I was in a total funk when I finally decided to give yoga a try. Three years earlier, an injury had permanently sidelined me from running. I felt like my entire identity was lost; anyone who has ever struggled with addiction will understand. I gained weight and just felt blue.
My husband took a job as a professor, and we had relocated from my sunny home state of Texas to his cloudier home state of Ohio, and the long winters took their toll. Living in a dying factory town, we watched as many people lost their jobs, and their homes to foreclosure. It was tough times and I desperately needed a break; but I couldn’t exactly wave a magic wand and fix the economy or make the sun come out to at least warm us up. The break would have to come from something else, somewhere else…
I’d dabbled in yoga before, but only as a part-time participant at best. It was my go to option for when my running legs needed a break from all the pounding. I didn’t take it seriously though, and I certainly didn’t consider it a lifestyle. I did yoga; I didn’t “practice” it, and there is a crucial difference.
So, here I was in a harsh new environment, feeling out of control and angry at my body, and myself. I needed a kinder option, and I understood just enough about yoga to let it draw me back to the mat. I was skeptical, but also hopeful and maybe more importantly, ready, for a change.
But I was heavier than I had ever been, and clumsy. I totally did not want to face a real live in person class, so I turned to the internet. It didn’t take me long to discover My Yoga Online. It looked like the right option for me. I signed up, logged on, and stepped onto my mat. Almost every day, in fact, I have stepped onto my mat.
I stepped onto it when I felt sore, flustered, out of balance, and totally grotesque. I stepped onto it when I felt the urge to resort back to old eating disorders. I stepped onto it when sadness crept into my mind. Angry, happy, sad, tired, whatever; I stepped onto the damn mat. I clung to the hope that if I did it enough times, something would eventually click, and things would get better. I stepped onto the mat, and I listened to the instructors.
Instructors like David Magone, Meghan Currie, and Nico Luce, who encouraged me, and all their students, to keep going, to appreciate the process, and to remember to breathe through it all. “Stay present,” they’d say, “flow”.. “Love yourself, accept yourself. Flow and let go. Just let go.”
At first this seemed impossible, selfish, and even ridiculous. How could I possibly love a clumsy struggling body that can’t hold Tree pose because of foot cramps? Shouldn’t I love everyone else, not me? Pretty soon though, through repetition, the messages were received.
It was my light bulb moment. I was struggling to hold Triangle pose, and backed off. How many times had the instructors advised that if you’re struggling, if you can’t breathe, then back off? How many times had I ignored it? That day, however, I didn’t ignore my body. That day, I allowed myself to back off, and pretty soon I was sinking deeper into the positions, holding them longer. I was letting go, and the more I let go, the stronger I became, and the more confident I was.
Pretty soon, I liked me, and the better I liked me, the better I became at liking others too. The more present I was for myself, it turned out, the more present I was able to be for the other people in my life that I loved.
Ding, ding ding! I’d hit yoga pay dirt. Don’t get me wrong, it was a long journey, but the stronger I became on the mat, the stronger I was off it, and pretty soon, I was a new person.
I lost weight, ate healthy and clean, and I had energy; but more importantly, I felt empowered and joyful. I could choose happiness, choose my own pathways. Life was no longer just happening… I was living it.
I am still a work in progress, totally flawed. Bills still pile up, laundry still needs washing, and people are still people; but what I’ve found, on bright days and dark ones alike, is that yoga helps navigate the waters. Even in times of doubt, no matter what, just keep stepping on the mat.
Amy O’Bar grew up in a series of small towns in Texas, served four years in the Army running crew drills, and, in the mean time, falling in love and getting married. She went to college, majored in English, became a teacher, and ran three marathons. She’s a freelance writer and enjoys soy lattes, walking under trees, and practicing yoga.