Before yoga I was a single lawyer. After yoga I’m a married father of two, restaurateur and business developer. I’m about to turn 35 but after practicing hot yoga nearly every day for five years, I look 25 and feel 17. I’ve been able to forge my own path.
Being an attorney required long hours of sitting still. I’d injured my knee training for a marathon, and I needed something that would give me that runner’s high and keep me fit in spite of my sedentary professional life. One day I asked a friend how he stayed so skinny. He’d been practicing Bikram yoga, so I gave it a shot.
After a couple days struggling through class I forked over $1000 for a year of unlimited yoga. It wasn’t that I immediately loved it, or even liked it that much. Inflexible and out of shape, I was terrible at yoga and each minute in that 105-degree room was borderline torture. I paid because of a nebulous feeling in my gut that if I kept going, I’d be better for it. So I tricked myself. I knew if I spent a bunch of money, my natural aversion to waste would motivate me to stick out this impossible yoga.
Soon I was eagerly anticipating those 90 minute sessions. I started going in to work early so I could leave in time to make it to the most popular class at 4:30. Every time was hard as hell, but I was getting better. More importantly, I was feeling better than ever. I slept like a rock. The sweat pouring out of my body seemed in direct proportion to the stress leaving my mind. Walking out of the studio each night I felt energized, confident and excited about life.
As I grew more comfortable with the heat and my practice, class became a meditation. Once I’d internalized the postures it became like a miniature vacation (if on a volcanic beach). No emails or cell phone buzzing, it was a daily time to unwind. The harder I pushed myself in class the more relaxed I became; my practice became like a second sleep. Science says the subconscious mind processes stimuli into coherent thought while we sleep. I would say that’s also what happens during yoga. It sets free my imagination and organizes my thoughts. Then it gives me the energy to act on those thoughts.
That’s probably why my life changed so dramatically. I had the confidence to reach out to the girl who’d gotten away in college, and after a quick romance we married. Practicing yoga together got us in shape for wedding day pictures. When we learned she was pregnant but at high risk for premature labor, yoga gave me the peace I needed to be there for her. Now with two healthy children life can be wild, but daily practice is the quiet time that gives me the energy to keep up with a couple crazy toddlers.
I also quit my job in the midst of all this, twice. The first time was to start my own business. I gave up a steady paycheck to live my dream. Then a year ago I sold that business to start a new one. Each time was scary and stressful, but my practice gave me the courage and clear head to make those leaps of faith. Instead of relenting to fear, I have hope.
The result has been a professional life that’s fun, blending work and play. The flexibility I have with work gives me freedom to practice yoga pretty much whenever I want – like 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Taking that little 90 minute vacation in the middle of a work day gives me the creativity and enthusiasm I need to be productive, and the strength to keep living differently.