There I laid on my sweaty yoga mat, in a dimly lit room with 10 other women, listening to Rihanna passionately sing “Love the Way You Lie Part 2.” I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. My heart began to fill with joy, sinking deep into my chest… and I thought about how incredibly proud and happy I was in that very moment. My body was completely relaxed, focused, and soaking up the moment. I was unstoppable. Nothing was in my way. I was allowing myself to feel everything I’ve accomplished in the past few months, and I just couldn’t stop myself from enjoying the moment. In a matter of two months, I have gone from the deepest, darkest place I’d been in awhile to utterly confident and happy with the life that I’m living. Happy. Healthy. I’ve come such a long way, and it’s all because of Yoga.
Yoga. I always thought Yoga was some type of lifestyle that vegan eating, animal loving, tree hugging type people loved. Where you’d sit on a rubber mat and pray to the holy body loving gods. I always thought you had to be this deep, warm, quietly slow speaking, zen individual to be into Yoga. That you had to have dreadlocks and do protests on the streets to protect the Earth. I’m far from Zen. I hate trees. And I’m way too lazy to stand around and protest. But just like every other stereotype in the world, Yoga isn’t a lifestyle for one specific group. You don’t have to be an athlete. You don’t have to be flexible. You don’t even have to know what you are doing! You just have to show up on your mat and commit to challenging yourself physically, mentally, and most importantly, emotionally.
I was introduced to Yoga when I completed my first round of the 21 Day Fix. Every Sunday, sore as fuck from the rest of my workouts that week, I’d roll out my mat and I’d commit to doing the workout to the best of my ability. I loved the way my body felt when I was done. I loved how it stretched my muscles and made me feel whole again. I felt like I started the workout as a broken person beat down from the intense workouts throughout the week, and I ended it feeling like a brand new person. When one of my close friends found out how much I enjoyed the feeling, she encouraged me to join her at a Yoga class in the area. At first I was super hesitant. First of all, I hate people. I’m not the most social person in the world. I’m socially awkward, and I really struggle stepping out of my comfort zone. Secondly, performing in front of other people brings me such anxiety. I’ve always been self conscious and struggled with self esteem. I was afraid people would judge me or that I wouldn’t comprehend the exercises as much as the rest of the women did. But, the more I thought about it, the more I decided it was time to challenge myself. I had already come so far in my fitness journey. I was already accomplishing things I hadn’t in years past, so why not add something new to my list of things to try?!
Bakasana – “Crow Pose”
July 7… I attended my first official Yoga class, POWERYoga taught at a local studio. I was anxious about attending for numerous reasons. Would people judge me? Would it be hard? Would I look stupid? What if I’m behind everyone else in skill? I would soon learn that POWERYoga isn’t your average “zen” Yoga class. It’s intense. The class starts off slow with lots of stretching, warming up, and continues to build. It peaks with cardio and body strengthening and at the end decreases with more stretching and lengthening. It hits every part of your body that you’d want. A full body exercise. Perfect for me. I had already worked myself up to pretty intense workouts in my fitness journey, and I was looking for a mix of high and low impact exercises.
After I left the first class, my body beamed with joy. I fell in love. I immediately pulled up the website and started looking at when the class was offered at other times during the week. I wanted to go again… more times than just once a week. From that point forward, commitment wasn’t a problem for me. You see, it’s not just the fact that it’s Yoga. It’s the class in it’s entirety. The instructor, the other women, the environment, the music, the movement… all of it contributes to how I feel. And when I leave class, it doesn’t stop there. I come home and continue to research on Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram… I want to learn more. I continually push to challenge myself. My flexibility. My focus. My drive. My strength. In my opinion, there’s no better challenge than Yoga.
Sirsasana – “Headstand”
I talk about Yoga with everyone I know, and when the topic comes up, my mind automatically kicks into focus. I’m able to have a conversation without drifting or losing focus. “Fibro fog” has been my biggest challenge since I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I zoom in and out of focus and constantly feel like I’m living in a twilight zone. Yoga has taught me to use parts of my brain that have otherwise been occupied. It’s allowed me to tune into those areas where I mentally focus and helped me to hold everyday conversations with my peers. It’s allowed me to challenge myself mentally and force myself to focus. You don’t realize how much of an issue focus can be until you struggle to do it. Lack of focus has damaged my relationships in the past and caused conflict with my loved ones. Learning to utilize parts of my brain and focus on my loved ones has done wonders for my personal relationships with others.
