How Yoga Changed My Life

Cecilia's Insights - Weekly Column on Evano Magazine
Photo by Jess Vide

A personal story by the community member Cecilia Lucio, about how Yoga changed her life.

Have you ever had an experience that completely changed your life? Something that changed you completely?
That’s exactly what happened to me seven years ago. Never would I´ve thought that it was something that ultimately had very little to do with the outside, but something that had more to do with myself and my inner self.

Because exactly seven years ago I found yoga.

I remember it very well, it was a fresh autumn evening, on which I entered a yoga studio for the first time. I was full of curiosity and also a little nervous. Who would have thought that 90 minutes on a mat would turn my life around 180 degrees?

How exactly I found my way to yoga and what it teaches me every day since then, I would like to tell you here.
In doing so, I want to share with you not only why yoga is such a big part of my own healing journey. I want to share why I am convinced that yoga is enriching for everyone.
Yes, for you as well!

But what exactly is yoga?

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear of yoga?
Is it dynamic movement on a mat? Stretching? Being super flexible? Sitting in silence and saying Om?

My own experience is that many people think of yoga as a sport or associate it with physical practice on a mat. And that’s true, part of it is the physical practice. But the longer I practiced yoga, the more I understood:
“Yoga is so much more than just physical exercise; yoga is a philosophy of life which you carry off the mat and into your everyday life. A philosophy of life that you practice every day, whether on the mat or not.

But even in my reality, yoga was more of an athletic activity back then. In no way did I suspect that there was so much more to it. I couldn´t imagine that there was something that not only moved my body, but my soul, my heart.

My first Yoga Class

Lifting weights – I used to love it. Until I entered a phase in which I exercised so excessively in a form of sports addiction that I was banned from sports for a whole year. The anorexia that had been slowly developing in my youth took over in my young adulthood. So, I ended up in various psychotherapies and clinics. Sometimes people look at me very surprised when I tell them that my second stay in a clinic was one of the best times of my life. But yes, that’s how it is. Because that was the time when I learned to accept myself, and even to love myself.

And there I was, 19 years old, finally able to feel that sense of happiness again. It was breathtaking. And I felt ready, ready for life, and ready to finally go back to the gym.

Since my father is a fitness trainer, I went to him determinedly after my release to get a new workout plan. Naive as I´ve been, I didn’t expect him to sighing shake his head and advise me against getting back into strength training right away. “Why don’t you try yoga? You’re moving there, too, and it’s healthy. If you can keep your weight off for a few weeks, I’ll get you back on a workout schedule.

Yoga. What did I know about Yoga?

Quite little. But it was a sport, right? Say, I would just start working out my legs and butt in the yoga studio until I could get back to the gym. I wanted to build up my muscles again. Also, those “dynamic vinyasa flows” – as the website of a yoga studio near to my house described it – would surely bring back some lost condition as well.

Finally, on that fresh and dark autumn evening, I walked along the river to the yoga studio I had found on the internet. I had no idea what to expect there. It gave me quite a bit of anxiety. I think if I hadn’t paid for the yoga class in advance, I would have turned around halfway there.

But when I finally entered the studio, all the tension suddenly fell away. Wow, so this is what it looks like from inside. Warm, friendly, somehow homey. And exactly the same feeling was given to me by the teacher. She greeted me with such a warm smile. With her words she took away all the fear that has been brewing on the way.

Here I feel at home

…was my thought.
And then it started. I can hardly remember how exactly this class went, but I do remember one particular moment. Because in this moment I felt that my whole life just changed completely. I was hanging around in the pose of the wheel at the end of the class when suddenly those thoughts came up:
“This is me, what I am and what I want to do. This is what I want to teach one day. I let Yoga enter my life. Then I will learn how to teach other people yoga and everything that comes with it.”

This whole class was so incredibly magical. Never before had I felt so safe and so connected to my body. Never before have I felt so full of energy and calm at the same time.

This is me, this is what I want to be. And I want to share it with the whole world.

