Overcoming Yoga Phobia

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Nearly eleven months ago to the day, I overcame yoga phobia. I had been suffering from this self-inflicted fear for 21 years.

Yoga. I first heard about yoga when I was 18 and a freshman in college living in the dorms. Although I checked the “non-smoking” box when filling out my on-campus living application, I somehow landed on the only smoking floor and right next to the smoking lounge of Cumberland Hall, a girls-only dorm.

Several cigarette-smoking (and pot-smoking) ladies on my floor talked about yoga in between inhales and exhales and practiced their meditations in their rooms. I sensed a contradiction in smoking (unhealthy) and yoga (healthy). Needless to say, I wasn’t sold on the idea of trying it myself. It seemed like they practiced for the sake of making up for their bad habits instead of changing those habits. Plus, it seemed one must already be flexible and spiritual to do yoga. The idea of yoga took a huge beating in my mind, and at 18, I declared to myself that yoga was not for me.

That was over 21 years ago. My attitude toward yoga has made a dramatic shift since then.

Last October 2011, I found myself searching for something to jumpstart my body and mind. I had gone through a few life-changing experiences earlier in the year and yearned for a change. I suffered from mild depression, low self-esteem, and chronic knee pain as a result of a car accident 10 years before. I took these three things into consideration, and like the organizational freak I can sometimes be, I prioritized a three-step approach to change.

  1. First, I need to find a trusted and successful orthopedic surgeon who can fix my knee.
  2. Second, once my knee is fixed and I complete rehab, I will join a gym.
  3. Third, with a “new” knee and the adrenaline rush and weight loss from exercise, I’ll surely kick my depression and improve my self-esteem. Surely.

I started ticking away at this list. I found a local surgeon, scheduled an initial consultation, and headed to the Internet to learn more about what to expect from the surgery and subsequent rehabilitation. I typed, “healing from knee surgery” and pressed Enter. To my surprise, I was bombarded with links to pages and articles about how to heal knee injuries WITHOUT surgery. Well, how stupid was I feeling? Very! I had never even considered such a thing. I continued surfing and stumbled upon several testimonials from yoga practitioners who claimed to have been healed physically and emotionally by yoga. Physically and emotionally? You mean I could kill two birds with one stone? Being the cynic I can sometimes be, I highly doubted what I was reading. But after reading more and more about yoga and its benefits, I decided to shed myself of my 21-year-old bias and prejudice and began searching for a studio in my neighborhood. much to my delight, there was a yoga studio less than a mile from my home.

My first day practicing yoga was October 15, 2011. I have not been the same since. My original three-step approach to change was reached through the single, one-step act of letting go by practicing yoga 2-3 times each week:

  1. I have zero knee pain. No surgery required.
  2. I discovered self-autonomy. I like myself, and in liking myself, I can offer so much more to my family and friends.
  3. I stopped taking anti-depressants after 6 months. (Please speak to your doctor before attempting. Not recommended without guidance.) My moods are free to come and go as needed. Talk about freedom!

One of the best and unintended consequences of my yoga practice has been the influence on my son to try it. (That’s him practicing his crow stand in the picture.) His public elementary school offers after-school yoga workshops for all children in the school. He was the only boy in the group last spring, but it didn’t seem to bother him much. (I wonder why? Hmmm?) I’m thankful he won’t be spending the next 21 years too afraid to try something that could bring him peace, joy, laughter and fulfillment.


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