“The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.” ~Ralph Blum
During the worst years of my life, yoga saved me.
My life was a wreck. I was working seventy to eighty hours a week at a job that took everything from me and made me a monster. My relationship was disintegrating. I was hopped up on espresso shots and sugar. I paraded myself as the self-appointed queen of happy hour.
But the hour a week I spent on my mat put it all into perspective.
That single hour turned into several, and somewhere, somehow, I found myself again. I learned to quiet my mind and really listen to what I wanted and needed. I connected with my body in a way I never had before. I learned to slow down and identify what was truly important to me.
My yoga practice gave me the strength to quit not just a job, but a career that was destroying my life. I felt strong and powerful—like nothing could stand in my way.
I enrolled in a year-long yoga teacher training program, with the intention of sharing the gift of yoga and everything it had taught me with others.
That year I learned about asanas, pranayama, and the history of the eight-fold path, but more importantly, I learned about myself.
For the next three years, I stayed fiercely dedicated to my practice. I taught here and there, but mostly, I was a student. That just felt right.
But something in me started to change.
I began to feel disconnected from my practice. I was bored, just going through the motions. There was no heart, no fire, no excitement.
Yoga had been a good counterbalance for my Type-A go-getter attitude, but perhaps it was just too much of a good thing or maybe I just needed to shake things up.
My yoga practice had left me passive and stagnant, with a little too much of that “go with the flow” energy and not quite enough of that “get up and go” stuff.
At the same time, I was feeling stagnant in my life. I’d recently made (another) career change; I took a gap job, one I’d intended to be in for six months, max. But seven months in, I was no closer to leaving than the day I started. I needed passion, purpose, and drive. I needed a real change.
A yoga studio where I was a sub was looking to partner with the Crossfit gym across the street to offer yoga classes.
Crossfit? I’d never heard of it, but a quick Google search revealed that these Crossfit people were clearly insane. Totally not my bag. I was a calm, collected yogi, but…
My interest was piqued. I started paying attention to what went in on the “box” across the street. I’d walk by on my way to yoga and hear grunting, yelling, and the clang of metal hitting the ground. I’d parade by with my husband, “Look at this—isn’t this nuts?”
I was fascinated, excited, and terrified.
It took six months, but we signed up for our first class. I conveniently masked it as wanting to do something to support my husband in getting back in shape, but when he went out with an injury, it was clear that I was in it with or without him.
On the surface, Crossfit is nothing like yoga. It’s brutally physical and it has a reputation for being competitive.
But in other ways, my yoga experience prepared me well for the transition. Sure, I wasn’t “strong” and I wasn’t particularly fast, but I had awesome body awareness, I was able to focus on my breath when lifting, and each day I learned to focus on just that: how I’d do today.
Crossfit provided a new outlet for me. For so long, I’d felt like pushing myself was bad, but Crossfit showed me that pushing myself could be good and healthy, if done with awareness and control.
I’m still learning all the lessons Crossfit has to teach me and I’m sure I’ll never be done learning all the lessons yoga has for me, but here’s what leaning in and letting go of yoga has taught me so far:
1. It’s okay to focus on yourself.
As a woman, I was always taught that focusing on myself was bad. But I’ve learned there is nothing wrong with taking time to nourish myself, however that looks. In fact, it has made me a better woman, wife, coach, and friend.
When I graduated from my yoga teacher training program, I had grown so attached to my own practice that it was hard to share it. I tried teaching classes, but it pulled me away from myself. So I decided to focus on me.
It was hard for other people to understand, but it really didn’t matter what they thought. I quickly learned to disregard the comments and do what I needed to do for me.
It’s okay if no one agrees with you. If it feels good to you and it doesn’t harm others, it’s okay to do it.
2. Be open to the person you’ll become.
If you’d asked me two years ago if I’d be a crossfitter, my answer would have been an emphatic “No!” But, life has changed in ways I could never have imagined and my needs changed, too. I’m grateful that yoga taught me to embrace changes.
It’s important to be open to the possibilities that exist for us, whether it’s yoga or Crossfit, vegan or cheeseburger, corporate exec or stay-at-home mom. There’s no right or wrong answer to where our paths will lead us; the important thing is to make the right choice for ourselves right now.
3. Act on the signals for change.
I’ve come to recognize there are two types of people: the ones who wait for change to happen to them and the ones who seek change. In my experience, seeking change is where the real growth happens and where true happiness starts.
Yoga taught me to laser in on how I was feeling and how it manifested in my body. When my practice didn’t feel right, I was prepared to find something to fill the gap, something that gave me exactly what I needed.
4. Yoga is a way of life.
When I say I quit my yoga practice, that’s not really true. I stopped attending classes and I stopped practicing poses (asana), but through my years of studying yoga, it was ingrained in me as a way of life.
For me, yoga is about opening my heart fully to each new experience, wholeheartedly embracing change, connecting to nature, to people, to a higher power, and to my true self, and slowing down to listen and appreciate everything around me.
Without yoga, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Above all, yoga has taught me to embrace all that I am—the expected and the unexpected—and all that I might be.
What change do you need to embrace in your life?
Photo by Nikola F
About Stephanie Cook
Stephanie Cook is a recovering corporate ladder climber turned Nutrition + Lifestyle Coach. She helps go-getter women to create all-day energy so they can rock the corner office and still have time to play. Grab her free guide to all day energy at www.stephaniecookwellness.com and connect on Facebook and Instagram.