Thursday, November 7, 2013

What I Have Learned From a Year of Yoga


A little over a year ago, I was struggling to get into any sort of workout routine, finding it impossible to control my eating and battling a depression that constantly overtook me.  I felt like I was stuck spinning my wheels, and I couldn't see any way out of it.  One night, I was lamenting this to Josh, how I was unhappy yet I didn't know why, how I was constantly self loathing, and he said something that changed the way I would feel forever.  He told me to go back to yoga.

I have used yoga in the past off and on for years as a way to exercise but also a way to deal with stress.  It always seemed when things got bad, I would get into yoga or meditation for a little while, but I would always drop my practice.  I never practiced consistently, so I never realized the benefits of having a habitual practice.

I had taken a few classes at Barefoot Studio since moving to Little Rock, and I knew I loved the atmosphere and the classes, and I really admired Breezy, the owner.  She seemed to exude a calm and open heart, and I would later learn that she is one of the most generous and kind people I would ever meet.  So, when Josh gently pushed me to do something to take care of myself, I immediately started going to classes.  The more I went, the more I was hooked.  It's been a year now since I started back regularly at Barefoot, and I have met some amazing teachers, taken some great classes, and painted my body from head to toe in black light paint and danced like a maniac... several times.  Most importantly, though, I am a changed person, and these are my reasons why.

How Yoga Has Changed Me.

  1. Physical.  My weight may not have changed a lot, but my body feels completely different.  Josh will often grab my arms when hugging me and say "They're so tiny!"  My stomach looks different, my legs are leaner, and I can do things I haven't been able to do in years.  I feel strong in my poses, and while I have a long way to go, I no longer sit on the mat regretfully and think of how unfit I've become.
  2. Social.  I am a fairly shy person.  I often won't talk directly to other people I don't know unless engaged with.  Once someone speaks to me, I usually jump in the conversation with only mild hesitation.  The yoga community in Little Rock is so open-hearted and accepting, I find myself having great conversations with strangers all the time.  Yoga has become a social circle all in itself, and when I walk into a class, I know that I will be practicing with accepting and loving people.
  3. Running.  In 2011, I ran the Little Rock Half Marathon.  It was labored, and I was slow, but I did it, and it was awesome.  Then, I promptly quit running.  Recently, though, I have been getting back into it, and it feels completely different from before.  I am able to access and focus on muscles that were silent to me before, and because of my new found strength, I'm able to run faster and lighter.
  4. Fear.  This is a big one.  I am afraid to do things because I'm heavy.  I was like this as a child too, and for a small window in college, when I was thinner, I lost that fear.  I would jump on things, climb, and do physical activities without holding myself back.  As the weight crept back on, the fear came back, and it immobilized me for many years.  Add an ankle break during a backpacking trip, and I didn't want to do anything... ever.  Yoga has helped me strip away that fear, and I'm happy to say now that I'm getting back into the world and doing things.  I'm hiking to the top of Pinnacle Mountain on the hard side, I'm trying handstands, I'm trying crow pose, I'm even thinking about training for a Tough Mudder.
  5. Rush to Get Home.  This one was a weird hangup that I had trouble getting over since moving to Little Rock.  I'm not sure what it was, but I really felt an urge to get home as soon as I got off work.  When we lived in Fayetteville, I would go to the gym after work and do double workouts with my girlfriend, Devon.  We would ride for hours on the weekend, go to Farmers' Markets, just generally run around town.  That all kind of stopped for awhile in Little Rock.  I felt like I was tied to our house.  I just wanted to get home and lay around.  Once I started going to yoga, that melted away.  Now, I schedule things to do around the city all the time, and I don't feel like I have to hide in my house.
  6. Stress.  Architecture is a stressful profession.  There is always negative energy coming from this direction or that, people stressed out, things to fix, drawings to complete.  For the first several years in my job now, I internalized that stress and used food and booze to cope.  If a drawing deadline was coming up, I would freak out and stay up very late for days trying to finish, working harder but not smarter.  I would completely stop working out and eat like a maniac.  Once I started leaving all that work stuff on the mat, I face problems with a much more clear head.  I also don't drop all my healthy habits and self care if we have a looming deadline.  I have learned that you must take that time for yourself.
  7. Alcohol.  As you have read on the blog, I do drink, and I enjoy it, but before yoga, I used alcohol to take off some of that stress I wrote about above.  I would come home from work and kill a half a bottle or more of wine to relax.  Now, I go take a hot yoga class and let those feelings process and let go.  I may still have a glass of wine when I get home, but I'm not excessively drinking to relax.
  8. Posture.  I'm a fairly tall girl, so I have a tendency to slouch in an attempt to shrink myself at times.  Not anymore.  I sit tall and hold my head up now, happy and relaxed in my body.  Because yoga has given me a core, I can hold in my muscles and be tall.  This one may seem minor, but it ties so directly into my next one.
  9. Confidence.  A year ago, I had lost my confidence.  I would get frustrated with myself, cry in my closet, and just generally feel discouraged.  I didn't want to be me.  I had gone for so long without taking care of myself, and I just let all that negative energy compound and ruin my self image.  The first month or so of yoga, I would have constant negative chatter going.  How could I let myself get so weak?  Look how inflexible you are.  I had to learn to let all that go.  After a year of yoga, I accept myself and my body.  I would like to keep moving forward with exercise and healthy eating, but it's not so I can fit into a specific jean size, it's so I can continue to feel good in my skin.
  10. Emotional.  I am happy.  I have not been truly, honestly, and fully happy in years.  I have been dealing with depression since I left college, and honestly, probably before that (I was just using substance to mask it).  I have searched the past 4 years through medication and therapy to try to quiet that negative voice in my head that would tell me I'm worthless.  It kept me down and immobile for so long, that I never thought it would go away.  That voice was there with me when I started my practice, but it never made me quit.  It tried.  I would compare myself to the thin, strong people in my yoga classes.  It would discourage me, but the feeling of complete release at the end of a class was addicting, so I kept coming back for more.  Little by little, that voice got quieter, until one day I realized I hadn't heard it in a long time.  That's when I started noticing how much I was enjoying life.  When you don't have someone constantly putting you down, it's a lot easier to look at the positive things in your life.  That's when I realized I was happy.  I have had a lot of things to deal with this year, including my bumpy road to becoming an architect and 3 surgeries + constant pain.  I think before yoga, I would have dealt with these set backs in very destructive ways.  Having a constant practice, a place to go and find solace, and a community of loving people to support me have made the difference for me.  I am emotionally stable, un-medicated, and happy.
So, I encourage you, if you are stuck in a rut, go out and find something positive to do that you love.  It might not be yoga, but as long as it's something you want to do instead of something you think you have to do, you will stick with it.  After a year and all these positive changes, I can't wait to see what's to come in the future.


6 comments:

  1. Love this post - very inspiring! I've been trying for YEARS to keep up a regular practice. And yes, I'm still trying. I can also totally relate to the feeling of wanting to get home after work as soon as possible. That feeling has made me a bit hermitish and I need to fix that and become more involved in outside activities and the community.

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    1. it's so easy to just crawl into your house after work, but i have found i'm much happier when i get out and do things. barefoot is really lovely. i'll let you know if they have deals on classes. it's the best!

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    2. Thanks! I do really like Barefoot. Drew got me a few classes as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago, but I didn't pay to continue going after that. I've been meaning to check out the new West location!

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    3. The west location is great too. It is super close to my office. I think barefoot is doing a glow yoga in December. I wanted to go, but I will be in New Orleans. It is always fun.

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