Does it sound crazy when I tell you now that two weeks later I quit my dentistry studies, changed my university knowing that my purpose is to inspire people with my own story and to guide them on their healing journey? Oh yeah, it was kind of crazy, I think my family was pretty shocked when they heard about my plans. But for the first time in my life I was sure of something. The first time in my life I listened to my inner voice. And yoga helped me do that.

The first time I felt I was living my life, I was being myself. And that was indescribable.

Yoga – My Therapy

In the beginning, yoga was more of a practice on the mat for me. As soon as I entered the yoga studio, it seemed as if all the stress, all the tension was falling away from me. The yoga mat was my safe space to forget my worries, fears and self-doubt for a moment.

And so it soon came to pass that yoga meant something like self-therapy for me. Indeed, I felt much better mentally and physically after my stay in the clinic. But still, I had days when this little devil called anorexia talked to me in my head. I had days when depression came up or I just felt a discomfort. And those were the days when I loved going to the yoga studio even more. Because there I always managed to choose self-love.

The yoga mat was the space where I allowed myself to be good to me.

The more months and years passed, the more I realized that yoga was not just a practice limited by the small space of my mat. Because with time, I began to integrate what I was learning on the mat into my everyday life. Step by step.

For example, when I learned to relax in a yoga class, not being affected by external influences and noises, I began to be able to relax in everyday situations, regardless of how noisy or hectic it was around me.
As I learned to treat my body with love, I began to think kinder thoughts about my body in everyday life as well.
Time passed and I understood:

Yoga is not just a practice on the mat. It is a philosophy of life.
It is the philosophy I want to live by.

The more I practiced, the more I understood what Yoga was

The more I practiced, the more I understood what yoga was. From the idea of an exercise of the body to the realization of an exercise of life, I would like to share with you what my wonderful yoga teachers have taught me over the past years. Because today this knowledge guides a large part of my everyday life, my thinking, feeling and acting.

For years I let myself be carried away by the meritocracy and the idea of constant high-performance. I thought I had to be the best in school. When school was over, I wanted to be the best in sports, the best in controlling my body.

That I’m allowed to do something without comparing myself, that I’m just allowed to be myself and be good to myself, is what yoga philosophy finally taught me.
I remember very clearly the first sentence our teacher Charlie read to us in our Teacher Training:

Yoga is non-competitive.

And the phrase I’ve used most in my own classes since then is:

Yoga is not about being good at something. It’s about being good to yourself.

Here are more of my most important learnings about yoga philosophy and history:

  • Yoga is one of the oldest Hindu systems of thought and practice in Indian philosophy (about 5000 years old). It is considered the science of life. Thereby it connects body, mind and soul.
  • Yoga originated with the question of what we actually need as human beings to achieve harmony and balance within ourselves and our environment, what it takes to find inner peace and happiness.

The knowledge was then recorded in the sacred indian scriptures – the Vedas:

  • There is an inner and outer world.
  • We should focus mainly on our inner world in order to better understand the world around us.
  • Everything is One, we are always connected with the outside, the “Divine”. In other words, the Divine is always within us. “Divine” for this stands more for the whole, the universal, rather than a religious figure. This divine substance is what the Indians call Brahman.
  • Yoga is about controlling the restless mind, living completely in the present moment by letting go of the past, the future, and external circumstances. The moment we allow ourselves to let go of all these factors, we allow ourselves to look within and seek the answers within, until we come to the realization that everything is already there and it needs nothing more than ourselves and the present moment.
  • So, Yoga is about letting go in order to achieve freedom and peace.
  • In this, the physical body is considered the vehicle and the mind the driver. As we engage in physical practice, we automatically put ourselves in a state where we are highly focused – focused on the present moment. And this is what finally brings us to a state where we can take control of our mind, of our thoughts and feelings.

What Yoga teaches me every Day since then

For me, yoga means learning to love myself, to connect with me and my inner self. Yoga for me is freedom and stillness. When I practice yoga, I find my mind in a peaceful state and in harmony with my body. Yoga helps me to free myself more and more from addiction, doubt, bad habits, toxic thoughts, feelings and expectations. In doing so, I gain more freedom, more clarity and love.

