“As we think and act so our world becomes.” The Dhammapadda
I remember going on my first diet when I was thirteen years old. And since that tender, early age I had been struggling with what I believed was a weight problem all my life. It wasn’t until I started taking yoga classes, becoming a yoga teacher, and finally going through yoga therapy training that I fully understood I didn’t have a weight problem, I had a self-acceptance problem. Through most of my young adulthood I believed I was not thin enough, pretty enough, knowledgeable enough etc. etc. Yoga helped change how I viewed myself. Even better, yoga helped me break from my negative thinking patterns that went into the obsessive realm particularly when I was denying myself of food. Yoga helped heal me in three ways:
1. I learned to live more in the present moment. “I think, therefore I am,” is a famous philosophical phrase once spoken by Rene Descartes, and before yoga came into my life this is how I lived. Every thought that occurred in my mind was my reality. If I worried that my house was not clean enough for neighbors to visit, that was my reality. Never mind that the neighbors were coming over to see me and did not notice the dust in the corners. When I started taking yoga, the instructor said to “just breath, feel and listen to your body”. For the first time in a long time my mind stopped racing and I noticed my breath and began relaxing. I began to connect with a self that was non-critical, non-judging and beautiful just the way she was at that moment. She was inside me all my life but somehow I lost that connection within me. I now try to live by the philosophy, “I breathe, therefore I am”…. a much gentler way to live one’s life.
2. I became more compassionate with myself. In the past I was my harshest critic. I beat myself up if I could not fit in a pair of size 4 jeans. I became depressed every time I weighed myself…every single time. I began to use my breathing techniques I learned in yoga class and therapy training and applied it in my daily living. Rather than being upset when a driver angrily shook his head at me, I now take a deep breath and continue driving, moving on literally and mentally. I haven’t stepped on the dreaded weight scale for almost five years now. How I feel is much more important than a number on a cold metallic platform. When I occasionally do eat that greasy hamburger and French fry plate, instead of thinking negatively, full of regret, I shake it off, take a deep breath and move on. I find I can again start eating healthy the next day because I understand it’s not an all or nothing battle.
3. I have found my own beautiful self. I now understand that I am more than my worries about the future, much more than regrets about the past. I am my breath, my body, my soul and yes, even my busy little mind. I listen to how I feel when I am eating, when I am standing, conversing and engaging with others. I know I am worthy even if others don’t think I am. I try to find beauty in myself and I try to find beauty in others even if they don’t see it. Yoga helped me to see past the external self, to let go of judgment and competition with others. I now understand that we are all the same. We are all struggling in this world together. We are all beautiful and worthy beings.
The best thing about a yoga practice is that you can experience the benefits in the first class or therapy session that you take. You can experience the benefits with your first deep breath you take. However, this is an ongoing process, and the benefits grow exponentially as you stick with it. As time goes by you might also notice you feel calmer in your daily interactions with others. You might find yourself less reactive in life situations. You can recognize when you feel off-balance and try to maintain a positive attitude. Your happiness comes more from nurturing body, mind and spirit rather than external things and depending on others. The benefits of yoga have a snowball effect. So stick with it and understand that yoga is not about doing yoga but rather, it’s about being yoga every moment, every breath of the day.
Guest Teacher Bio: Andrea Mathwich M.A. is a Registered Yoga Instructor who works in Boulder County, Colorado. She recently received her certification from Integrative Yoga Therapy at NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness in yoga with a therapeutic focus. She teaches senior yoga and vinyasa yoga in various settings. Her goals are to help people of all ages to build self-esteem and self-compassion in this increasingly disconnected world.
NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness is a place to Discover Yoga as a Healing Art, offering a private sanctuary in Highlands Ranch for private on-on-one yoga and therapy, 200HR Integrative Yoga Teacher Trainings, private classes, workshops and retreats.