In 2014, my life was a mess. I had recently gone through a pretty bad break-up; I was working a high-stress job, where working 55 hours a week was the minimum; and my back was in constant pain from sitting at a desk (and in traffic) all day. One afternoon, while chatting with my coworker Christine, we decided to be more active despite the long hours at the office. We found a yoga studio close by and went in for our first class.
I remember it vividly. The room was full of people—mostly women, but there were a handful of guys as well. Ashley, the teacher noticed our new faces and introduced herself to us. We set up in the back and got ready for class to start. The next 75 minutes would impact my life more than I would know. Moving through the poses was hard and sweaty work! I never thought yoga would be that difficult, but I was so wrong! The class finally came to an end and we were laying there in Savasana, corpse pose—and I definitely felt like one. In those last few moments of class, I felt the most peace I had experienced in months, if not years!
Needless to say, I was hooked. I began practicing regularly, taking 4-5 classes a week. Over the next few months, my life shifted. I started exploring the limits of my body as I moved in class. As I got stronger, my back pain went away and I developed a deeper understanding of the causes and triggers for my back pain. The calm and peace I experienced after class also facilitated my self-discovery as I was able to differentiate what was important to me and what I was told was important. I became more comfortable in my own skin and my insecurities had less of an impact on my psyche. Up to that point, most of my life was spent trying to meet my family’s expectations: get straight A’s in school—which I was never able to accomplish; become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer—neither of which interested me; and get a good paying job with a 401(k)—they had a good point on this one. With where I was in life, I felt like quite the disappointment to my family, even though I had the good paying job with the 401(k).
My life changed over the next four years as I continued my practice. My career evolved from dreading going to work every day to looking forward to each day and even coming in to work early! With a renewed sense of purpose, I wake up every day and work towards achieving my goals without reservation. I stopped making excuses for not pursuing my dreams and took responsibility for my life. For years, my excuse for not travelling was that I was too busy or didn’t have enough money to travel. I took small vacations and did freelance work to pay for my trips. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and wanted to pursue a career in the culinary arts, but was discouraged from following that career path by my family. I finally made the commitment and enrolled myself into a cooking course to learn how to improve my culinary skills. I made time for things that were important to me instead of excuses. My relationships improved and I made lots of new friends in the yoga community, some who became integral parts of my life over the next few years.
Over the years, I’ve met hundreds of people who began their practice for various reasons: going with a friend, trying to meet a girl, increasing flexibility, working on arm balances and inversions, connecting to a spiritual practice, or coping with anxiety and depression. The thing I’ve realized is that we all stayed with the practice because it gave us more than we were looking for. It gave us a space to explore and grow in a supportive environment. It’s our mat, our journey—and the journey is easier with friends.