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  • Writer's pictureLeah Dawkins

How Yoga Saved My Life

It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But I believe with every cell in my being that yoga and my practice on the mat saved me.

In 2012 I was going through the darkest period of my life, a time when all I worked for, planned for, dreamed for fell apart. And it fell apart in a very dramatic fashion. And the drama continued, wave after wave of hurt and pain as everything around me fell into pieces at my feet. In my desolation, I would get out my broom and dustpan, sweep up the fragments of my life and try to put them back together.

I did all the right things…I was a Believer, I went to college, I had a career, I had a husband and two amazing children, I lived in the right neighborhood, the right school district, the right social circle, and I even had the right dog. I was living the dream…until I wasn’t. And to fix the broken, I kept doing what I always knew. And I found myself lost and except for one or two close friends, I was alone. I immersed myself in the bible and prayed for peace. It came in the form of a free yoga class offered at my workplace one Tuesday evening.

By the time I found the mat, I was whisper thin, emotionally bankrupt, and physically drained. I walked in wearing baggie, wide legged cotton pants and a t-shirt. I took the offered mat and rolled it out, sitting down in the center and looking around. There were eight of us in the room in varying stages of attire and physical prowess. Nobody was talking and most were laying flat on the mat, their eyes closed. I did the same. I had not slept more than a couple of hours in weeks, my mind a whirligig of emotion. It would not settle.

The yoga teacher explained she was from the local yoga studio, and she welcomed us to her class. She asked everyone to come to standing at the front of the mat and I inwardly groaned as I pushed myself to my feet. The lights dimmed. She invited us to close our eyes and find our feet. Closing my eyes sounded like a good plan, that way I couldn’t see anyone, and nobody could see me. Soft music filled the air. She discussed prana and proper nose breathing. And she put us in Mountain pose. Simple enough, so far so good.

From her spot at the front of the room, the teacher gently guided us through our first sun salutation, first warrior poses, first triangle. She told us what to do, where to put our foot, how to hold our arms, how to lengthen and wring out our spine. By the end of the thirty minutes, I was drenched in sweat and seated in an ‘easy seat’ with my eyes closed trying to focus on the spot between my eyebrows. And, for the first time in months, my mind was not spinning in a hundred different directions. I had found that which my soul craved, stillness.

At the end of the class, we were told if we attended her studio and did a class, the first one was free. I went the next day, wearing the same thing I had worn the day before. She recognized me and showed me how to find a mat and get set up for class. I was so scared, really a nervous wreck. What made me think for one minute I would be able to keep up with a real yoga class? And the truth is, I couldn’t. I was so broken I trudged through most of the class. But at the end, as I lay in shavasana I found it again, stillness.

I signed up for an unlimited class pass and I went to yoga every day. Sometimes two and three times a day, on my way to work, on my way home, and then back again when the house was sleeping. Each day I got stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I found time in practice when my mind would be still, and I could listen. It is hard to hear God speak when your mind never ceases its monologue. But I found God on the mat, He met me there and I realized, instead of trying to pick up the pieces of my shattered past, I needed to use my broom to sweep them away. I was no longer who I always was, I was someone new.

And yoga has followed me on this journey of newness, allowing me to explore, express, and embrace me, whoever she may be.

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