Melissa and I went to high school together and it's fun to keep up with her and her family through social media and through our reunions back home in Alabama.
I like Melissa's story because it shows how meaningful and healthy it can be to find some type of exercise you love. In Melissa's case, the love is Yoga.
One key thing to think about, when it comes to Yoga. Yoga is associated with ancient eastern religious traditions, but it's not a religion, it's more of a state of mind, or practice. The defining characteristic of Yoga is focused breathing and it can be POWERFUL for managing stress.
That being said, you could use the principles of Yoga in many different activities, including running, stretching, weightlifting, or even in your daily commute.
So without further ado, here's Melissa, and her story:
"Growing up and even into my 30's, I would beat myself up. I shouldn't eat this, if I eat this I need to do this to burn it off, I should lift more weights, I would be more toned if. If's and but's. That was me.
I discovered yoga in 2001 and immediately fell head over heels. From a young age I was sitting in full lotus (a yoga pose), putting my feet behind my head, and tumbling in the yard, so it was as if I had found my childhood self all over again.
But, I always wanted more. To do the hardest pose. Hold it the longest. Be the best. Until one day I had a break down. I had hit the hardest of times and the lowest of lows and couldn't see any way out. I began taking anti-depression medication and sleep aides to make it though this black hole of what I though my life would be like forever.
I continued my practice and remember a specific session that I kicked my butt. I treated myself they way I had always thought of myself-----I was the enemy. By the end of this particular session, I came to the realization that all of the things I had suffered through were gone. In the past. This was my 'ah ha' moment.
I dedicated myself to this practice of yoga, as many people dedicate their lives to some sort of other goal. It was about a practice. For me, It wasn't about being the best, having the best, or being seen as being the best. It was me, myself, and I. My ego. Once I let the thoughts go that were holding me down, I felt free. Free from myself, to shine my light, and accept my faults equally as much as my triumphs.
Fast forward to today, and I'm medication free, through acupuncture and a continued daily practice, not just of yoga, but self-love / acceptance, prayer, and meditation. I appreciate and accept what has been and what will be because what we go through in life, carves out who we're gonna be.
Do I still try to get into a pose, and bask in the excitement of being in a difficult pose, absolutely? But it doesn't have to be now, today, or even tomorrow. It's no longer a 'I need this today.' It's a 'maybe it will happen tomorrow, and if not, oh well!'
So, what I have learned from this practice is that life is a balance. A balance of all of our practices. Whatever that practice is, when we let something arise as it is, and accept it with out boundaries or questions, we can truly be who we are meant to be. "
Melissa's story reminds me of one of my favorite quotes-
"We will all experience one of 2 things- the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret." - Jim Rohn
The secret behind a discipline, or a "practice", no matter what it is? There is something incredibly beautiful, rewarding, and inspiring about the process. Think about a great artist who spends hours, days, months, or even years meticulously crafting a work. It's an amazing thing to witness, not just the end product, but the process itself. It's hard, you make mistakes. Most days, part of you doesn't want to do it. So the process is what it's all about. That's where the magic and the beauty is.
You don't have to be da Vinci, but you can find a discipline, and a practice that works for you.
Melissa Howard lives with her husband and 3 kids, and teaches Yoga at The Center of Bliss in Greenville, SC. http://www.thecenterofbliss.com/ and she also enjoys running and acting as taxi driver for her children.
She'd love to hear from you.