How did you find yoga?
All my life I was an athlete. Throughout high school I played field hockey, lacrosse, and track. When I started college, I decided to try something new – rugby. I trained hard at the gym and could bench my body weight, but I was in constant pain. Throughout my college career, I ended up with two sprained ankles, bursitis and floating cartilage in my left knee, knots the size of golf balls in my back, two concussions, and severe plantar fasciitis in both my feet.
Needless to say, when I graduated and left my dreams of becoming a professional women’s rugby player in the dust, I was searching for something to heal my body in a meaningful and lasting way. That is when I turned to yoga. I purchased the 21 day challenge, and as a complete beginner, the first few weeks were difficult.
I had a serious lack of flexibility, as my hamstrings bulged from the backs of my legs and my back muscles had formed dense, little circles around my spine. But I decided to continue despite constantly feeling uncomfortable in just about every pose.
After the first three weeks, I started to feel like a new person. My knots were loosening, my hands were growing closer and closer to the floor, but I also experienced changes I had never anticipated. I realized that my anxiety and stress fell away with all of my muscle aches, as well. I felt calm, in control, and centered for one of the first times in my life. Ever since then, I practice yoga 5-7 times a week, and each and every day is an exciting, beautiful, and enlightening experience.
How have you overcome fear?
I have always been hesitant to try new things. Yoga was something new and so different from anything I had tried before. As I have settled into my yoga practice, I find myself taking risks from a happier, more confident place. I push myself to try new poses, and I am constantly looking for my next challenge. I love the feeling of both excitement and contentment that I get when I am able, through many weeks of practicing, to learn and begin to practice something new.
This sense of courageousness and confidence has translated into my professional life in a big way. As a recent college graduate and education major, I was unsure of where my path would lead in the months following the moment when I threw my cap into the air.
Yoga gave me the sense of not just confidence, but acceptance, that is essential in searching for a job. I applied for things I never imagined and interviewed as much as possible. I felt comfortable in my own skin for the first time in a long time, and I believe, with all my heart, that led to me landing my first job in education and starting my career as a teacher (something that I knew I was destined for my whole life).
What are the benefits of your yoga practice?
I have always defined myself as an athlete. The label was comfortable, easy, and fit well with what I would have called my “extra wide” exterior. I have big, strong arms and legs, and I always have. Despite being in shape, I constantly scrutinized every piece of fat on my body and would go to the gym for hours to feel like I was fitting more into the mold that I had created my for myself. This led to a cycle of uncontrollable binge eating, and dieting, binge eating, and dieting – something that I’m sure many women have experienced at some point or another.
Since starting yoga, my body has changed. I’ve started to become more lean and flexible, but I haven’t necessarily lost any weight. I do, however, carry it in different proportions. I feel as though yoga has helped me to reinvent myself, which is an outlet I didn’t always feel was available to me.
I feel womanly, beautiful, and vibrant. I am constantly astonished by the things that my body is capable of and the capacity that the practice has to morph my mind and heart for the better. I no longer stand in the mirror poking and prodding at myself. Phrases like “Ugh, I hate my…” or “I wish I was…” are no longer in my vocabulary. Instead, I set up in yoga class, right in front of the mirror, and smile not just at my physical appearance, but the beauty that I now have the ability to recognize. From the long, wild, curly hair on my head, to my unpainted, calloused toes, I’ve learned to love every inch of me, just as I am.