3 Mistakes I Made While Trying Be A True Yogi
I hadn’t been sick in years, and by common standards, I’d been taking excellent care of myself through proper nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle. Yet, I was experiencing severe heart palpitations, feeling more feeble and weak than ever in my life.
This felt utterly unfair: I was doing all the right things, wasn’t I?
Long ago, I believed that by closely following yogic principles I'd experience unshakable health, emotional balance, and spiritual connection—gifts that I knew could be acquired through practicing yoga.
And thus, I intensified my physical practice, modeling it around what my teacher shared about his own practice. I shifted from vegetarian to a mostly raw, vegan diet.
I meditated twice a day, following diligently my teacher’s recommendations. Yet, after a while, my whole body was contracting and aching in protest. I considered it a natural part of the process. I thought I would adapt in time.
But one morning I woke up with my heart pumping hard and fast; then, chest pain onset. That was when my husband rushed me to the doctor, for my first visit there in years. What had I missed?
It finally hit me. I’ve done the right things, but I’ve done them the wrong way. Here's why:
1. I valued teachers’ opinions about my body more than my own.
I ignored the messages my body kept sending. It was like entrusting someone else to feel and think for me.
I followed my teacher’s practice: daily asana, pranayama, and meditation. This is what he always praised in classes and credited for his great health and high energy levels. To my surprise, I found out later that his personal practice also included weight lifting, biking, running, swimming, and hiking, always alternating. Yoga posture practice? Of course: two, occasionally three times a week.
For me, old injuries flared up because of the inadequate physical practice.
2. I transitioned to a vegetarian diet because everyone else was eating that way.
I thought a vegetarian diet was best suited for every serious practicing yogi. I became convinced about the benefits of a diet free of animal products, and I felt strongly in favor of non-harming.
I did not consider that such diet, while ideal for some, might not be suitable for everyone. I learned it the hard way.
Some people, myself included, don’t absorb iron well from vegetal sources. No matter the amount of dark leafy greens juices and quinoa in my diet, I became severely anemic. Low iron gave me heart palpitations, weakness, and muscle pain. I realized that I was hurting myself in the name of non-hurting other beings.
3. I forced myself to meditate.
I adopted my teacher’s mediation method. However, after a short while, it became clear that my mediation practice was slowing me down in undesired ways. I was spacey and forgetful. My reactions became delayed. My teacher’s advice was to keep pushing through. It didn’t feel right, yet for some time I was reluctant to explore anything else.
Recovery started when I stopped following rigidly the ways of the masters.
I struggled at first to accept that a vegetarian diet wasn’t for me. But to depend on iron supplements made from beef, and high in toxic fillers and dyes, didn’t feel right either. In the end, I made peace and relaxed into a diet, mostly vegetarian, including some salmon and turkey.
I admitted that teachers, even the most admired ones, are not infallible in advising their students. I internalized the teachings, redefined my goals, and developed my physical practice around the feedback my body provided.
I stopped clinging to that specific mediation practice. It was difficult to accept that I had persisted in something detrimental for that long. I opened up to exploration, and eventually I found what works best for me.
I stopped blaming the yoga practice itself and the teachers for the imbalances I have created and took responsibility for my choices. I found healing. In the end I emerged happy and confident, with a new outlook on life.
A health crisis, like any other crises for that matter, is a learning opportunity. The bigger the challenge it presents, the more we learn through overcoming it. Through gaining firsthand experience with handling crisis, we become stronger and wiser.
Yoga is incredible for keeping your body & mind healthy. Ready to learn about how the power of food can also create a sound body & mind? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.