I had been wanting to begin a blog regarding my yoga journey for some time. I thought that it would help me to process the many things that are going on in my life. As well as show that the journey is in fact that, a journey. It is not easy, it is not pretty, nor is it a lovely walk amongst the meadows and flowers. It is more like Frodo trekking through Mordor. Or Bilbo, excited for adventure, journeying to places he has never been before. It is beautiful and fascinating but, the crap does hit the fan occasionally and you may nearly be eaten by a troll. Okay, enough with the Tolkien analogies (big fan over here if you haven't guessed yet). So let's begin.
If you read my "About" section, you will know a little bit of how I came to practice yoga. I had an eating disorder. First, it was Bulimia, eating a bunch of stuff and then throwing it all up about 5 minutes later. Then it turned to anorexia, just not eating. Usually with an eating disorder we're pretty good at hiding how prevalent it is, until you keep making comments of how fat you are when you're a size zero. Growing up in Los Angeles is hard. There are so many messages in the media and magazines of how and what you should look like. What is acceptable, what is beautiful. Eventually, it wreaks mental havoc in your mind and you are cruel and hurtful to your body. Desperately trying to fit in to impress the ever evasive, accepting audience. I realised I had a problem on a couple of occasions. The first one was at a family event. I was going on about being fat and "my rolls" when my cousin pointed out to me how skinny I was and that I didn't have anything there. I honestly couldn't see it. I saw myself as a big, fat person. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, unless there were no creases on my stomach, I couldn't believe I wasn't fat. And even if I was, so what? Just goes to show how low my confidence and self worth were; which is still sometimes a struggle (more on that in another post). Now I know that I had body dysmorphia. Before I knew the term or what it was, I was curious about what was going on in my brain and curious as to why I couldn't see what everyone else saw. The second time I realised that something wasn't right, was when we were shown a film about a girl with an eating disorder in high school. At one point in the film, she was standing in front of the mirror, pulling at and hitting herself. She was so thin you could see every rib. I remember watching the film and the feelings of shock and shame that surfaced when I thought to myself: "she does what I do when I'm alone in front of the mirror."
After that, I knew that I needed to do something to help myself to get out of where I was. That is when I discovered yoga. I used to get the occasional fitness magazine and in one of them was an article about yoga, with some poses to do. At the time I was working out 3-4 hours a day with my boyfriend at the time, lots of cardio, weightlifting, etc. Yoga was a great contrast to all the intense, powerful, fast-paced workouts I was doing. I didn't feel so guilty doing it as I knew I was doing some form of physical exercise. Guilt of not working out: another way of mentally harming and shaming myself of not being good enough. I enjoyed the short sequence from the magazine so much that I decided to go to Target to get a mat and DVD (I was doing yoga on a beach towel or just the floor). I went to the fitness section, found a purple (my favourite colour) mat for $17.99 or $19.99 and I picked up a Rodney Yee Beginner's Yoga DVD. For quite some time I did the 30minute sequence on the DVD. Then I would alternate between longer ones. Gradually, without me noticing or realising, I began to love and appreciate myself a little more.
Yoga isn't always pretty, although sometimes in photos it looks like it. Yoga is hard. It is intense teaching yourself how to master your breath. To make that inhalation and exhalation ever so slightly longer. Engaging your navel to your spine, activating your hands and your feet. I was so focused on doing all these things correctly, I didn't care what I looked like on my mat. It became my safe place. The place I could go to where I wasn't unkind to myself, I didn't say hurtful things or judge myself harshly. I wasn't pulling at my stomach in various directions, slapping and hitting myself for having a little 'meat.' I just practiced. I moved with each breath, smiling from time to time when Rodney would talk about how some poses were childlike; and I felt free. My mat became my safe place of peace and love. It still is. Whenever I feel that I am getting stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, I roll out my mat and practice. Sometimes it is just a few sun salutations, at other times backbends and twists, sometimes all three of those. If I don't have my mat, then I go to the wall and kick up to a handstand or gradually raise my legs, one at a time, into a headstand. Holding either for a minute or two, until I feel my breath ease and slow down. Then I take child pose, placing my forehead on the ground, re-centering myself, practicing gratitude.
The point is, we all come to yoga for different reasons. How we arrive doesn't really matter, it is how you show up for yourself each and every moment.
And so, the journey continues...