i went out with a small group of yoga teachers and students recently after a class, and we got on the topic of why we started yoga. one of the teachers shared that she believes that people need to hit ‘rock-bottom’ to really start the practice. something about that phrasing stuck with me – probably because it’s usually associated with substance abuse, a theme that’s also a big component of my story.
i had a rough time as a teen, absorbed by my own interpretation of life, dealing with depression and anxiety, and self-medicating with reckless/destructive behavior, unhealthy relationships, and LOTS of drugs. after missing half of my sophomore year of high school for rehab, i tried shifting my priorities, but i wasn’t ready to make all the right changes. i was still grasping.
at that time, i was given many tools, but i didn’t know which would actually help me, and i didn’t have the right mind to be able to apply them. my rehab and therapy experiences ranged from inpatient psychiatric to residential drug treatment to outpatient therapy to biblical counseling. yes, that’s a thing. i spent time in primary (28-day) and secondary dual-diagnosis rehab facilities, which meant spending months away from home in minnesota and then louisiana.
there was also a heavy medical/diagnostic component. coming from a family of doctors, that’s not surprising. but after medical tests and imaging found a pineal brain cyst and a craaaazy imbalance of hormones, i was tested and retested and tested again. brain scans upon brain scans upon brain scans, sleep studies and blood tests galore. questionable diagnoses and trials of medications.
at 15 years old, i felt like an adult trapped in a kid’s body. the issues and problems that i had felt like they were beyond me. i had so much going on and didn’t know how to cope. i was taught and shown things, but they didn’t seem to fit or i wasn’t ready for them.
around this time, i was gifted a yoga VHS-tape. it was my first exposure to yoga. it was not ‘love at first sight’ as i have heard others experience, but i also didn’t hate it. that was a big deal for me.
the last half of my high school experience is very blurry. i’m not sure whether to blame the prescription medications, the ‘recreational’ self-medication, or the lack of sleep, but regardless, it was far from exemplary. however, i managed to continue with classes, showing up for most of them, and graduating with not-the-worst grades. my dad was not willing to accept that i wouldn’t go to college, so he filled out the applications for me.
the summer between high school and college was when i felt the most change, as a drive from within. i had blown ALL my graduation money (over $1000) on a two-day drug binge, and i really think that was my rock-bottom. after that, i finally wanted (and was ready) to make the right changes.
it was not a drastic, over-night epiphany – more like a slow, winding crawl. but when i started college, it was a new beginning in a lot of ways. that was also when i found local yoga classes, due to our college facilities being renovated and having been given gym passes.
the weekly classes were the real start of my ‘yoga journey’. their effect was subtle, but over time i noticed a tangible shift in my perspective and my ability to handle situations. my progress was slow, and probably muddied by the excessive partying that was ‘college’ (and later, ‘grad school’) … but somehow, it stuck with me. i sought out classes, even after moving and changing schools. and little by little, it helped me to tweak my life in ways that led me to better health, mentally and physically. i found a sense of freedom and personal growth from the focus on mindfulness in yoga, and i was inspired by what yoga taught me about myself, the world, and the intimate connection between the two.
about a decade and a half later, and i’m still on this journey … thirsty as ever in areas of inquiry, exploration, and discovery.