I always joke with people that I'm close to that yoga saved my life. But the truth is, it's really not much of a joke. Yoga has healed my body and mind from the inside out and has drastically improved my chronic anxiety, IBS, digestive problems, hiatal hernia pain, and major hormonal imbalances, to name a few. Beyond being the highest form of spiritual and physical "medicine" I've ever experienced, yoga is also therapeutic to me to the millionth degree.
I am definitely not saying you should replace your doctor with yoga, nor should you skip out on therapy because of the post-vinyasa endorphins. What I'm saying is that by incorporating yoga into your life on top of your usual routine, you will likely experience the health benefits you're working toward with ease. Yoga nourishes us from the inside and works its way out and does powerful things for our nervous systems, muscles, digestive organs, and our precious brains.
How I found yoga
Let's back up for a second so I can tell you where I was coming from when I found yoga. I was 16, and my longtime boyfriend had just tried to commit suicide. I was shaken up, ridden with terrible anxiety, and my entire body hurt from the pain and deep shock that my heart was experiencing. I didn't know how to control my emotions or feel present in my body at all. I stumbled into a yoga class that my friend dragged me to in my hometown of Sacramento, California, and we flowed through 75 minutes of vinyasa in a heated room (I was wearing basketball shorts and an oversize tee—I had no idea what I was doing!), and my life was forever changed.
The euphoria I experienced from that class was something I knew I would never be able to get enough of, and I knew I needed to get my hands on it more. The inner reel of thoughts and anxious obsessions in my head quieted down and eventually silenced for the entire duration of the class, to the point where when I was walking to my car I asked myself how on earth a practice of movement could possibly be that powerful?
I made a vow to myself that day that I would incorporate yoga into my life every single day. And more or less, I've pretty much done that. I'm extreme like that. (I'm being lenient with myself on counting or not counting many of the days during my mega-partying college years.) As I've grown and my life has shifted, the anxiety-quelling nature of my yoga practice has only enhanced. I've refined my daily practice to include more restorative poses, twists, heart openers, and juicy hip openers instead of always focusing on the extremely fast-paced and rigorous vinyasa flows.
How yoga changed my digestion
The wonders that yoga works on my digestion have been incredible. Take twists for example. When a class is sequenced properly and the body is open enough to glide into a deep twist (crescent twist, chair twist, simple twist lying on our backs, any twist!) the internal organs are nourished and fresh blood flow seeps in. Our bodies need this type of movement in order to thrive, and when you deal with chronic issues like IBS, hiatal hernia, and hormone imbalances, any help is greatly welcome.
Ultimately, yoga has been my highest healer and my greatest teacher. And as cheesy as it sounds, it's also been my best friend. My relationship with yoga changes, evolves, and grows with every passing year and it's so cool to see what it has in store for me each time.
Beginning to teach yoga has been the ultimate healing experience for me, because now I get to share these healing mechanisms with my students instead of just reaping the benefits in my own body. It's pretty special. Keep in mind that the vast benefits of yoga are for everyone and not just advanced practitioners. Beginners will experience the same type of euphoria.