A few months ago me and my friends celebrated all of us getting our vaccine by planning our first vacation together in over a year. They came down to San Diego and we went out in the Gaslamp Quarter, getting a table with bottle services at a very popular club. There were beautiful women everywhere and me being the extrovert that hasn’t gotten his social fill in over a year I was in hog heaven or at least I would have thought. I would start talking to girls then they would gravitate away. When we would dance they would cautiously keep their distance. When I would flirt I caught the social cues that the feelings of attraction were in fact not mutual. Sadly, this is commonly known as a wake up call. I knew with the pandemic I had let my diet get a little out of control and knew that I needed to lose some weight. One of the issues I had encountered last summer when I was on my running kick was durability and pliability. I kept getting injured! I did some thinking and realized that it was time for me to get seriously about healing and weight loss but I would find so much more.
My first day went really well. I made sure to be hydrated and to have good equipment with me to help if I got in a pickle in the middle of the class. When we had finished I collected my things and walked out oblivious to the fact that I was about to walk through a small puddle of sweat on a wood floor. I slipped and landed awkwardly in front of a large group of women and thankfully I was not injured physically. Mentally I was a little bruised but laughed it off because sulking has never helped me in a positive way.
The next day I guess word had gotten to one of the teachers there and he made a point to call me to ask if I was ok. This may sound like a small gesture but it really made a difference when I had to muster the confidence to come back my second time where I had a great experience. I kept coming back and it kept getting easier to just show up.
I learned that reaching out to someone even if it’s for something small can make the biggest difference.
Let There Be Light
Genesis 1:3 states and God said “Let there be Light” and for years I had heard that scripture really not thinking anything of it. I was watching a sermon from my favorite pastor TD Jakes after a week and a half of yoga training and he talked about how in the Judaeo Christian creation story God created light before he created the sun. My interpretation of that was the idea that divine light is more important than the physical light we gravitate towards in our physical life.
Fast forward to later that day my yoga teacher read a devotional discussing a peaceful all healing light. Normally my brain I would toss coincedence to the wayside but I’m trying to lean more into my spirituality to heal from the trauma of my past. So I took the message in and took as something I needed to hear.
The light being discussed I’ve used as a tool in meditation. When I meditate I close my eyes and picture a white room where I see a white light so bright you can’t make out any depth or size to the light or the “room” you are in. That exercise has helped me professionally at work and mentally while playing sports or making difficult life decisions. That tool grounds me and anchors my perspective on things.
I don’t have a pinned down idea on religion, God, or the universe but I have opened myself to a well of unlimited love, unlimited forgiveness, unlimited knowledge by leaving that part of my soul open. This has been the backbone of my sobriety and recovery because not everyday is the same and sometimes you need to search for strength from something bigger than you.
Now during my yoga practice in my shavasana or rest position I close my eyes, picture this light, and accept everything that is given to me peaceful or difficult. Yoga has also given my spiritual journey a map by helping me look inside my physical body to find my spiritual one.
My Body is Beautiful
Into the third week of my new training regimen I had began to see drastic improvement. I was holding deeper poses, able to balance longer, and most importantly push myself past where I thought my capabilities were. I was doing a deep supine twist while seated on the ground and my teacher said look a head and see your body and said “your body is beautiful.” When she said that I saw my image in front of me and there I was with some belly rolls, sweaty, and beat up. I paused and listened to my teacher; I looked within. I realized my body was beautiful.
The devotional talked about how each breath we take is a gift and that our health is a beauty much more fulfilling than anything at the surface level.
Sadly I also realized that this was the first time I had EVER thought that my body was a thing of beauty. I haven’t always been in bad shape, when I was younger I was a martial artist and a collegiate Rugby player. I was in great shape during that time of my life and I still thought I wasn’t enough, ugly, & fat all stemming from low self esteem, insecurity, and no sense of self worth.
Those are all very uncomfortable things to talk about but healing is like cleaning out a wound, sometimes it needs to hurt before it heals.
Yoga isn’t always comfortable and neither is life but by being kind to ourselves we can really limit the damage.
