I am healed. I am strong.
These are two powerful mantras that I have repeated with each inhalation and exhalation on my mat. Emotional trauma can permeate our life experience more deeply and heal more slowly than physical injuries that leave scars or break bones.
After a traumatic experience in my late teens, I broke my back in two places, and as a result, a metal rod was fused into my spine.
A scar runs from my bra strap to the base of my spine as a reminder of my once broken self. My self-worth and self-confidence felt fused into that metal for a long time—encapsulated in steel, unbending, stiff, and fixed.
For years, it felt as if no life force energy could penetrate the parts of me infused into the metal that held me up. Light could surround me, even enveloped me, but I could no longer shine from within. My self-confidence and strength were sealed in tight.
With each puff of a cigarette, I inhaled a hidden desire to love myself, to feel better, and to heal.
Doctors Alone Can’t Heal Us
Modern medicine is amazing and is the reason that I walk today, but it did not heal me. Traumatic memories can be held in the connective tissue of the body. Toxins are related to our thoughts and emotions, and as they escape our physical bodies, they also escape our emotional body.
The first few times I practiced yoga, I felt nauseated, and a dull headache took hold. Yoga did for me what modern medicine could not. It restored my faith and belief in my own abilities, my sense of empowerment, and helped me release emotional pain that was intertwined in my physical body.
Doctors fixed me, but it was yoga that created the space within me for long-term healing.
We Can Change
Our capacity for change, like our capacity to love, is great.
I realize now that the magnetism and attractiveness of cigarettes and my broken self then was alluring to me. I was broken and allowed it to define me. I lived in it. My habits were rooted in the irresistible urge to make excuses for my self-defeating thoughts and behavior.
Can we really learn to rewire our patterns? The answer is yes. The mind and body can be re-wired. Neuroscientists call it neuroplasticity: the brain’s extraordinary capacity to transform with experience. Repetition is key in this re-wiring process.
If we commit to pursuits such as yoga, our brains begin to make new connections, grow new cells, and enhance cell activity, among other things. Our brains can transform when we repeatedly practice a new skill.
Patterns are built through yoga’s therapeutic tools: breath, relaxation, meditation, and asana. The way we use repetition is critical to our transformation.
I have taken a positive tool, such as breathing, and used repetition in a positive way. Rather than using repetition to harm myself, I have created a self-loving habit. Yoga means union. It has united my body, mind, and spirit.
Look to the Light
As I built new habits, I began to feel the light of my heart emanate throughout my entire being. As I breathe through the asana, I’ve uncovered a fundamental truth that can no longer escape me: a glimpse of enlightenment.
Healing is my true nature. Shadows may still win at times, but we can always come back to a place of healing. I am strong and I am healed.
As I bow to my teachers after practice and honor the Divine in them, I then bow to myself. I put my forehead to my mat and in silent recognition, I thank my beating heart. I have not had a cigarette in several months. My desire for healing is now redirected on my mat. I am healed.
With every inhale and backbend…
I am healed.
With every exhale, as I deepen, my body opening a little bit more…
I am strong.
I am currently almost finished with my 200-hour Hot Yoga Teacher Training. The studio where I practice, and am now learning to teach, is called Yoga Oasis. And it certainly feels like one.