This is a guest post by the lovely Candice Mitchell. Candice is a yoga instructor and awe-inspiring wellness warrior and truth seeker. I love her classes and her energy. So grateful to have her share some wisdom with our community!
As a yoga teacher, I begin rapport with new students by asking, “What brought you to the mat?”. I’m curious about the reasons people come, what they expect, how their journeys came to include yoga.
My own journey to the mat began as a pit stop on the BDD Highway. My love-hate affair with Body Dysmorphic Disorder compelled me to run five miles on most days in order to “deserve” a banana and a Power Bar. To occupy the Stairmaster for excessive sessions, reeking of panic so publicly that a complete stranger once (or twice) expressed concern for my well-being. To detest myself so much that I smoked cigarettes to keep my weight down even though (and maybe BECAUSE) they call them “cancer sticks” for a reason.
Always looking for new ways to confront myself, punish myself, exorcise my demons, AND snuggle with my delusions, I routinely browsed the Fitness DVD aisle at the local superstore. A monthly video purchase was a “treat” to keep me motivated on my never-ending quest for weight loss or body acceptance, whichever came first. So I suppose I met yoga at Target in 2001.
I didn’t come to yoga as an impetus for healing. I had a meditation practice and painted as a therapeutic outlet. I actually didn’t even realize that yoga HAD the power to heal. I just wanted to look like the gal on the cover of the DVD.
While doing the video the first time, I thought, “This is the weirdest shit! What IS this?” And I thought, “This is fun! I can’t wait to show Brian this Tree Pose thingie”. And I thought, “I’m. Going. To. Cry”.
And by serendipity (?), divine intervention (?), good old-fashioned coincidence (?), a yoga studio opened up right across the street from my job a month or so after I bought that video.
When I began my yoga studio practice, I struggled with being on my mat, listening to a teacher say things like, “Let your legs feel heavy…” to which I’d inwardly bemoan, “My legs ALREADY feel heavy!” Having to attend to my limbs, to look at them in order to arrange them in correct yoga alignment, to FEEL them was a nightmare. And oh, that mirror… I couldn’t get away from myself. It was like sitting in a dirty diaper for 90 minutes.
But the best way out is THROUGH. So through I went. I didn’t like the practice. This surprises my students, as they are subjected to my passionate yoga teaching. I didn’t LIKE it, but I knew I needed it.
In those early classes, I would walk home from the studio, stewing in my juices and steeping in the practice. Smoking.
Speaking of smoking, it was the first to go. After a few months, it just didn’t make sense anymore. Taking deep breaths to purify my body and mind only to fill them with poison minutes after saying Namaste? Nah.
Next to go was the anorexia athletica. No more frantic exercise to exorcise. I found that “working IN” was benefitting me more than working OUT.
Over the years, there have been more casualties: poor food choices, undernourishment, out-and-out self-hate, suicide attempts, and alcohol. I’ve got new friends now: Healthy exercise, body acceptance, true nourishment, and my Self.
Twelve years later, I’m still doing “that Tree Pose thingie” and I’m teaching it with passion. I love helping others through the process of “sitting in a dirty diaper” and attending to their limbs. I love when they discover where they are in physical space as well as in their headspace.
The best way out is through. If I had left when it was uncomfortable, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I like me.
About The Author
Candice Mitchell is writing, singing, crafting, and yoga-ing her way through this trip we call life. She was driving toward her Masters degree in Counseling when she took a detour into YogaLand instead. Deciding she could offer more effective help there, she parked herself and has been happily teaching yoga for 8 years. Join her FB page Candice Mitchell’s Yoga Friends!, a virtual Yoga community where you’ll find wisdom of the week, personal experiences, and encouraging media. Or join her on an upcoming workshop.