How Yoga Taught Me To Breathe When I Didn't Know How
Thinking back to the very first time I attempted yoga, I can’t help but smile. I was 15, and the silence of class made me so uncomfortable that I kept bursting out into laughter. I couldn’t sit still, the poses felt weird, and all I could think about was how badly I wanted class to end so I could move on to my real life. Let’s just say it was the longest 60 minutes of my life, and I quickly decided yoga wasn't for me.
Boy, was I wrong.
My battle with mental health.
Fast-forward to my third year in college, when I hit rock bottom. I had developed an eating disorder in high school, and although I tried to convince myself that I had moved past it, that couldn't have been further from the truth. On the inside, I was devastated—devastated that I was wasting what could be some of the best years of my life and even more so frustrated with myself because I couldn’t figure out how to shake the control food had over me.
On top of it all, I was too embarrassed to get help. Fatefully and unforgettably, that’s when yoga found me.
How yoga found me.
At the time, I was taking 21 credit hours and juggling two internships. One of my internships was for a yoga studio in Ohio, where I was responsible for taking photos and writing for their blog. One of the perks of the job—which I didn't think of as a perk at the time—granted me unlimited access to yoga classes at the studio.
One day of yoga a week turned into three, which turned into five to six days a week of heated vinyasa flow. At the time I simply thought my typical all-or-nothing was taking a different form, but I quickly realized that my passion was ignited. After about a month I noticed a significant transformation in my mental health and physical health. I was stronger but lighter on my feet and in my heart. I felt it melt through me like liquid gold from the inside out. With each new inversion I mastered, I felt myself unearthing a confidence I hadn’t seen in a long, long time.
Getting onto my mat and out of my head was the highlight of my day. My mat was my therapist, my sanctuary, my safe haven to find peace and quiet from all of the chaos and anxiety rattling around in my brain. My yoga practice began to embody the life I never knew I had waiting for me.
How yoga taught me to breathe.
Before taking on a regular yoga practice, my relationship with food was beyond screwed up. I learned from my sweet yoga teacher, Michelle, how to supplement my practice with a clean, colorful, and satiating diet. She even took me to her favorite health food store to pick out groceries together—a simple gesture that meant more to me than she’ll ever know.
It gave me an unconditional love and appreciation for my body. Seeing the new ways my body could move, bend, and balance through space made me realize how incredible the human body is—and I realized my body was the perfect body for me to live in.
My body physically changed in meaningful ways. My posture improved to the point where I actually appeared taller. I felt more agile, graceful, and light on my feet. My neck tension started to ease up, and my tension headaches from grinding my teeth at night became less and less frequent. And yes, my body even started to tone and tighten from top to bottom.
When you’re depressed, it’s hard to find the energy to connect to your spirituality. Through my yoga practice, I was able to reconnect to my beliefs, and it all started with the breath. I’ll never forget the class where the feeling of faith, love, and spiritual connection was so intense I was in tears.
Yoga helped me find my purpose in life. Today, I am healthier and happier than I’ve ever been—physically, mentally, and spiritually. I am fully self-employed, teaching yoga, running my own yoga and lifestyle blog, and consulting fellow entrepreneurs. I am in love with this beautiful life and the people in it.
I couldn’t be more grateful for my past because without it, I wouldn’t have the passion for yoga instilled in me now. My experiences have shaped my way of thinking, and I truly believe everything happens for a reason.
Yoga is a very personal journey, and it benefits everyone in different ways. What I do know is that yoga has a tendency to show up when you need it most. Call it subconscious manifestation! Yoga is all about feeling empowered to make positive changes in your life, so with a clear mind and an open heart, I wish you all the best on your yoga journey.
Need more proof of the healing power of yoga? Here's how yoga transformed this football player's body, and here's how yoga alters your DNA.
Jules Acree (@omandthecity) is a wellness entrepreneur and creator of the mindful lifestyle blog, Om & The City. Through her platform, she shares real actionable advice, inspires personal growth, and empowers women to lead a meaningful life filled with love and intention. Beyond the blog, Hunt is a certified yoga & mindfulness teacher, crazy plant lady, and proud dog mama.