3 Surprising Ways Yoga Has Changed My Life

My yoga journey thus far has been incredibly transformational. As a student of yoga, I’ve realized a few things: I know nothing. I own nothing. I need nothing. Perhaps that sounds like gibberish, but for me, it’s been mind-blowing. My time on my mat has not only shaped my ass, it’s altered my views and helped me dump some really shitty habits/thought patterns that were making me miserable. Here are some surprising ways yoga has changed my life…

3 Surprising Ways Yoga Has Changed My Life 

  1. Yoga Helped Me Befriend My Body 

In my teens years I learned, as many young girls do, to hate my body and to treat it badly. I discovered that skipping meals made my stomach a little flatter, a stick of gum kept me from grazing, and diet soda was an adequate meal replacement. Soon I was sporting a size zero, counting calories (500 per day seemed sufficient) and exercising aggressively. With full-blown anorexia, my hair was thinning, my body was shivering, and my bones were as visible as wire hangers in a bare closet. But starvation was empowering, and I would forfeit any meal to feel a sense of control in my otherwise chaotic world. I found yoga years later, after counseling and diet changes helped me develop better habits. Still, I hadn’t learned to respect or honor my body, and I occasionally used food as a drug and starvation as a control mechanism. Yoga helped me befriend my body. I stopped self-loathing and started eating sensibly, without shame or guilt. In time I was able to ditch destructive diets and compulsive calorie counting. More on that here.

2. Yoga Helped Me Stop ‘People Pleasing’

Pre-yoga, I wanted you to love me, to accept and understand me. Post yoga, I want you to love me, to accept and understand me. So what’s changed? Let’s just say I want it less, and because I no longer need approval, I have no problem saying no when you ask for more time, money, space (fill in the blank) than I am comfortable giving. Confidence is a game-changer, and knowing that your issues are yours alone, helps me to take things less personally and stop assuming problems that aren’t mine. The old me would lose sleep if you snubbed me. The more yogic me says, “C’est la vie,” (that’s life).

3. Yoga Opened My Heart & Expanded My Views

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness ~Dalai Lama

For many years, I had a religion. I followed a rule book. It fueled my lifestyle and fed a part of my inquisitive humanity. My religion was another tool I used to gain control. On a good day, it helped me understand the world, connect with something meaningful, and put certain “life pieces” into my tidy philosophical puzzle. But my limited beliefs also suffocated my thinking, erected barriers, and kept extraordinary people from affecting my life because I immediately dismissed them and prevented them from teaching me things I am better off knowing. Before yoga, I was drawn to the all-knowing aspects of religion — the answers it provided. I felt safe within its code of conduct and all its confines. But I have let those walls crumble. I’ve become more open to new ideas, and I feel free knowing I am far too small to understand the intricate workings of the universe. I sit in awe, watching the world whirl around me in its wild and whimsical way. I no longer occupy a pew on Sunday mornings, but that’s not to say I am anti anything. In fact, I feel more spiritual now, more connected to the divine than ever before, and more open to love and miracles. I do not want to convert people, as my religion said I should. I don’t care to indoctrinate you. I simply want to know you and accept you as you are.

I came to yoga for fitness, as a means to become more balanced and flexible. I never imagined the ways it would change me. I couldn’t comprehend the art of asana, how sitting in stillness and bending with the flow of my breath would begin to break old patterns and limited beliefs about myself and my body. I now know what it means to reach with my fingertips towards a sky that’s unsearchable — to be bold and big enough, yet small and meek enough to grasp life’s amazing offerings. This incredible journey has just begun and I’m thrilled at the prospect of watching the old me continue to melt away on my mat.


How has yoga changed your life?

26 Comments
  • Nellwyn
    April 25, 2016

    Lovely post! Yoga really helps me manage my stress and anxiety. I always feel calmer after!

    Nellwyn | http://www.thecardinalpress.com

    • Rica Lewis
      April 25, 2016

      That’s awesome, Nellwyn. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Rosemond
    April 25, 2016

    Wonderful that the power of yoga helped you defeat body hatred and starvation diets. Yoga helps me stay calmer in chaotic situations OFF the mat!

