Before yoga, there was anxiety. Before yoga, there was tension. Before yoga, I felt unhealthy. Mentally and physically. As someone who has struggled with confidence since my teenage years, my body issues only seemed to increase as I got older...along with the number on the scale. I let my weight define me. My body define me. When I felt thin, life was okay. Manageable, happy, productive. In contrast, my 'fat days' drug me down emotionally, spiritually, physically. I isolated myself, restricted my calories, cried for hours on end. I let negative thoughts consume me. And why? I am still in the process of figuring that out. I may never know why for six months I only allowed myself 500-700 calories per day. Why I lost 40 pounds and thought that it meant everything. What I do know is that I had a problem with control. I had no idea where I was going with my life, what my career was going to be, who I was, where I'd be. I felt so consumed with lack of control, that food became my control. Looking thin, and controlling my food intake made me feel like I had a hold of something.
It took me a long time, and a lot of courage to realize I had a problem with my eating. For a long time, I thought it was normal to consume so few calories...that I was 'just doing' what thin women did. Along with the help of my family, I decided I needed a change. One of the biggest stepping stones on my path to happiness was discovering yoga.
#1 - Managing my anxiety: Like I said before, before yoga, there was anxiety. Painful, debilitating, awake all night anxiety. The type of anxiety that creeps into every thought of your day. The type that reminds you constantly you're 'doing it all wrong', or will never 'be okay'. I had the hardest time turning these thoughts off. Yoga granted me a half hour to forty five minutes a day of breathing time. I was able to take time for myself. For the first five to six times I tried yoga, I focussed not on the physical aspect of it (managaing the poses and bending), but the breathing. Lying on the mat taking deep breaths made me not only feel relaxed, but that I was doing something to help manage my stress. I felt productive. Deep breathing slowed down my heart rate. It allowed me to concentrate on something other than worrisome thoughts. Instead of eating, I was thinking of how my chest felt after a deep breath. I thought of my belly rising and falling with each breath and how nice it felt. After only one week (30 minutes per day before bed time) of light yoga and deep breathing, I felt so much more relaxed.
#2 - Feeling fit: It is an understatement to say I dislike exercise. In my teenage to early adult life, I never exercised. If I did, I forced myself to run or attend an exercise class that felt too intense and exhausting. Practicing yoga helped me feel flexible. Practicing yoga increased my heart rate, allowing me to sweat and burn calories. Practicing yoga allowed me to release stress by being physical without being intimidated or exhausted. I never pushed myself. Rather than concentrating on 'weight loss' through burning calories, yoga allowed me to focus on de-stressing through burning calories. After a long yoga practice, I treat myself to a snack I otherwise would have never allowed. Feeling sweaty and like I've worked hard (also noticing the great toning effects of yoga) gives me the permission to eat more, enjoy food, and not worry so much about calorie restriction.
#3 - The routine of doing something for ME: Before incorporating yoga practice into my daily life, I was not indulging in self care. I did nothing for me. Restricting calories and feeling thin felt like the only 'good thing' in my life. I went to work, isolated and went to sleep. I avoided people and things that involved food. Beginning yoga was something for me. The benefits that I spoke of above all came together by dedicating myself to ME time. A little date with myself everynight. It started small, but now I add to it, but beginning my first two minutes of yoga practice by sitting in the dark and taking long, deep breaths. I put on my favorite music, my comfiest clothes, have a nice bath afterwards. I TREAT myself. All because of yoga.
After yoga there has been calmness. After yoga, I feel OK. After yoga, i feel healthy. Mentally and physically. If you have ever felt like me, I hope you choose to add yoga into your life.