Yoga has taught me to connect with my kids and to talk to them about taking care of your body. When I grab my mat, my girls immediately come running. “Mommy, are we going to do Yoga today?” “Mommy, can I come with you to Yoga class?” They want to learn and more importantly, they want to be right alongside me doing the poses, too. It’s taught them to learn to appreciate their bodies and to be proud of who they are. I’ve struggled with self confidence for much of my adult life. But watching myself go from a fragile individual barely able to touch my toes to an individual on her head bending her legs all sorts of ways has really boosted my confidence. My girls see that confidence and it only encourages them to be confident in themselves, too.
Viparita Virabhadrasana – “Reverse Warrior” – and my little sidekicks enjoying a refreshment. This picture was not posed. They just plopped themselves down to join in on the fun.
Prior to my fitness journey, I was an extremely depressed and anxious person. I didn’t shower on a daily basis. I was highly irritable. I constantly complained of being tired or having pain all over my body. I hated getting out of bed in the morning and the idea of parenting all day wore me down. I didn’t want people around. I fought with my husband all the time over nothing. I just wanted to sulk all day and feel sorry for myself. Completing my first round of the 21 Day Fix definitely brought me to a better place, but Yoga has skyrocketed me to the happiest place I’ve been in my life. Yoga has allowed me to find myself again. Going to POWERYoga classes has allowed me to separate myself from being a wife and mother and to find “Sam” again. It’s allowed me to do something for myself. To put myself first for once. To take care of myself. To be me. Just me.
Somewhere in the last two months, I discontinued my anxiety medication. It wasn’t so much my psychiatrist told me to stop taking them. It was more that I’m a forgetful idiot and just forgot to refill my container. In the past when this happened, panic attacks would set in after a few days. My world would flip even more upside down and my body would rebel against me. But not this time. I sit here and rack my brain to really think of the last time I felt anxious… the last time I had a panic attack… the last time I felt like my world was crushing down around me… I can’t. I can’t tell you. I have absolutely no idea. I chalk that success up to Yoga. Merely showing up to my mat ready to challenge myself allows me to be patient and calm. It’s not about learning how to relax myself. It’s about igniting feelings I’d never had before. Confidence. Patience. Focus. Lack of those feelings contribute to feeling anxious.
Being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia comes with a boat load of symptoms. But mostly, I am in pain all day, every day. My muscles constantly feel sore and my body feels broken. Some days are better than others, but the majority of my days are managing the ways my muscles feel. I’m a horrible patient when it comes to taking medications. I’m forgetful and really struggle in listening to my doctor’s orders. When I was diagnosed, I was given the option to take prescription medications if I discontinued breastfeeding. Since my daughter is not ready to wean, prescription medications were not an option. I researched alternative forms of treatment. The research on Yoga and treating Fibromyalgia pain is plentiful. Tons of articles discuss the benefits of Yoga on your body. As someone that’s been in this lifestyle for a few months, I can tell you the research is correct. On the days I’m in the most pain, I roll out my mat. Afterwards, my body feels much more manageable and refreshed. I even catch myself moaning and groaning from the amazing feelings I experience when my muscles stretch.
Adho Mukha Vrksasana – “Handstand”
Yoga has contributed to helping me in my fitness journey, but for me Yoga isn’t just about being physically fit. Yoga has challenged me beyond my wildest expectations. It’s allowed me to connect with other people, to educate others, to love myself, and to show my children how to love themselves. It’s allowed me to rebuild relationships with my loved ones and find ways to love myself again. Yoga IS a lifestyle, indeed. But it’s not just for all those vegan eating, animal loving, dread lock kinda girls. It’s for EVERYONE. EVERYONE. Even if you can’t touch your toes, you can master it. You show up to your mat and you just try. The rest will come…. if you’re willing to commit. I look forward to continuing to grow, challenging myself, and connecting with many other people in my life… all because of Yoga.