I genuinely used to believe that yoga saved me.
In fact, I wrote an entire article about how yoga saved me. But in reality, it didn’t.
In high school and some of college, I really struggled with my body image. Many of my close friends and family members battled life-sucking eating disorders and in many ways, that influenced me. Because I couldn’t fully understand the root of their struggles, I believed my body was probably wrong to them also. I didn’t want to be judged.
From a young age, I believed my body’s appearance determined my worth. And though my eating habits were never drastically influenced, my mind became consumed by my body’s natural fluctuations and I’ve closely monitored them ever since.
Every morning, for many years, I’d wake up and the very first thing I’d do was glide my hands down my naked body until they rested on each hip. The protrusion of my bones (or lack thereof) would immediately determine the trajectory of my day; because how I felt in my body (according to my mind) was a direct reflection of how I’d choose to show up in the world—with confidence or insecurity. As a perfectionist, it was often the latter.
I was 18 years old the first time I gave yoga a try. Before that, I had many different movement practices that beautifully supported me through those tougher, insecure years, but I had never really met my breath. When I finally learned the dance of breathing into each movement, I discovered a new kind of freedom.
Inhale. Arms up. Exhale. Hands to heart. Inhale. Arms up. Exhale. Bow.
Remembering how and when to breathe pushed out the space for any intrusive thoughts to flood in. It was the first time I truly felt in my body. It was a returning home.
Before I experienced this intentional connection to my breath, my mind would determine how I felt in my body. I’d feel my hips, my brainwashed brain would tell me they were too cushioned, and I’d resent my precious vessel. My mind was full, but it was a mindless act.
I still haven’t broken the habit of feeling my hips in the morning. It’s been a ritual for as long as I can remember. And though I still struggle with feelings of worthiness from time to time, I’ve since learned how to transform this mindless act into a mindful one through the power of my breath.
My hands are on my hips, I breathe deeply into my bones, and I move my hands to my heart. “How do you feel here?” I ask myself—because that is what’s important.
Yoga taught me this. I learned how to use my breath with purpose and return to my body with mindfulness instead of mind fullness.
Dropping into my body, connecting to myself, and returning home to my truth brought me so much more confidence and as a result, the insecurities showed up less and less. I felt saved from my dysmorphic body image and I thought yoga was my savior.
Yoga was never my savior. And yoga will never be my savior because I am, and will always be, my own savior. And the same is true for you.
Yoga didn’t save you. Yoga won’t save you. You will save you. Again and again and again, you will save yourself. And for the rest of your life, you will have to continue saving yourself because every single day requires the strength to show up.
My yoga mat doesn’t roll itself out. I am the one who rolls out my mat and dances with my breath. I am the one who releases stored emotions in my hips. I am the one who breaks open my heart as an offering to the universe. I am the one who breathes this breath. I set myself free.
Yoga is a tool that can teach us so much, but we must give ourselves the credit we deserve. Give yourself that power.
Nothing outside of ourselves will ever be able to save us. We need to recognize that relying on what’s external to us is no longer an option. Yes, we have so many tools we can use (and I encourage you to use them!), but if we continue to give those tools all the credit, how will we ever truly believe in ourselves?
Practice yoga. Go for a run. Meditate. See a therapist. Take a walk in nature. Use all the damn tools you want, but remember that using those tools is your choice. You are the one who shows up. You are the one who is putting in the work to overcome the adversities you face.
You are a divine, powerful being and you deserve all the credit.