I have been practicing yoga for almost 4 years now, my first experience with yoga was walking by yoga on the bluff in Long Beach. Before yoga I was living in a close to 300 pound body, controlled by alcohol, cigarettes, and toxic relationships to help me make it through the day. I woke up on most days extremely disappointed I had not perished through the night. Uncomfortable in my skin, hopeless, hiding my secret depression because as a black woman and in my culture mental health was not a topic of discussion, I just learned to adapt to unhappiness. I smiled, I was an extreme people pleaser to the tenth power and did my best to just survive everyday.
My first time practicing yoga was with Dharma Shakti, and I can recall the first time she ended the class with affirmations. So I am sitting there telling myself that I loved myself. I remember collapsing on my mat, sobbing. It felt like someone had peeled back the veil that I had nestled over my heart for so long, To this day I still feel that soft loving compassion I felt for myself for the first time. Not because she told me I loved me and believed it, but because someone just like me, in a different skin felt that feeling of wanting love and it was the first time I felt like it was possible to feel deep love for myself and it be ok. That it was ok even with my bad choices, even with my bad habits, that it was ok that I didn't like myself so much, and could still feel love for me. I will admit it felt silly at first but it also felt very real. I never stopped rolling my mat out after that, and every time I have had some deep discoveries about myself from that day on have been with me on my mat. I learned in a very real way that yoga is not a work OUT, it is in fact a work IN. You can say yoga saved my life and in essence the lives of both my kids (now adults), because they get a new mom. I am now 2 years sober, smoke free, 112 pounds lighter, and while I still am on my journey to learning to be comfortable in my skin, I love being an ambassador of peace and self love. I truly DO LOVE ME.