A few years ago, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder. Shortly thereafter, I developed a life threatening addiction to the anti-anxiety medication I was prescribed. In the two-and-a-half years that followed, I fell down a path wrought with frequent emergency room visits, suicide attempts and an accidental overdose.
Surviving the overdose was the wakeup call I needed — it opened my eyes and made me realize that my life actually had a purpose. I was fortunate to have survived something that has cost the lives of countless others and I was determined to make the most of it.
While I was beginning my pursuit of a lifelong journey toward health and healing, it became clear that yoga and I were destined to meet. It seemed like everywhere I looked, yoga had a compelling presence. And then as if by a twist of fate, I stumbled across Tara Stiles’ YouTube channel during one of my daily interactions with Google. So from there I had to oblige.
Since then, yoga has taught me a lot about myself, helping me break through the walls of complexity, while exposing the simplistic beauties of life. It opened the door to possibility by showing me things I’d never experienced before.
Here are just a few of the things yoga uncovered for me:
1. Happiness is a choice.
Every day that we wake up and begin anew, we are all in pursuit of the same thing: happiness.
We often look for it in other people, activities, places and things. I used to search for it in women, money, drugs, tobacco and alcohol. But yoga has helped me realize what true happiness is.
When I step onto my mat, my strengths and weaknesses are exposed, not for everyone to view, but for me to privately evaluate. It is here I am often the most honest with myself. I am in the present moment, both mentally and physically, moving freely with my breath and completely immersed in delight. I do what feels good to me, not what is appealing to everyone else.
It was through yoga that I uncovered the most important component of happiness: ME. The fact is, happiness has no denomination and does not seek one over another. What makes me happy may not make you happy, but in order to truly discover it, we must first find it within ourselves. Just like life, happiness is what you make of it.
2. It's OK to be flawed.
Yoga is not about the picture perfect pose or the quintessential image of excellence. Our bodies were not designed to be identical to one another and we were never born to be perfect beings. So why are we so often filled with disgust and disappointment in ourselves?
Our flaws don’t disqualify us from greatness, they are actually what helps us to achieve it! I came into yoga with a weightlifting background and was quite far from being the most flexible guy in the room. There were times when I’d get into certain poses and was sure that I looked more awkward than I felt. But what was most comforting to me was that I reminded myself it didn’t matter how I looked, so long as I tried.
The truth is, we’re all flawed and that’s what makes us beautiful. It's in our imperfections that we define perfection. I chose to embrace my blemishes and love myself, flaws and all. Do YOU?
3. The journey is more important than the destination.
The concept of this is simple — enjoy the process. It’s no different than the simplest yoga pose! If nailing the pose is your goal, then you’ve missed the purpose.
Within the course of development, you often find the greatest accomplishments. Reaching your destination is inevitable as long as you remain unwavering in your approach. There are lessons to be learned along the road, but focusing your attention elsewhere will cause you to miss them.
Within my practice, I’ve learned to give myself permission to be easy. I allow my breath to guide me into poses that others may find difficult. It’s when I let go of the idea of accomplishment, that I am able to accomplish anything.
Remember, hidden behind every Warrior 2 pose and buried inside of every handstand inversion, there is a deeper realization. Yoga is much more than beautiful women in beautiful poses (although admittedly that's a bonus) — therein lies the absolute ability to bring healing and awareness to yourself. So take advantage of it, and it just may change your life too!
Quentin Vennie, E-RYT 200 is a writer, speaker, wellness expert, and author of the memoir Strong in the Broken Places. He serves as the Vice President of the Yoga Alliance Foundation, and has been has been featured on some of the world's largest online platforms, including Huffington Post, Thrive Global,Entrepreneur, Fox News, and the Observer. In his role at Yoga Alliance, he is responsible for the development, implementation and tracking of Foundation programs designed to make yoga accessible to marginalized and underserved communities.