It’s hard to believe it, but I have been a yogi for over three years now. In 2011 my world was slowly falling apart, one bad decision at a time. I had come to the realization that my marriage was over, I was facing divorce, debt, being homeless and trying to figure out what to do with a four thousand square foot business that I no longer had any interest in. Like Pigpen from Charlie Brown my world whirled around me in a constant state of turmoil. My third chakra was shot (it’s often described as the pit of your stomach…you know the one, the butterflies, the nausea, the nervousness… it’s an energy point known as the solar plexus) I prayed for an answer, a relief from the tornado of all this change. Through the fog of chaos I picked up the computer and searched for an outlet. I was falling apart on every level. I couldn’t focus, eat, sleep and I prayed in every way possible for an answer……and that’s when my journey started.

Hot Yoga

I stumbled on hot yoga.  I had never done yoga before and I was far from being a cool yuppie who drank coconut water and ate granola bars for fuel. In fact, it took every ounce of courage I had to sign up for my first Certified Bikram class. As I walked in the studio a class had just emerged…..they looked like death. Hot, sweaty, red, smelly….and guzzling water like we were in the sahara. Dear god, I am not cool enough or cut out for this……so I signed up right away before I could change my mind.

In 110 degrees I pushed through an hour and a half of 26 asanas. When I first told people about it they figured it was just 26 stretches in heat. Sounds pretty cool they would say….but it’s an hour and a half of hard core, strength cardio,  in 110 degrees. I saw professional wrestlers, football players, and bonafide athletes struggle throughout the classes…some even passed out. In the spring of 2012 I was introduced to Power Vinyassa. A type of high powered cardio yoga that involves a lot of push ups, planks, squats, hip openers and one leg balances that really get the heart rate up and seriously kick your ass one focused breath at a time… but I was hooked!

For the first time in my life I had focus. I could start one task and stick with it. My days were filled with more grace than ever before. I moved slower, I talked slower, I was present with everyone in front of me and I had an ease, a flow that I had never been able to reach before. I was calm to my core. I had worked out all my life doing cardio and weight lifting and never achieved both health benefits and true fitness. I was addicted to yoga for it’s ability to clear my mind and slow me down but along the way something magical happened. I became toned and fit like I had never been before. It wasn’t until people started asking me over and over again what it was I was doing, how I was eating and why my skin looked so good that I realized I needed to share my experience. And let me tell you, I feel VERY vulnerable sharing the photos below but want to share the skinny-fat Before pic (you know what I mean, for the most part you look good but still have blubber) and the After pic so you know that I am dead serious about the results that I achieved only doing yoga…nothing else!

Fitness and nutrition through yoga

The before pic was about three months into yoga. I was only going two days a week and I considered myself skinny/fat. I looked good with clothes on but was terrified to go to the beach and I was still eating poorly, despite being a vegetarian. My diet consisted of a lot of cheese, pasta, heavy grains and bread. In the middle of 2012 I became good friends with a nutritionist whom I met through my business coach. She taught me about consuming more raw foods that are organic and eliminating the heavy starches. I added foods like quinoa, fresh organic veggies, and eliminated unnecessary sugars … those lingering in yogurt! Oh lawd did I eat a lot of yogurt thinking it was a healthy alternative, boy was I wrong!

I did not turn to yoga to loose weight. I chose it for the health benefits, the clarity of mind, focus and eliminating all the unnecessary things along the way that did not serve me. I am healthier than I have ever been and ultimately it was a pure accident, a side effect of needing an outlet, that I found true health and fitness. I am by no means a nutritionist or health expert, but if you are needing an outlet I would strongly recommend yoga for yourself. Especially if you are going through major changes in your life.

Today I go three times a week, and my average class is an hour and 15 minutes. I lost three inches off my waist, and two inches of my thighs. My upper body strength (from all the planks and push-ups) is more than I ever achieved working out with weights! And I eliminated that pesky back fat. Yoga is by far the best, most addicting fitness program I have ever done and I recommend it to everyone…not for the get slim fast mentality because a vacation is coming up, but for the all around mental and physical health benefits you will achieve.

Today as I left my yoga studio a dry erase board was hanging in the bathroom asking for people to contribute 3 words or less to describe their goals for 2014. What a terrific gift I thought. To stop and focus on what truly matters. My three words? Love With Purpose. For a long time I was unable to love myself or others the way they deserved just like many of you. This year I choose to love with great purpose and show those around me how important they are to me.

What are your goals for 2014? If you had to sum it up in three words or less, what would your 2014 mantra look like?

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