What once started with a physical practice and a focus on my body has all by itself brought me to new possibilities in life, in my whole being, not just on a physical level.
I started with yoga on the mat and step by step I let it flow from there into my daily life. And since then it teaches me to live my life, to connect with myself and to keep balance, even when life around me is hectic and noisy sometimes.

Yoga puts me in peaceful tranquility and deep love, even when things are happening on the outside that are painful. Because it has taught me to open my heart again – to myself and to my whole environment, no matter what happens. Through yoga, I always find renewed hope and confidence in myself and my life.

And as I have shifted my focus to my inner self, I have come to realize that I already carry everything within me – that I am already perfect.

My Vision

My personal vision as a yoga teacher is to share what yoga teaches me every day. In doing so, I want to inspire as many people as possible to look inward. Because yoga has helped me to find love and perfection within myself, I wish every person this wonderful experience. Yoga means nothing more to me than love. And for meaning I have found in my life is to be love and share love.

To Whom would I recommend Yoga?

To everyone! Because you can practice yoga in so many different ways. Yoga is not about your flexibility or strength. As I said above, it’s about being good to yourself. No matter what shapes and sizes you have, what profession, how lexible or sporty you are, how old or young, if female or male:

Yoga is for everyone!

How to start practicing Yoga?

I personally found it very helpful to go to the yoga studio regularly. There are classes for all levels. Still today, I go to the studio as a student, because I love being guided. In addition, I always improve my postures, get new inspiration to flow, and try out new things.

Otherwise, there are many beginner guides on YouTube and as different apps. There is really no right or wrong here. I pick the yogis I sympathize with and whose yoga styles I like.
I use for example Alo Moves as I am the biggest Alo Yoga fan from day one on! And the OLIE app by Jessica Olie who is as well such a great inspiration for me in the field of yoga, fitness and mental health.

Neither is for you? You can also join my weekly live classes or go on your yoga journey face-to-face with me!
I am coaching online worldwide. Feel free to message me anytime on Instgram!

My biggest Yoga Inspirations so far

Charlie Stewart-Brown

Charlie guided me on the way to become a certified yoga teacher. Not only her teacher training was incredible and transforming, also getting to know her personally inspired me a lot. She empowered me to love myself as I am, to accept where I am on my journey right now without judging myself and to trust in my life journey.

Dylan Werner

I found Dylan by practicing yoga on YouTube with Alo Yoga. Since then I am following his journey and what he shares. Dylan is such a big inspiration in controlled movement, focus, mastering the mind and body, breathwork and growing beyond limits.
One of the biggest goals in my yoga studies is to be his student in the 300h teacher training.

Andrew Sealy

Also as a part of the Alo Yoga family I started practicing with his online classes about six years ago. Since then I am following Andrew on instagram and I have to say, that his daily stories and posts are one of my favourite content on this platform! He is not only a great idol in balancing the body, inversions and acro yoga, with his positive charisma he also inspires me to always see the good in life. Yes, I guess Andrew is the brightest smile on my instagram feed and he reminds me daily to be grateful for this wonderful life.

Caley Alyssa

I love Caleys yoga classes, and I love her warm aura! She also guided me into my first silent meditation journey and showed me that also as a evry active person I am able to pause in stillness. I can´t really describe what Caley is doing, I just know that I always feel loved whenever I practice yoga with her videos or when I see the content that she is sharing. She inspires me to love myself as I am.

Cordula Thurnhuber

Cordula is one of the incredible teachers ina studio I am going to since over six years now. I remember when I was moving back to Munich after quitting my dentistry studies her classes have been one of the first back in my home town. I guess no matter to which studio you are going to for your yoga practice, you´ll always have one or a few teacher favs. Cordula definetly is mine! It is as if her aura bathes the room in a warm and peaceful light. In her classes I am able to totally forget about what happens outside of the studio. With her warm voice and her loving guidance she leads everyone deeper into their physical and spiritual yoga practice.

SOURCES

  • My knowledge is a collection of the yoga classes I was visiting the past years, of what those teacher gave me on my way and of what I was learning during my own practice as well as in my Yoga Teacher Training at IndivYoga
  • As well I can recommend those two books:
    1. Patanjalis Yoga Sutras
    2. Light on Yoga – B.K.S Iyengar