For years during and after college, I worked out to undo all the bad food and (adult) beverage choices I had made. If I overindulged, I would force myself to stay at the gym for hours, slugging away on the dreadmill or stair stepper. I wasn’t interested in lifting weights because I certainly didn’t want to add any bulk to my body. As a result, for years, I dreaded going to the gym to workout.
It wasn’t until I found yoga that I slowly began to realize that movement in the body can be used for so much more than penance for bad eating habits. When I landed in yoga, I didn’t have an agenda because it was a requirement for the junior college I was attending. I simply went for the class credits. During that semester of yoga, I finally made the connection that my body deserved to be treated better and rather than bashing it, I began to celebrate it for the things it could do. I was, after all, a competitive collegiate cheerleader that could do really incredible things. I never thought of our cheerleading practices as “exercise.” We rehearsed to perform and to refine our routines and stunt technique. The byproduct of our thrice-weekly three-hour practices amounted to a pretty strong body but not one that I was very connected to.
I have yoga to thank for helping me make the shift from I “have to” workout to “I get to move my body.” Within this perspective shift, so many things opened up in my world. I started to notice the way my body responded to certain types of foods, sweets, and alcohol. Another huge change that I wasn’t quite tuned into yet was the impact on my overall mental health. The deeper connection I forged with my body, the more in tune I became with my surroundings and my choice in the way I decided to treat my body. What started out as a once-per-week yoga class has had a profound effect on my overall wellbeing. For the first time ever, self-care became a priority. Finally, I understood that listening to the intuitive feedback the body provides is a powerful tool, one in which we can all benefit from.
These days, I workout less for my physical body and more for my mental health. For me, different movement modalities provide various benefits. Running allows me to process emotions that I can’t yet put into words. Yoga provides the space for me to arrive at the present moment. Pilates helps me cultivate a deeper connection to my intuition. Bootcamps allow me to step away from all daily BS that builds, bringing me back to basics. I now look forward to movement and activity and feel energized with physical challenges. The way my body looks is merely the result of keeping my head right.
Move, breathe, do, feel, be—
nothing more and nothing less.