does for me every day and be grateful for its gifts.
- It’s easier to tune into my breath and find the present moment. When life gets stressful I can find my breath. I allow myself to breathe and notice what is going on. I am able to respond to situations. I am able to notice the uncomfortable situations and move through them instead of avoid them.
- I don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the small stuff. It’s easy to care about the opinions of others. My yoga practice has helped me find a place where this doesn’t affect the rest of my life.
- I find myself surrounded by good people who are doing the best they can and trying to be their best Self. Yogis are always looking to learn more and be better. They forgive quickly, as they realize everyone is in their own dream and trying to live their best life. Yoga people are my kind of people.
- I still fit in the same size clothes that I did when I was 28 without obsessing about it. After all of those years of starving myself and depleting myself to keep my body thin or get it even thinner, yoga does it without me having to think about it. I do the postures. I breathe. I sweat. When practice is over I move on to something else and don’t even think about burning calories, counting calories, watching what I eat, or depriving myself at all. I eat what I crave and practice. It’s simple and it works.
- I move through my life with ease. I have very little aches and pains except sore muscles from working so hard in class.
- Compassion for the journey of others. I may not understand other people’s decisions, but I understand that this is their journey and I respect that. There’s something about sweating it out on your mat next to people from every walk of life that makes you aware that everyone is facing some challenge in their life. Their life is not for me to judge.
- It helps me establish healthy boundaries that limit the drama in my life. By knowing myself, I know what is a good situation for me and what is not and I trust that knowledge.
- I still get to play. I can put my leg behind my head, balance on my head, sit in the splits, and back bend like I did when I was eight years old. Yoga helps me with my mission to never truly grow up.
- I’ve seen an increase in muscle tone. I have gained weight with my yoga practice, but have not changed the size of my jeans. The best kind of weight to gain is muscle. It’s amazing how much your muscle tone can improve without have to lift weights or climb a billion stairs, just showing up on your mat day after day.
- I have confidence that I can handle any situation. I’ve been in the class where I thought I was going to die on my mat at least a hundred times at this point and guess what? I didn’t. This has helped me realize that I have a mental toughness that will see me through anything.
- I’m able to trust my gut instincts. Yoga has brought an awareness to my body, so that I am aware when my stomach drops or my anxiety is a little peaked. When this happens, I don’t dive into a situation anyway, but pay attention and back away where I need to. Your gut instinct is always right. If you are tuned into it, it will serve you well.
- My shoulders are even (they weren’t when I started). As my spine aligned, so did the rest of my body and then everything evened out.
- Yoga keeps my chronic hip pain at bay. I messed up my hip a long time ago. It still yells at me every once in a while, but for the most part, if I make it to class, it’s easy going for the rest of the day. It’s magic.
- I’m nicer to myself and to others. If I don’t find myself on my mat, my husband can tell. “Did you practice today?” he’ll ask. It makes me laugh. He can always tell the difference. Yoga has made me kinder to others and gentler with myself. It’s the best gift I ever gave myself and to those I share this life with. The world would be a better place if more people would practice.
With yoga, you don’t lose anything that matters. You gain everything that does.
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