April 10, 2014

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


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.

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Raychel McMahon

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Editor: Travis May