Let it Go
By week 7 of training I had made some friends and connections in the class which in turn made my practice even more empowering. My Yoga studio had become my place of peace, happiness, and rest. My body shakes in excitement every time I pull into that parking lot because when i arrive I know I can’t check my phone for social media, emails, or txts that waste so much time during my day and drain most of my energy. And yea I lost a ton of weight having a lot fun doing it. This naturally increased my confidence in my everyday life which in turn increase my happiness creating a positivity cycle in my life that starts with yoga as the power generator.
On a particularly bad day at work I realized I didn’t want to go to yoga that afternoon, I needed to go that afternoon. I scheduled my class at 530pm around noon and thought I could make it. Work ran late and in return so was I. Realizing I wasn’t going to make it on time I called the studio to notify my teacher. She frantically responded, “class is running late, there is kind of an incident with some homeless people outside of the studio. Just get here.” When I got there I saw a man in his underwear sweating profusely laying on the ground out in front of the studio and another man standing with a skateboard in his hand semi aggressively.
Knowing martial arts and growing up in the hood gives me a lot of confidence to defend myself but I have no want, need, or desire to strike anyone. It brings the worst out of me and I hate the way I behave when I am in that state of mind. When I walked past both of these men I felt my rage build because they obviously were harassing the women entering the gym but became very modest when I entered.
Why aren’t you keeping that same energy?
My two teachers were at the desk when I got there and they told me the cops were on there way and my assumptions were right they had been harassing my classmates.
I have an issue with anger where it runs infinite cycles in my brain and its hard for me to process things through those thoughts in turn making me more frustrated.
Its hard for me to drop things.
My teacher comes in and sits in front of us and the first thing she says in the softest voice”Let it Go. What ever circumstance brought you here, let it go. ” and in that moment I took a deep breath making my anxiety dissipate. We got into a flow and I forgot I was angry, its hard to be mad when you’re getting your ass kicked in a 100 degree heat. Your priorities shift just towards surviving.
Later in the class when I rested I let go of that anger I had towards those men and showed them love instead because I can’t judge anyone. I strongly suggest working towards a path when you can get to the point of letting go of your anger.
One thing that has helped me was realizing that a lot of times when I’m angry its because I’m not being present. I’m mad at something from the past or something from the future, both being out of my control. In Yoga you understand to control your body in the present moment and its intensity is all encompassing meaning the movements take a large amount of space in the mind.
For me dealing with anger is still a work in progress.
One of the most difficult things for me to wrap myself around is the fact that my old self hates my new self with a passion. The reason I know is because my old self fills my head with negative talk; “You’e not enough. I know who you really are, stop faking these people out. God isn’t real, keep making yourself feel better with fairy tales. If anyone knew what you did behind closed doors society would frown on you as a person.” and the worst of all “No one could ever love you.”
I really hate when I hear that one but my new self has some answers to those stupid things old Joaquin says; “You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. No one works harder than you for you. Walk quietly but carry your big heart with pride. You are MORE than enough!” and now I know that if I’m the real me every day then I don’t have to put on a mask or cover for lying ever again. I find it funny that I came into this with the intentions to make my outer self look better but in return I found something I love doing that makes me happy and everything else after that doesn’t matter. I get to find validation through myself in my practice, not how other people view me.
Yoga hasn’t taught me anything I haven’t heard before but its connecting things I didn’t know correlated with each other. I always used to think our spiritual being and physical being are separate but I feel that they will always be connected. I also feel that most things in nature are omnipresent meaning that we are all connected through something deeper that I can’t explain making them within yourself as well as in everything. The closest feeling I could compare it to would be love but not just romantic love but real love.
Like when you see one of your best friends kids dancing on an Instagram story just like he did when you guys were kids.
Or taking your little nephews out on a walk to talk to them about the trees and all of they’re responses are simply “WOW.”
Having a pizza from your favorite childhood restaurant with your siblings after not seeing them in a year and all you guys want to do is tease each other to the point of belly laugher.
Thinking about a loved one who passed away resting at peace after having such a hard life and being cool with not being able to see them anymore because you believe they’re in a much better place resting.
Texting your Mom daily and becoming better friend’s because the biggest tragedies in your life have become your biggest triumphs and their’s nothing you’re hiding from her or anyone anymore.
Looking in the mirror and seeing someone worth saving.
Thats love and if yoga makes me feel that same feeling I may have just become a lifer.