Crohn’s disease has always been a giant obstacle in my life. I began having obvious symptoms at 7 years old. I was terrified. I was so scared that I did not tell anyone for over a year. My life since has been a blur of doctors, pills, hospital beds, IVs, intense pain, and crippling depression and anxiety. Despite all of that, I vowed that I would not let my own body keep me from the things I wanted in life.
After high school, I ditched the doctors and prescription medications with horrible side effects and tried to find natural ways to heal my body. Throughout college and graduate school, I experimented with restrictive diets and holistic remedies. None worked. While in college, I tried my first yoga class. A friend told me that she thought it would help with the chronic pain and anxiety I felt. I hated it. I hated it so much. My mind was going crazy. My body felt weak and certain poses, like bow, caused me tremendous pain. I suffered through it and nicely told my friend that yoga was not for me. Every second of every day was a struggle but I managed to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Biology and a Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management.
After graduate school, I got a job working for the state’s environmental agency. The daily stresses of dealing with bureaucracy in a state that does not value the environment plunged me into a severe depression, which lead to a major Crohn’s flare up. I was desperate to find something that would help me ease the physical and psychological pain. Yoga and meditation kept coming up in my research. I was really hesitant to try yoga again but when a studio near my apartment started offering a free week of unlimited yoga, I figured, what have I got to lose? I went every day that week and ended up getting a membership.
I think the first time I tried yoga, I was at a stage in my life where I was very angry. I felt like I needed an aggressive outlet to release the years of pent up rage and resentment I felt. I took boxing and kickboxing classes but when the class was over, the anger was still there. Yoga requires a calm quiet strength. Strength of body and mind. My mind had been absolute chaos for as long as I could remember. Back in college, I was not ready to face that chaos. But after years of overcoming that chaos to accomplish my goals, I felt like I was ready to look inward. To face whatever I found.
I regularly attended classes at the studio for about two years. I saw so many benefits over that time. During the second year, I started to meditate at home. It was so hard. I felt like I would just sit and think non-stop for however long I sat. I began using guided meditations and found I had some success calming the monkey mind. After three solid months of daily meditation, I decided that attending a silent meditation retreat would amplify the benefits and help improve my meditation skills.
I found a Vipassana meditation center in East Texas and went for 10 days. A hellish 10 days. So many times I thought to myself, “I’m having a nervous breakdown. This is what a nervous breakdown feels like”. It was one of the most difficult ordeals I have ever endured. By the end, I felt like I had faced many demons and proved to myself that I can handle any situation. I left the meditation center a changed person.
A few months later, I decided that I was going to quit my job and go study Tantra yoga in Ecuador. I never went to yoga teacher training with the intention of being a yoga teacher. That was supposed to be just for me. A way for me to take my personal practice deeper. After Ecuador, I also attended an Aligned Flow yoga teacher training in Mexico. These trainings ignited a different kind of love of yoga in me. I enjoyed teaching yoga. I wanted to help people find relief through yoga and meditation, like I had.
Since my senior year of high school, I started getting kidney stones at least once a year. I generally cannot pass them and require the stones to be broken up with a Lithotripsy procedure. While attending my first yoga teacher training in Ecuador, I had two stones. One morning, I told the kundalini instructor that I had kidney stones and was in tremendous pain. He tailored the class to include postures that were meant to cleanse the kidneys. It was incredibly painful but two days later, I passed a stone. It was the first stone I had passed in several years. I truly believe yoga made that possible.
I came home to Austin with a new purpose in life. For the next year, I was the lead yoga instructor and manager of a local goat yoga company. It was such an amazing experience. I saw so many people come to goat yoga as a means to appease their loved ones and leave with a new appreciation for yoga. It was a wonderful feeling to introduce people to yoga who might have previously thought it was not for them. I’ve since left the goat yoga company to focus on my own ventures. Each day is still a struggle but I have a new found optimism about the future…and I have yoga to thank for that.
Has yoga and meditation helped you overcome difficulties in your life? I would love to hear about your experience!! Comment below!
With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. – Eleanor Roosevelt