How Yoga Changed The Way I See Myself And My Body

I closed my eyes, tilted my head up to the ever-expanding sky, and inhaled with more ease and mindfulness than I had in years. I thought to myself how easy it is to forget something as unassumingly pure as the breath. And how human it feels to relish it again. I opened my arms wide, freedom struck my soul, and I surrendered – surrendered to what, I wasn’t certain. To the universe? To others? To myself? All I knew was that it felt like everything at once. It felt like bliss.

I remember it so vividly, the inner peace and acceptance I felt during that first backbend – the internal shift that would forever change me, eternally shape me. It’s interesting: everyone is so transfixed with extended periods of time, when I find that the most unshakable, overpowering, terrifying things can happen in merely a fraction of a second. I realized in that moment, that perfectly vulnerable moment, that if I didn’t start letting things go, they would consume me. My heart changed, or at least I finally began to understand it, and the healing began.

This past year has proved to be one of unbroken transformation, some of the most hauntingly breathtaking and raw days of my life – openness in the midst of love, heart in the midst of pain, forgiveness in the midst of betrayal, more splendor than I’d ever noticed was there. Through it all, though, I simply breathe. I move and I breathe. Because, if my yoga practice has taught me anything, it’s this: sometimes, that’s more than enough.

And because of this breath I’ve nourished, this movement I’ve cultivated, because of understanding, because of patience, I feel one step closer to repairing the fucked up relationship I’ve had with my body and with myself. Sustaining my yoga practice and loving on this body of mine has left me in complete awe of what the little shell I inhabit is capable of – what my heart and lungs and limbs and brain do for me, every single day, without asking for much in return. Only love. I was destructive with these precious things for so long that I truly believed they would never forget, that I would never repair the damage I’d done. But the love that my body has shown me, despite how I’ve hurt it, and the truths that it has revealed to me, once I actually began to listen, have been really profound.

Getting in touch with my own physical body again, noticing the way my lungs fill and my belly expands, challenging my balance, breathing through discomfort, smiling when I fall out of a headstand and remember that I’m only human, that, despite imperfection and doubt, I’m more than worth it – this part of the practice is invaluable. It’s fed my soul in a way that’s impossible to really put into words, and I’m still trying to fathom the magnitude of it all, but it’s almost as if I can feel pieces of me, beams of my light and love and energy, releasing into the room, to the people around me, to the entire world.

I’ve begun the slow process of opening my heart, not only letting out the light that begs to be seen, but also allowing the dark and messy parts to be seen, as well. Because it’s the duality of this radiance and this darkness that makes us all so effortlessly human. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself at the end of class, laying totally exposed and content in final savasana, tears streaming down my face. Maybe it’s because, in these moments, I can practically feel the love and connection and gratitude pouring out of me – love for myself, appreciation for my body and how many times it’s saved itself when I was intent on destroying it.

I’ve survived an eating disorder that was hell-bent on ending my life. I’ve loved through loss. I’ve persevered through pain and sadness that I thought was insurmountable. And I finally realize that I don’t necessarily have to understand these things in order to trust the journey, in order to surrender. I simply have to move, to breathe, to receive, to emit the light within me, the light that is innately within all of us, that refuses to dim. You are so beloved by the universe, a teacher once told me, that you are being stalked by grace. She’s right, I’ve realized.

Ultimately, I’m nowhere near perfect. But shit, life isn’t either. And that’s what makes it wonderful – wonderful in a way that’s so fucking spectacular it almost hurts. The fact that I can see and touch and observe and free my heart – that’s beautiful. The fact that I can wake up each morning and be assured by the sun’s presence echoing through my window – that’s beautiful. And the fact that I can be wounded and still choose love, to feel broken and still trust, to feel scared as hell but do it anyway, that’s damn beautiful, too. And as catastrophic as this dull aching and loss and internal war may have seemed at one point, I’ve uncovered something huge about myself. That I could experience it all and survive, bloom even. TC mark

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