Six years ago I was sitting in my doctor’s office and had just been told my body was failing; you can really never be prepared to hear that.
Think about that statement. “Your body is failing.”
To make matters worse, my body was failing because of something I was doing to it. I was ingesting too much alcohol; my body was not able to process it quickly enough. The doctor went on to tell me that I had severe scarring of the liver and if I didn’t make drastic changes in my life, I may die.
That’s pretty heavy.
I left the doctor’s office and went back to my apartment that I was behind in rent on and soon to be evicted from, that by the way, had no electricity (I wish I was making this stuff up!). I was on heart medication, overweight, was selling shoes (the opposite of a fulfilling career), had no money and was just told by my doctor that the one constant in my life was killing me.
Well, hello rock bottom. I guess in a way, I have been expecting you.
It’s almost comical when you reach that point, and if you have ever been there you know what I mean. There is no question of where you are when you get there; you can be in a negative downward spiral for years and do nothing to change it.
Yet oddly enough, there is something beautiful about the bottom. You can get comfortable in the spiral, but when you reach the destination, a certain urgency kicks in and you know it’s time to get you’re ass in gear.
There is a power that comes from it and you can’t help but be amazed once you feel it. You realize it was there all along, but you think, where the hell has that power been? Yes, it may have been months after that doctor’s appointment, but for me, that power came in the form of me picking up the phone and calling a friend.
“I need help.”
The next day my friends and family came together and arranged for me to be picked up, put on a plane and checked into a treatment facility. This is when my path changed directions.
After returning from weeks of rehab, not surprisingly, I had a new outlook on life. Although I was far from healed, I was much more positive than that guy I was when I was sitting in the doctor’s office that day. I was open to new things and support from others. However, when my mom gave me a book on yoga as a way to continue working on my health, I thought, this is not for me.
I, like many people thought yoga was only for super spiritual, skinny people who could get into weird positions that I couldn’t imagine doing in 100 years, who walked around saying words like “Namaste.”
Yoga was not for an overweight guy, fresh out of rehab, who cursed a little too much, ate meat and was outspoken. I did give it a try, maybe just trying to prove that it wasn’t for me. I opened the book and did the first pose I saw, triangle pose. My overweight body and mind confirmed this was not for me. I can’t do these crazy poses. No way.
I honestly can’t tell you why, given my first experience, but I felt compelled to try it again. A few months later I re-opened the book; a few more poses in the book turned to a few classes a week, to an almost daily practice.
As you can imagine, it didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. I started to lose weight, I had so much more energy and I was becoming something that just a few months earlier I thought was impossible: happy. My body was literally coming back to life in ways I thought were impossible.
Holy sh*t, this yoga stuff actually works.
Over that year, I ended up losing over 75 lbs, completely went off my heart medication, and felt healthier than I did 20 years ago. I started eating healthier, exercising daily and started waking up and going to bed happy.
Could moving my body and learning how to breathe on a mat actually be changing my life? Despite my initial apprehension, the answer was hell yes.
It’s now been six years since that day in the doctor’s office and also six years of sobriety. I have been teaching yoga for three years now and opened my first yoga studio two years ago. To be quite honest, just as I was far from the typical yogi when I first started practicing, I am far from the typical yoga teacher; I have never been to India, I’m not super skinny, and I am not a vegetarian (although, I do eat more vegetables than I used to). My studio doesn’t have rain showers or essential oils everywhere.
I’m just a dude who happens to be a passionate yoga teacher who loves his students and sharing yoga with the most unsuspecting yogis.
So, now that I am a yoga teacher/studio owner and regular practitioner of yoga, does that now make me spiritual? I heard once that religion is for people who fear hell, and spirituality is for people that have been there and back. So, if that’s true, sure I guess I would say I am spiritual. “Back” for me means a new beautiful wife, a successful yoga studio, a new body, a new outlook on life and a knowing that where I am and where I have been are all part of my path.
Spirituality to me is about that power within you. It doesn’t mean I have to be a certain way, the beauty is having that power and being able to be myself, who just happens to be super passionate about yoga. I’m still me. Just better (and happier).
The biggest lesson I learned from all of this is, if I wouldn’t have started yoga because of my preconceived notions, I honestly don’t know where I would be today. That is a true statement.
You don’t have to become a certain type of person or have a certain type of body to start yoga, all you have to do is get on a mat. The change will come naturally and it will be different for everyone. Believe me, when you say you can’t do those crazy poses, I get where you are coming from, but based on experience, there’s a pretty good chance you’re wrong.
Judd Albring is the owner Power Yoga Chicago and Baptiste trained yoga teacher in Chicago, Illinois. Yoga changed his life and has allowed him the opportunity to live a healthy life after a long addiction to drugs and alcohol. He now shares his passion for yoga on a daily basis through his teaching, through his beginner friendly community events at his studio, and through his upcoming video series. “Yoga has not only changed my body but has changed the way I think and act towards others, but most importantly towards myself. Now, I love to share my story with others and reinforce the message that yoga really is for everybody.”
Editor: Jennifer Townsend