My second love letter of 2018 (officially last year!) is to Yoga State of Mind, Body, and Soul. I began my practice at Yoga State partway through college as a way to reduce stress and incorporate consistent exercise into my life.
This was before I understood the colonization problem with many Western expressions of yoga and how to decolonize my practice to ensure I’m doing something healing for myself in a way that respects yoga’s cultural roots and struggle in Western spaces.
While the decolonization of yoga isn’t my primary focus today, I want to emphasize its essential role in a true yoga practice. I also want to emphasize that, informed by my own personal research and understanding, Yoga State does a great job of offering a culturally respectful practice!
But alas, the social justice warrior in me digresses.
Over the years, yoga has become critical to my personal wellness and anxiety management. Without yoga, it becomes much more difficult (sometimes impossible) for me to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can make existing in the world as a functional human extremely difficult.
When I was diagnosed with anorexia a couple of years ago, my relationship with exercise changed dramatically. I cut out most forms of exercise to better focus on getting healthy because I no longer had a clear sense of my limits or motivations when exercising.
When I did lapse into obsessive exercise practices, it was almost always running or weight training because yoga and the Yoga State space is sacred to me.
My relationship with Yoga State is what I always wanted my relationship with church to be; the studio is one of the only places that allows me to connect with my spirit, the world and people around me, the universe, and even God. Yoga is an intensely spiritual practice for me and it felt like the ultimate dishonor to come to my mat if I held any concern about the motivations that brought me there.
I moved back to town after a year away and without a studio. Even though I felt healthier and had started running again, I was still terrified to return to Yoga State because I didn’t fully trust myself yet. I continued to experience anorexic thought patterns and gray-area motivations for exercise and struggled to honor my body the way I did when I practiced at Yoga State most consistently.
At some point I realized that being dominated by uncertainty and fear wasn’t protecting the sacredness of yoga, but was in fact undermining it. So I spontaneously signed up for a class and immediately realized what a disservice I had done myself. One 75-minute class helped me feel more connected with myself than I had in months. I renewed my recurring membership the next day.
I don’t think I began to completely heal from my eating disorder until I returned to Yoga State. I thought I was protecting myself by continuing to shy away from physical activity every time I questioned my intentions, but returning to the mat has helped me understand that questioning my intentions is part of the process.
Now, when Mean Anorexia Voice tells me I have to punish my body or when Mean Anxiety Voice tells me I’m too anxious to do something I want to do, I question them instead of taking their stories as truth. Anyone who knows me knows how monumental it is for me to step back from those mental health demons (for anyone, really).
The community at Yoga State and their commitment to a complete, rich yoga practice has helped me regain trust in myself and given me back my spiritual home. It’s becoming easier for me to achieve balance on and off the mat, which has been a lifelong struggle. I’m starting to find it easier to be flexible and patient with myself because I’ve given myself space for that spiritual recentering.
I’m starting teacher training with Yoga State in a couple of weeks, and I’m so freaking excited to deepen my relationship with myself and with yoga even further in the coming months. I literally cried after I turned in my form.
I’m so grateful for the major role Yoga State has played in my life and my recovery. So, so grateful. I’m healthy and strong and continuing to heal now, and I know that returning to my practice has played a huge role in that.
Making space for yourself is hard. Healing from trauma and sickness and pain is hard. Finding a spiritual home and connecting with faith is hard (at least in my experience). I just got lucky and found it all in one place.