Before my first yoga class, I was a seemingly happy 18 year old. Always smiling, polite, and overly concerned with my appearance, both physically and socially. How are you? “I’m good!!!” But really? I was falling apart- I couldn’t look in the mirror without thinking I was fat (I weighed 115 at the time), I had horrific anxiety issues, which still show up today, where I felt panic attacks come on any time there was a closed door (planes, trains, classrooms). I also felt deeply alone in my sensitivity- I would fixate on words that people said to me that made me feel stupid, ordinary, or ugly.

But once I started practicing yoga, something began to slowly shift. One day, I realized I hadn’t experienced a panic attack in a few months.

I felt like the yoga studio was the one place where I could really tell the truth.

My sensitivity was no longer my weakness- it became my strength. I didn’t indulge in self-hate anymore, mainly because I was surrounded by a community that wouldn’t allow it. I felt beautiful, strong, and wild in my body because I was really connecting to it. I couldn’t believe how long I’d lived without tapping into its power!

Of course, this all isn't to say that "I'm fixed". Ha, what does that even mean? I came across an awesome quote the other day that said "It's funny when people think yoga people are supposed to be calm. No. We're all here because we're nuts!" I love being surrounded by people who are all just trying to better understand the human condition. I'm messed up, you're messed up, let's all be messed up together!  But in all seriousness, it IS a practice. That's what it's called a yoga practice! There's no place to get to, but rather a continuous bettering and deeper understanding of your true self. And that's the difference between yoga and other forms of exercise. It's not something you do in the morning before work to get it out of the way, it's a practice that lives in you and affects the way you see the world, how you communicate and perceive, and what you put out there.

I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today without yoga and meditation. At one point, I actually thought that I was becoming sadder because of it. I was comparing my current deeply emotional, sensitive self to my closed off, always smiling 18 year old self.

But the truth is, yoga helps me to feel more, hold space for the good AND the bad, and love myself with all my heart.