Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How Yoga Helped Me Discover the Truth of Who I Am and How I Want to Feel

Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map Planner lay on the table beside me as I sat down to start this blog post. I've had the idea for the post stirring around in my head for over a month but every time I've tried to write I find myself tangled in details that don't matter and I struggle to get to the heart of what I need to say. When I looked at the cover and saw the question suggested by the planner – What Will You Do to Feel the Way You Want to Feel – I realized I'm already doing one thing that brings me closer to feeling a few of the feels I most desire and it's exactly that thing I want to write about. Maybe I've found my way through the thicket of ideas.

See...I wanted to share with you how yoga saved my life, which I realize sounds utterly over dramatic. 

And perhaps even a bit foolish after I pulled my hamstring by pushing myself deeper into a challenging pose four weeks ago (I'm still recovering, by the way.)

Honestly though, when I revisited yoga this summer after a year long hiatus, I did it because I needed something to quiet the broken-hearted, angry voice in my head that kept telling me that no one loved me, no one would ever love me. That voice had become so loud in the months since moving to Chattanooga that it paralyzed me. To be fair, I already knew physical activity worked better than anything else to quiet my inner critic. Yet, for months I had felt so anchored by the weight of believing the things she said, the things other people said that made me feel worthless, that breaking free of that inertia felt impossible. But I tried. After months of hating myself and my life here, and one especially dark and painful night, I decided I had to find my thing that would allow me to pour all the energy spent feeling miserable into healing. I realized I hated the gyms in Chattanooga. Zumba classes seemed sparse. Pure Barre felt incredible and challenging, but dear Lord, the cost! I enjoy running, but not when it turns hot and humid or too cold. And while I discovered that I love hiking and water sports, you can't really pursue those alone.

So, one day this summer, I pulled out my yoga mat and I haven't looked back. I love power yoga and especially the style of Kurt Johnsen from American Power Yoga. His videos are hard to find online, so I ended up discovering an app called Asana Rebel that has become a big part of my practice.

Before long, that sad and broken voice in my head quieted down. 

Another voice started coming through...one who said things like, "Wow! You just held a plank for two minutes!" One who, rather than telling me I shouldn't bother getting out of bed because my life had no meaning, told me to get my ass on the yoga mat and make that inner critic STFU. I felt better. Actually, not just better, but at peace. For the first time in a long time, I chose joy and the things that made me feel happy over wallowing in my pain. Each day as I continued working toward a daily yoga practice, I not only felt more peaceful and calmer, I began to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in my effort. Not feelings I had felt a lot since giving up my marketing job to move to a city where I hadn't found work.

And...for the first time ever – or at least since my 20s – I realized I didn't hate my body. Well, at least not quite as much. In fact, I began to see and appreciate both my body's strength and its beauty as yoga transformed both my body and the way I saw myself. Ive spent most of my lifetime hating my body. Even as a 113-lb. bikini-clad 22-year old. I feel sad that I couldn't love myself then or see how I really looked to others. Even now as I've progressed I still struggle with that, but I know I'm getting better. Finally, at 47, I can accept my body, appreciate its ability to change and grow stronger and see its beauty, even as I recognize its flaws.

Most remarkably, I've stopped comparing myself to other women. 

Yoga philosophy consistently stresses the idea that competition and comparison have no place in our yoga practice. Rather, yoga provides the opportunity to advance at your own pace, build your physical and inner strength as you discover resources within yourself you did not previously recognize, and to go deep within yourself to awaken parts of your being you tried to tame or repress. Yoga allows you put aside any comparison to others, any fear of being judged, so that you can connect with your true self and rediscover the joy of loving your self and living authentically.

So, when I say yoga saved my life, I'm not exaggerating. Yoga helped me, still helps me, accept myself, love myself, and live fully as myself, whether anyone else likes me or not. In fact, as I began this journey I realized that if I wanted to accept myself, I had to be okay with letting people see the real me. I began posting selfies that I knew might look unflattering. No makeup. Sweaty. In poses that revealed the things I felt most ashamed of like tummy rolls or chubby arms. I had to let myself sit with that shame and fear that the Queen Bees I once compared myself to would see that and laugh. Or my husband would see it and cringe. Sometimes the only way past a feeling is to feel it. And I did. As I exposed myself I realized that some people saw more than my flaws. My fellow yogis saw commitment, effort, a desire to grow and learn and connect and live fully. They cheered me on with support and advice. Friends told me they saw something in me they hadn't before. Some reached out to tell me that my yoga posts inspired them to try it themselves. Now, I feel a part of a tribe of people around the world who see truth and light and wonder and humanity in one another.

And, for the first time in a long time, I feel how I want to feel – loved, at peace, joyful, and like I'm living authentically for me and not in service of trying to emulate someone I've deemed more perfect than myself. 

At least most of the time, anyway. My journey goes on...so much remains to learn and to do and I find that incredibly thrilling and hope-inspiring. Every day does not feel perfect, yet every day offers the opportunity to breathe and feel my way through the darkness and into the light...one asana at a time.

Now, my sweet loves, decide what to be
and go be it. 

P.S. To celebrate the upcoming new year and the fact that I am very close to having my first 1,000 Instagram followers, I want to give away a gift. First, I have been so happy to be asked to become an ambassador for FGMovement.com, purveyors of activewear that does good in the world. Feel Good Movement sells inspiring activewear made from recylcled materials and for every item of clothing they sell, they donate one to groups that provide clothing for those in need. They have given me a discount code good for 30% off your order at fgmovement.com so you can start tackling your fitness goals while doing good. Just enter belleoftheblog30 at checkout.

Next, I want to give one lucky reader or follower the gift of my favorite uplifting essential oil, Young Living Joy. A beautiful blend of jasmine, rose, citrus, and other oils designed to raise your vibration, Joy smells amazing and does a wonderful job lifting your spirit. For your chance to win, leave a comment, follow me on Instagram, leave me a comment on IG telling me why you do yoga or what you do to quiet your inner critic, and tag a friend on Instagram who needs to read this post.