“Yoga is the art work of awareness on the canvas of body, mind, and soul.”
― Amit Ray
As a child, I never considered myself an athlete at all as I was very uncoordinated. However, I did love to run because I felt as if I was flying but this all changed two years ago when I suffered a knee injury. I was bedridden for two weeks and I had a difficult time walking even short distances. I literally cried myself on my way to the car for a few days. Not being able to function on my own accord, I decided to take matters into my own hands when therapy wasn’t working well for me and signed up for a hot yoga class, Bikram Yoga to be exact. Starting a yoga practice was truly a godsend because it helped me gain strength in my knees but, most importantly, yoga helped me attain a more peaceful state of mind, body, and spirit.
Through practicing mindfulness in every hot yoga class, I learned to become more aware of my thoughts during stressful situations. Since each class was heated to 105 degrees, every time I stepped foot in the yoga studio I would feel a surge of negative thoughts come upon me like a big ocean wave. Some of these thoughts were, in the beginning of my practice, so strong that I actually walked out of class several times. However, as the months passed by, I noticed that when I was able to remain calm and not get swayed away by my negative thoughts I could stay in the hot room for longer. It took about 3-4 months for me to finally not walk out of the studio as much as I used to and it was all through becoming aware of my mind chatter. Taking this skill into my daily life has helped me tremendously because, when I feel that surge of negativity come, I know to stop and become aware of my surroundings instead of letting the thoughts bring me down.
After the 3-4 months of practicing hot yoga, I soon started noticing physical improvements in areas I’ve never noticed before. For example, my arms and legs were beginning to get definition. I also woke up with so much more energy than I had before starting my yoga practice and gradually starting shedding the pounds from my body. When I first started doing yoga in November 2016 I weighed 215 lbs. and had very little energy. Yoga literally made me feel as if I had taken a shot of espresso or energy drink and just gave me that burst that has helped my knees heal and made my overall health better. The most interesting note about how yoga helped my physical body is that it taught me to eat differently. Not only did I begin to eat slower to chew my food and savor it, but also yoga created different cravings in my body for more healthy foods.
Since being in a very hot room can be uncomfortable as it is, not drinking enough water was something that was a problem for me at first. After a while, however, I not only drank enough water to last me during class but I also started dropping a lot of junk food out of my eating plan. The reason why eating low energy foods was something I gradually let go of as my practice developed was due to the breathless feeling I would regularly get during class. Wanting to actually be able to breathe was important to me so I decided to eat better in order to perform better in class. This was something I couldn’t consciously fathom doing prior to starting my hot yoga practice. As I saw some of my classmates do poses that looked appealing to me, I started to think maybe I could do them too. Therefore, yoga helped show me that I have no real limitations physically unless I set those limitations myself through eating junk and thinking in negative, limiting terms.
Even though the physical and mental changes would’ve been enough for me since I lost over 100 lbs. between Nov. 2014-October 2016, yoga brought me to a place in my life where I truly understood the connection between mind and body. Through the daily practice of being mindful in my poses during class and in what I ate and how I ate, a sense of being connected to something greater than me was stirred within. While I was in class, I sometimes would feel twitches in my physical body and surges of light energy throughout my body, which would sometimes start through my fingertips and reach all the way to my toes.
Many people may just think this is what happens during any fitness regime, but I never felt this surge of light energy in any other forms of fitness I had tried before. Practicing yoga in front of a mirror helped me connect with myself and practicing with a group of people really helped me to feel a greater sense of connection with humanity whereas before I didn’t.
Doing yoga in a hot room with a group of people was indeed very difficult for me to do at first but, over time, I not only went in every day but found joy in the hot, sweaty room. With this sense of peace I would gain during class, I could filter out my negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. During my days I would focus on eating healthy so I could do more in the yoga room and actually continue to receive benefits from the practice after my knees got healed. Also, I now understand that I don’t have to go to yoga to stay fit but instead use it as a tool for mind-body awareness whenever I need it (this has been a breakthrough since I don’t get angry anymore when I don’t go for a few days).
Overall, this yoga practice helped me to see that I am part of a bigger picture in life and people are not my enemies but are on this life’s journey with me. When I chose to accept myself as I am in front of the mirror every day was when changes started to occur in my body, and this was the main key for my drastic weight loss above all.