“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Take a step.
It was around the age of 25 when I first stepped onto a yoga mat. My body shook, my muscles screamed, there was pain, frustration, blame, fear, sadness and questions.
As all if this came to a head, I walked out of class somehow feeling lighter, things had changed; the light over the mountains as the sun set looked more beautiful. I had stepped into the flow of the present, no longer stuck in the past or worrying about the future. It. was. awesome. Something shifted, but it didn’t stay. It came and went with yoga practice until longer periods of this “bliss” became more regular, even when I wasn’t practicing.
Before yoga, I identified with a lot of sports. I’ve always experienced things through my physical body. I also had an eating disorder starting from when I was 14. I’m 34 now. If you’ve struggled with an eating disorder or any addiction, you know that it never completely goes away. There is a delicate balance to maintain and sometimes that voice calls to tell you that you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy and you could be better. You feel a loss of control and then the ability to gain it back, a constant cycle of self-harm in an attempt to just be good enough.
It is from this experience that I can say that yoga saved my life, my body, my mind and my spirit. It is from this experience that I call yoga a path of healing.
It has called me to remember who I am. To embrace all of my experiences as an expression of who I am: completely whole and perfect, as you are whole and perfect.
It takes a lot of discipline laced with struggle to get yourself to maintain a yoga practice. This is how it was in the beginning. It takes finding your warrior spirit to show up and face the temple of your body, your mind and your heart. It takes opening up rooms and finding doors you never knew existed. Some doors are locked, waiting for you to find the key and to be brave enough to find out what’s behind them.
Everything comes to a point on your yoga mat through sweat, tears, emotions and laughter. You’re backed into a corner with no choice but to open your eyes, your heart and your mind. In this place, you realize that all of the monsters, fears, struggles, embarrassments, failures and humiliations are all your friends! They’re just as much a part of you as all of the things that you love about yourself. You wouldn’t be you without the culmination of all the experiences you have had up until now.
As I practiced, the need to control things gently faded away. I developed an appreciation for my body that I hadn’t yet had. I started to see the things that were great about me and even appreciate all of the imperfections. I developed gratitude. I found a way to lovingly express myself through my body, singing, chanting, meditating and feeling. I just wanted to feel and be. My connection to the earth became more solid and meaningful.
I realized that I no longer had to be in pain within body, mind and spirit. Pain is what made me feel alive. I didn’t feel good enough, worthy enough, pretty enough or lovable enough. And I was not alone.
As the strength of my body grew, the strength of my spirit grew. The things that I needed to do became more clear and it became easier to say no to the things that no longer served me. This spanned myself, my friends, boyfriends, patterns, addictions, jobs, where I lived and how my actions affected other people, and seemingly my whole entire world.
We have all been told that to be happy, we have to start with ourselves by taking a good, hard look into ourselves. What started out to be a “selfish” practice turned into a selfless practice. I realized I was not alone; it’s not all about me. I’m part of a big, beautiful web and I can contribute to it.
Letting go of the ego is a constant practice. After all, we are still human here. As we gain more power and self-worth, how do we express this in a healthy way? The answer: empower others. This brings me to the reason I want to share my story and my experience. This story could very well be the story of many others.
Yoga may not be the path for everyone. There are many paths. I recently read a quote by Lewis Carroll, who said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Take a step.
It takes bravery to lead with and trust your heart, and to ultimately speak from your heart. The sound of my own voice terrified me. It verified to me that I was weak and not worthy of being heard, but I kept talking, kept listening, talking louder and louder until that voice that kept trying to shrink me back was drowned out. I now know that not everyone is going to like what I do or have to say. The difference is, it doesn’t affect who or what I am. Another great quote: “What other people think about me is none of my business.” Practice, sing, shout, whisper, be silent. It’s all good!
The idea that I can live my life with less struggle, giving and receiving, meaningfully contributing to humanity and the greater good brings me so much joy. With all of this said, I come back to the human condition. It will be hard, I will fail, fall and get back up again, change directions, make the wrong choices, get angry, gain it all and then lose it all, say the wrong things, make mistakes, hurt others, hurt myself, waste things, take too much and give too little, hold back for fear of failure, say yes when I mean no, and the list goes on… However, I know that I can’t fail as long as I go on trying and with only one expectation, love.
I bow with reverence to all of the teachers in my life, every single person. My biggest inspirations have been my yoga teachers, their lives, their teachings, encouragement, and support. I bow to life itself and for the life I’ve been given. To my parents, sisters and brothers, and family: I love you so much. I would not give up my placement in this world for any other circumstance. It couldn’t happen this perfect again.
Amber DeHerrera is a Registered Nurse living in Durango, Colorado. Born and raised in Pueblo, CO, she loves everything about the mountains and Colorado living. She practices and teaches yoga at Yogadurango. She is about to embark on a second medical mission to Haiti this January 2013. The practice of Yoga has been a huge influence in all aspects of her life, especially as a healing path. Practicing service off of the mat has become her main source of inspiration for teaching and practicing.
Editor: Alisha Kay Bull