    • Rica Lewis
      April 25, 2016

      Same here, Rosemond. It really helps “balance” my emotional state. Thanks for stopping in and reading!

  • Linda
    April 26, 2016

    I tried Yoga a few years back, and it was SO hard! I always found my muscles shaking madly and the poses almost impossible. I think now I was probably pushing too hard and trying too much. A different type might help too. I’m thinking I should try again to help with stress levels. I’d also like my body to feel ‘stronger’ and to work on my flexibility again. I used to be a well practised people pleaser… it took me a long while to learn how to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty. I’m much better now! Some good things do come with age. 😉 Linda.

    • Rica Lewis
      April 26, 2016

      Absolutely! I often hear people saying yoga is a lot harder than it looks. But once you start using you muscles a certain way and developing more flexibility, it’s surprising how quickly you can move into more advanced poses. Give it another shot– maybe try a restorative yoga class for the stress relief. It’s a good way to ease into it! And I agree with the “good things come with age” comment, Linda! Thanks so much for leaving your comments. 🙂

  • Jennifer
    April 26, 2016

    Funny how yoga does that and more for us. You start for the exterior changes and stay because of the interior changes.

  • Carol Cassara
    April 26, 2016

    So far I’ve not gotten on the yoga bandwagon. But your post has inspired me to take it a step further and actually try. Thank you.

    • Rica Lewis
      April 26, 2016

      Very cool, Carol. Yoga just really resonated with me. Whatever you find, I hope it keeps you fit and healthy!

  • Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS
    April 27, 2016

    I do not make enough time for yoga but I think it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I have seen older patients come in and out of my office, the ones that are the most limber are the ones who do yoga.

    • Rica Lewis
      April 28, 2016

      I believe it, Sharon. I hope to be one of those 100-year old yogis rocking my yoga pants and pink hair. (I don’t actually have pink hair. I’ll wait until I’m 90 to make that change.) 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Tess Ciarloni
    April 29, 2016

    Yoga has definitely helped me to befriend my body! I also find that I’m more inclined to eat better now and make healthy choices. It’s also helped me to feel accomplished in my fitness goals. It always feels good to go to a class or learn a new pose, or even to be able to stay in crow for 5 seconds!

    • Rica Lewis
      April 29, 2016

      Yes! So good to hear, Tess. Thanks for reading. 😀

  • Terri Webster Schrandt
    May 17, 2016

    I love your posts, Rica. I have tried yoga and enjoyed it, but a knee injury has prevented me from doing much right now. It’s nice to stumble these posts onto my exercise and wellness pages.

    • Rica Lewis
      May 17, 2016

      Thanks, Terri! All the best to you and thanks for Stumbling!

  • Stacey W
    May 17, 2016

    #2 is why I should try yoga right now. I am tired of trying to please everyone!

    • Rica Lewis
      May 18, 2016

      I agree. It’s soul-sucking being a people pleaser. Thanks for reading, Stacey. Good luck!

  • Jessica
    May 20, 2016

    I love yoga! Thank you for sharing!

  • Bethany
    May 20, 2016

    Amazing post!! I love yoga also, it’s such a constant, even though I can’t do anything super cool I love being able to get on my mat and de-stress from the crazy world.

    • Rica Lewis
      May 20, 2016

      No “super cool” needed, Bethany! It’s all about how you feel! Great for you and thank you so much for reading.

  • Allie
    May 20, 2016

    This is awesome! I’ve really come to appreciate yoga more as I improve with it. Whenever I master a new move I feel so accomplished and strong!

    • Rica Lewis
      May 20, 2016

      That’s great, Allie! I know the feeling of mastering a pose you’ve been working had towards. It’s so rewarding! Thanks for reading!

  • Beth Giusti
    June 10, 2016

    Any attempts I have ever made at trying yoga, I didn’t love it. However I need to learn to just let my mind relax to be able to get more out of it. This is the same reason why I NEED yoga so badly in my life!

    • Rica Lewis
      June 10, 2016

      Sounds about right, Beth! Sometimes we have to give ourselves time to fall in love with things we need but initially resist. I have the hardest time getting my butt in gear sometimes, especially when it comes to projects that require sustained focus. 🙁

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