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May 17, 2017

Six ways Yoga Saved Me.

I came to yoga feeling lost.

I had no idea what I was doing or what yoga truly was. At first, I treated yoga as another physical exercise routine but soon found out that yoga was abundantly more than physical movement. Yoga was light. It was love. It was peace. Yoga would pierce my soul in a way nothing else had, and I would cling onto that harder than life.

I upheld a devout yoga practice for years until it crumbled around my feet, an old building no longer served to house my soul.

But let me back up a bit.

When I first came to yoga, I was lost. But you knew that already. I was lost in the spiral of an aggressive, restrictive eating disorder and each day was a battle. I had to fight to eat. Fight to leave my room. Fight to be myself.

And then yoga came along. I bought a mat and laid it on my bedroom floor where it waited for me to begin my journey. I went through the movements for a few weeks, when suddenly I felt my soul crack open. Out poured possibility, love, and recovery.

I kept with the practice well into years of recovery until I was face to face with a relapse. I continued with the practice, and with therapy and the support of my friends and family, I recovered again.

Yoga was there when I felt nothing and no one else could understand. Yoga didn’t care about my weight, my intelligence, or anything that caused me low self-esteem. Yoga just wanted me to breathe and connect. There was no judgement, no pride, no competition. Yoga was a place—my place—where I could let my guard down and be vulnerable. I could cry hard, and still feel the peaceful presence of yoga. I found comfort in knowing that my body could take up space, that my heart would swell with pride for the way my body moved without doubt through the asanas. Yoga was my temple.

And then I saw my mom die. Right in front of me. It was horrendous and sudden, and I couldn’t for the life of me grab onto reality without falling apart. Suddenly, yoga was no longer my temple because I couldn’t stand to be in a space where part of my foundation had vanished. My very core was rocked, and I had no idea how the hell I would claw my way out of the pit I had fallen into.

My practice fell to the wayside, it hurt to practice.

I hated myself. I hated my body. And worst of all, I was angry—at the universe, at myself, at yoga. I refused to step onto the mat for a year and a half. My heart couldn’t bare the light that yoga would bring. So I cried, and I did some soul searching.

And then I found yoga again. I found yoga through the grief of my mom who I missed with every fibre of my being. I found yoga through the grief of the baby I want so badly but haven’t been blessed with yet.

So today, when I stepped on my mat, I found myself grieving what I want but cannot have. I sobbed through the asanas. I was angry through the asanas. I found myself in Child’s pose, sobbing and pounding the mat, damning it for what I can’t have; and then I found myself wrapped in light and in love. Despite all the upset I had brought to yoga today, it showed me light through loving me. It did not falter. It did not push me away and tell me to not come back. It stayed; sturdy and rooted it let me grow, it let me heal.

So yes, yoga is my savior. Yoga has shown me who I am even when I feel I have nothing left to give. Today, in this new year, I am thankful for the beauty of my practice.

Here’s how I reconnected to myself through yoga after losing myself completely.

1. I was gentle with myself. This is something I tell my clients a lot, and when I started taking my own advice, well, things started to turn around. Being gentle with myself was a revelation. If I felt like I was pushing myself too hard, I stopped, took some deep breaths, and asked myself if pushing was going to serve me well. If my answer was no, I stopped, put the mat away, and did something else that nourished my soul.

2. I let it all out. This is a lesson I learned after my mom passed away. I spent so much time holding everything in and trying to be strong that when it came time to practice yoga, my body wasn’t able to function the way I needed it to. So, I let it all out—my emotions, that is. I cried, screamed, and even found myself spilling out my anger onto the mat. It was wild and visceral and sometimes it scared me. But still, I let it out.

3. Finding peace takes time. Yeah, I know. This is not easy to hear. I didn’t much like it either. And in fact, it’s a hard lesson to grasp. Peace takes time; sometimes a lot of time. But the point is, go through the motions and it’ll happen when the universe speaks it to be true.

4. I took my time. This comes from point three. Seriously, take your time getting back in the swing of things. Yoga, like everything else, is a process. Don’t hurt yourself. Savor the little progressive victories you have in your practice.

5. I was mindful. This should be something we do everyday, all the time. In the world we live in, mindfulness is hard to instill. But in a yoga practice, I’ve found it to be essential. I was sure to be mindful of my breath, my body, and my emotions. Doing this helped me reconnect with myself on a spiritual level, and that connection is what helped me when I was feeling lost.

6. I got rid of shame. Getting rid of shame is difficult, but it’s essential in healing. I list this as the last step because it’s often the last to follow through. Once I was gentle, loving, and accepting of myself, shame started to float away. And when it comes back, I must remind myself that shame is no longer something I value.

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“What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.” ~ Brene Brown

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Author: Ericka Kelley 
Image: Lena Bell/Unsplash
Editor: Taia Butler

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