By previous writer Bianca Richards
Once upon a time, I had it all figured out. I was the second person in my family behind my mother to graduate from college. I didn’t have to worry about pulling quarters from beneath my cushions to pay off student loans. I lived fearlessly as I ventured outside of NYC on the weekends, eager to explore an entire world once I took my first breath on any given Saturday morning.
Everyone around me was in on the fairy tale too. My mom was regaining her confidence day-by-day to accept her life as a cancer survivor. And boy problems? Forget those. This was just a few months ago in 2017. I was on top of the world, but you know what they say, “What goes up, must come down.”
Anxiety made me crash. I went from a world of exploration and success to anxiety-induced fainting, panic attacks, and unwelcome thoughts day and night. I lived in excessive fear and concern that impacted everyone around me—friends, family, co-workers, you name it.
Those experiences are still vivid in my memory, but more recently I’ve taken huge strides to stop my anxiety from consuming my mind, body, and spirit. Those big steps led me directly into yoga studios to reconnect all of my physical, mental, and emotional energy. And you know what? It’s working.
My first class was at Yoga Haven in Scarsdale, NY and it was an hour-long Vinyasa class. My boyfriend encouraged me to join him at an early-morning class, which was wonderful because I always feel accomplished when I wake up early and get $h!t done. I gassed myself up with a tall “Mighty Mint” tea from Starbucks. I was ready to conquer the world, but little did I know I was going to break a sweat from Trikonasana (triangle pose).
Yoga proves our power as individuals, and I discovered the power of the human body, mind, and spirit through practicing it. At first, I was very doubtful of its results because how can intense stretching really change my life? Well, lesson number one, when you’re desperate for positive change, take risks.
Truthfully, my first class was an amazing experience. I became more knowledgeable of the purpose for yoga and how it is just not for physical restoration, but for mental and spiritual clarity as well.
There I was in the Trikonasana pose, thinking I couldn’t balance. But after I gave myself some time, almost intuitively, my body slowly adjusted, and I was in tune with myself. In that particular moment, I was in sync with my body, allowing it to freely stand as is while taking breaths to ensure that energy flows to the areas that need support. It was physically challenging, I broke through mental barriers I never knew existed, and it was also mentally liberating.
Since then, I’ve made yoga my weekly self-love date. Through my experiences in the studio and at home, I’ve learned to set time aside to physically expel negative energy from the inside out, while understanding that my body is a natural being without titles, labels, thoughts, and emotions. My body is simply a part of this earth, and as the trees and rivers exist, naturally beautiful, I, too, exist among the earth’s beauty. I never had thoughts like this three months ago, wrapped in my anxiety at the end of 2017.
I’ve begun to see positive changes within my life even outside of the studio, and I am sure that if you decide to take a risk and join a yoga class, you might witness to your own personal growth as well. Here are three takeaways from my three months as a budding yogi.
ONE: I can breathe.
Yoga eased my anxiety. Now that I am doing yoga more often, I am gaining power over my emotions. I have control over where I dedicate my energy, like through writing, reading, walking, etc. I also downloaded the Headspace app, which helps people practice meditative breathing techniques.
Part of practicing yoga is making sure air is flowing throughout your body to provide serenity to the mind and body. I take five minutes out of my day to take deep breaths to reduce the built-up stress my lingering anxiety causes. By eliminating stress from my life that does not necessarily need my attention, I’ve become more comfortable to talk to my close friends about my experiences and feelings, thus developing a strong support system as I continue to challenge my anxiety.
TWO: I eat healthier.
Yoga has encouraged me to change my eating habits and lifestyle. I’ve read so many articles that yogis tend to abide by a vegetarian or vegan diet because of the concept of “ahimsa,” a practice of nonviolence toward all living things.
Although it’s hard to stay away from the spicy chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s, I am taking small strides towards maintaining a healthier diet. I started off by switching to a non-dairy diet last year, and that has been successful, but now I am slowly eliminating gluten. I’ve realized within the past few months, gluten negatively affects my digestive system, so with the combination of eating cleaner and practicing yoga, my physical body feels well taken care of. I also abstain from drinking alcohol, so if you ever see me in Mamajuanas with a drink in my hand, best believe it’s a ginger ale.
THREE: I am more confident.
Last, but not least, yoga has instilled confidence in myself to push through the challenges within my life. I was a softball player growing up, and being an athlete requires mental strength and toughness in order to elevate your game and surpass your opponent. Yoga revived my mental strength and integrity, and competing against yesterday’s version of myself is just the perfect solution for when I want to become a better Bianca tomorrow.
I’ve struggled with maintaining confidence because I was never given that recognition from my dad when I was a child, but I’m learning now that the only validation I need is from myself and the only person I can truly depend to believe in myself is me! So comparing my Vrksasana (tree pose) from yesterday to today will demonstrate the lengths I’ve reached as a practicing yogi, and it’s satisfying to see positive physical, mental, and emotional results over time.
(READ MORE from Bianca: “Practicing Self-Love by Embracing My Virginity”)
I encourage you to visit a yoga studio and sign up for a class that best suits you. If you aren’t ready for this step, no worries! Everyone’s journey is different, and I commend you for taking time out to read this and giving yourself the opportunity to learn about something new. If you need extra motivation, follow @mindbodygreen on Instagram. Their platform serves as a guide to live mindfully in the health and wellness sphere.