From Cocaine to Camel Pose: How Yoga Ruined My Life.

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Camel Pose

Warning: Adult language ahead!


Over the past several years yoga has destroyed my life.

No really, once upon a time, every morning I woke up early and actually put make-up on to impress people I didn’t particularly like; I kept a scale in my bathroom; I was constantly reading those horrible trend magazines to make sure I had the coolest whatever and my idea of relaxation was online shopping and the Kardashians.

But when yoga became important to me (and I mean more than “a couple times a week, fuck the gym, sometimes crying in my yoga class in front of the all-knowing ganesh and why am I drinking this green shit, but I can’t stop” important to me), that other stuff became really silly.

Those people I didn’t like, I didn’t need to impress, as much.

My body became less of a battlefield and more of a garden where the more time, patience and appreciation I cultivated, the more I could actually believe those stupid affirmations my therapist made me say in the morning.

I am bright. I am brilliant. I am strong.

Handstand tells me so, even if I do shake and quiver and sweat and fall, I have a core goddammit.

I became less involved with what others liked, and more invested in what I wanted. Something that had never occurred to me before.

What does Raychel want?

But it was definitely baby steps. The more body and soul awareness I gained, as it says in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Yoga citta vritti nirodhah.” (Shortly translated, yoga is the union of the mind, body and spirit.)

But I didn’t know that when I began practicing. Somehow, the day I knew I wanted to work on parsjva bhuja dandasana in my habitual 9am class, was a huge breakthrough.

I began to find some clarity in my life.

For a gal who ran away from home when she was 14 to live on a beach with her boyfriend across the country then changed her mind, that’s a big deal.

For a gal who’d rather turn to drugs or eating disorders than deal with anything since adolescence, that’s a big deal.

But in retrospect, it doesn’t matter if you’re a workaholic or an alcoholic, we all get overwhelmed. Sometimes, it seems like our power to choose has run off. We look up at this big mess of life we created and think, how did we get here?

But when I practiced yoga I found a sense of empowerment. I could say yes to life and say no to vinyasa when I was tired.

I found dedication. Something that I have never valued before. But when I had a 6am wake up to take the bus across the city to my favorite class, no chance in hell was I going out the night before. A sister’s got priorities.

Most of all I found my smile again. I found something I was totally in love with and excited about. I stopped taking life too seriously and remembered to breathe.

And when the time came for me to either move back to the art school that didn’t really make me happy or enroll in a yoga teacher training, I stuck around my studio. And it felt right.

Who knows if I met all the criteria in those, “Are you ready for a Yoga Teacher Training?” articles you read on elephant journal or some shit—probably not.

Are my parents still questioning their youthful daughter’s life decisions to chant om and save up paychecks for Bhakti Fest? Probably.

But still, I’m sitting here in my hard tail yoga pants and a cut up shirt I got from Red Rocks Amphitheater last summer (nowhere near as close to finishing school as I should be). Nowhere near as financially stable as I once dreamed of being.

But you know, today is a good day. Because I get to do what I love, and no one can ever take that away.

Bonus: Ana Forrest with fierce tools to work through our pain.

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About Raychel McMahon

Raychel McMahon is a barefooted, pizza eating, art school drop out. Her parents are confused about her life choices to be a yoga teacher when she grows up but they’ll come around. She has been teaching since she was 18 years old and is currently operating out of Salt Lake City, UT. She loves all things hot pink, spicy, and yoga or bicycle related. She is a Gemini, Pitta-Kapha and overall hot mess. Be friends with her on Facebook or Instagram.


15 Responses to “From Cocaine to Camel Pose: How Yoga Ruined My Life.”

  1. Brandee Hudson says:

    Wow Raychel, I had no idea. Yoga is saving my life right now too! I am 150 days sober from drinking and that is HUGE! I could NOT have done it without Yoga and all of you amazing souls that I've met at Bhakti Yoga Lounge. My life has done a 360 in 5 months and I couldn't be more happy! And I am so happy and proud of you sister! We ARE ONE! Namaste!

  2. Lin says:

    Wow Raychel! Your honesty and authenticity here just rock! I'm so happy that you found yoga – found that sweet something that makes your heart sing! (Plus, I get to practice with you, beauty!)

  3. jane says:

    i love yoga, i feel like am a new person.

  4. Alex says:

    Really cool article that I can relate to in a literal sense. I used to do a ton of cocaine and once I got into doing Yoga daily I found that I had to make a choice between blow and open nasal passages. I’m happy to say that I chose the latter and consequently I haven’t done a line of coke in over 2 years. Cocaine is the opposite of Yoga – you feel good for about an hour and then crappy and depressed for the next 23. In Yoga you work your ass off for an hour and then feel great the rest of the day.

  5. Jessica says:

    Pitta Kapha and hot pink and spicy yikes. Wow. Buckle your seatbelt girrrrrrl.
    I identify with you .Yoga on. Thanks for the article.

  6. pauline says:

    Great article! Yoga also save my life, same way, november 2012 after only one week in Kaivalyadhama ashram in Pune, India… So nice to read similar experiences! Thanks

  7. Jeneen says:

    Yep, I can relate. Yoga changes so many things about the way we look at ourselves – and the world. I learn something new in every class. Really. Whether it's something about a pose or the way I think about the pose…it's always enlightening. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  8. Erica says:

    Wow – I completely identify with your words. It's such a hugely transformative process.

  9. Cass says:

    Really interesting article… but am perplexed by the title 'how yoga ruined my life'. I guess it was meant to be ironic… 🙂

  10. Noemi says:

    Wow! 😀 I'm happy for you.. Only a question: is there a "kind of yoga" you would advice? I'm a "newbie" and I would like to know more about it.

  11. SireneB says:

    @Cass – Yoga ruined the life she had before.

  12. Cima says:

    hi Raychel,

    Love this article. Definitely made me laugh and encouraged me out of bed to go to my 6am class!

    I’m actually commenting on the video you posted of Ana Forrest. I watched about 5 minutes and was absolutely shocked at seeing her holding a stone from Uluru Australia. I’ve never posted a comment before but felt moved to ask, if you know her, please pass on the message that the native custodians of the land have always requested and rightly so, not to take peices from their sacred religious site. It’s kind of like going to a cathedral, temple, mosque or synagogue and chopping off a bit of the wall so you can take it away and meditate with it. Not cool!

    Actually it is quite well known that thousands of tourists over the years have sent back stones they’ve taken with an apology to the native people. Some even reporting they believed the stones were cursed. I don’t want to perpetuate any fear or negativity just passing in a message that means a lot to the native custodians of the land I call home.


  13. carrie says:

    whoa. …"For a gal who’d rather turn to drugs or eating disorders than deal with anything since adolescence, that’s a big deal."…I too, a Gemini and a Pitta-Kapha, as well as in recovery from, well, just about everything- am realizing I need more yoga in my life. thank you for this. peace. blessings. love.

  14. sallympaul says:

    From a fellow hot-mess Gemini…AMEN!

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