A story of one woman's struggle, determination and quest to change her life.
by Guest Author
Struggling Through Childhood
Yoga changed my life in the most powerful ways. When I was a young child I was diagnosed with all sorts of issues; asthma, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety. It was sort of a clockwork effect; having asthma attacks often lead to anxiety attacks and depression over not being able to control my asthma. Not being able to complete my “rituals” (with my OCD I had so many including turning the night switch off multiple times before I could go to bed, checking my book case 40 times at night, putting my clothes on 4 times before I could begin my day, etc, etc), often triggered an anxiety attack and therefore resulting in an asthma attack. It was a vicious cycle.
When I was 12 years old, I was sexually abused by my uncle. This went on for years. And living with this, dealing with it amped up all my anxiety and depression. I started cutting myself and having thoughts of suicide. My OCD spiraled out of control; I had rituals and routines for preventing anything “bad” from happening, and because “bad” things kept happening I was certain it was because I wasn’t doing the rituals correctly, so I changed them, made them more complicated, and did them more often. This made me fall into a very dark hole, that I didn’t come out of for years. I was put on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills, went to therapy weekly, and I was monitored by doctors all the time. I became very sick, very ill, very lonely, and very depressed. My parents were supportive throughout this time, but they were at a loss of what to do. I was never happy, no matter what they did.
A First Date with Yoga
My mom brought me to my first yoga class when I was about 15/16; she heard it had helped other people going through depression and anxiety, and at the very least, she hoped the breathing exercises would help with my asthma. But I just didn’t get it. I went periodically for a while but never fully committed to it. I couldn’t breathe properly though my nose which made flows frustrating, it wasn’t fast enough for me, and in short, I wasn’t ready for it.
Determination to Change
When I was 18, I had enough. I had missed out on so much of my high school years; I had so many unreasonable fears that prevented me from enjoying life. Depressed and unmotivated I felt nothing was getting better. And so, like a light switch, I decided what was the point in doing all of this if it didn’t make me happy. And I wanted to feel happy. All my friends were enjoying their lives; they were excited for college, for traveling the world, they had boyfriends and girlfriends. That very day I made a decision to stop all my OCD tendencies. I made a decision that I too, was going to enjoy my life. It was hard but I set my mind on this goal and I was determined to stick by it. And so, I stopped doing my rituals immediately. A few took some time to drop right away, but everyday I did it, I crossed it off as one more day complete. I started saying yes to more opportunities to go out with friends, grew my network, and got a few parts time jobs to get me out of the house.
Around the age of 20, I had just left a relationship that had gone stagnant and was becoming toxic. A few months later I met my boyfriend who later became my husband. We fell in love very quickly. He too had gone through some dark times in his past, and when we had gotten together, I was still struggling with depression and anxiety, and still on some pretty heavy medication. My husband helped me to come off of them; he was my biggest cheerleader, my biggest supporter, and my rock. That part was hard. I was on them for so long, that I had withdrawals symptoms coming off of it. But each day I marked off as a success and both my determination, and my husband, kept my grounded throughout it. This is when yoga magically and miraculously appeared in my life.
Yoga Changed my Life for the Better
I wasn’t sleeping as much anymore (I slept all the time when I was on my medication; easily 12 hours a night + a 2-hour nap pretty regularly), and I was feeling bored. A little voice came into my head and said try yoga. Yoga? I thought, why not. What did I have to lose? So, I put on a yoga video on from YouTube, rolled out my mat, and did a flow. It kicked my butt. It was 20 minutes long and I struggled throughout the video. I’ve always been on the smaller side but I was not in good shape by any means. And this video clearly demonstrated that. Right on the spot, I committed to doing that exact video 3 times a week until I could master it. A few weeks later I was moving through the video with ease, and thought to myself, hey I feel good, why don’t I do 4 days of yoga a week? 4 days a week lead to 5 days a week, and that lead to doing yoga daily. I felt stronger in my body more than I ever had, I noticed I was sleeping better, I was having less asthma attacks, and I was starting to eat healthier. Yoga truly changed my life from the start.
Whenever I was on my mat, I felt the whole world disappear. My negative self-sabotage talk stopped chatting to me, I was focused and committed to my practice. In 2 years, I felt better than I ever had in my entire life. It was at this time that I knew I had made such a major positive transformation in my life, that I needed to share this gift with others too. In 2018 I signed up to be a yoga teacher, and I’ve never looked back. Yoga has changed my life in so many different ways; I’m calmer, and more responsive than reactive. I’ve come off my medications, my asthma has ceased to exist (with the occasional flare up. I think I’ve had 1 or 2 asthma attacks this year as opposed to having them every other day). I’m in the best shape of my life, I feel stronger than ever. I have quieted the inner saboteur (though it tries to make appearances every so often, I now feel like I have the skills to shut her up) and that has come through my meditation practice. It was clear to me that yoga had changed my life.
Here are some steps that you can implement today to start cultivating happiness in your life, stress less, and feel good in your mind, body and soul:
- Decide you are worthy of being happy and having a life of joy! Seems simple enough right? But honestly it all comes down to making a decision to be happy. Stop blaming external factors around you and decide right now, you are going to change for the better.
- Everyday dedicate 5 minutes of quietness (I suggest first thing in the morning, but any time is fine) and sit down in a comfortable seat. Put a timer on or download an app like headspace. Focus on the inhalation and the exhalation, and every time your mind wanders, come back to your breath. Meditation is a practice but it is a practice that will 100% change your life. I swear it. If you need more guidance, I usually offer free weekly guided meditations online (follow links below).
- Find movement every single day. Repeat, every single day. For me, it’s usually yoga, but it can be as simple as a walk around the block. Maybe a workout class you like. Maybe a run. A healthy mind is a healthy body, and a healthy body is a healthy mind. Show it some love.
- Surround yourself with positive energy, positive people and positive vibes. Now, I’m not saying you’ll be doing this 24/7, and believe me I get it that sometimes it’s hard to remove yourself from negative people especially when they are in your family. But do your best to surround yourself with positive friends who are doing positive things. Find those friends who are going after their goals and will motivate you to do the same. When you can’t get away from negativity either in the workplace or from family, limit the time you are around them, don’t share your dreams with them (especially if they’ll squash them) and don’t engage in drama. My life became so much easier when I was still forced to be around those types of people and I gave them no energy and no engagement. They moved on, and I did my own thing.
I am so grateful to embodying and embracing this yoga lifestyle, that my goal is to get everyone involved on this positive transformative path. I have had the opportunity to teach internationally, host workshops and retreats, and I have so many other goodies in store for the future!
Meghan is a 500 hour certified international yoga teacher. She has had the opportunity to travel, teach and live abroad in Costa Rica, Hawaii and Aruba. Meghan coaches and mentors’ modern millennial babes who are looking to make a positive transformation in their life, quiet the negative self-talk, feel good in the body and cultivate confidence in themselves. Find her work www.balancebymeghan.com or on social @balancebymeghan.
Photo: Wesley Tingey