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how yoga got my mind right
Photography by bruce mars

how yoga got my mind right

by Haley Catalano haley catalano
Practice Yoga | What is Yoga? | | Personal Story


A few years ago I went through a highly transitional period. I graduated college with a degree in Spanish, unsure what I’d use it for. I was having some family problems while living at home, and I'd just gone through a nasty break up to boot. So I thought, why not go ahead and move to a new city to escape all the madness? Surprise, surprise, it helped me escape the madness at home but just introduced a whole new set of crazy into my life.

I was working as
a social worker (one of the most emotionally and mentally draining jobs, with little in the way of financial compensation). I moved in with some Craigslist roomies – one of whom ended up being pretty suspicious, so I quickly relocated to another place. And I landed in the hospital after my throat closed up from one of my many absurd food allergies.

Okay, so you get the picture. I had a lot on my plate.

I tried going to therapy and that helped a little, but therapists are kind of like life partners, you need to have a connection in order for it to work. I was making amazing friends and loving the city, but emotionally I just wasn’t coping very well with the stress.

Now one thing that I know helps me to de-stress is dancing, and one night while I'm out busting a move, I start chatting with a girl who tells me about a yoga studio that needs studio assistants. The gig is basically to come in 15 minutes before class and sign people in, and then stay five minutes after to wipe down the floors. In return, you take the class for free and (better still) if it’s only a 60-minute class then you get another free class on top of that.

I’d taken yoga classes before, and I never really clicked, but I figured I would give it another try. Praise the stars that I did.

This beautiful studio introduced me to power yoga and to a few teachers that I absolutely fell in love with. I remember ending my first class in savasana and as I was laying there I just began crying. Suddenly, yoga was speaking to me and touching a part of my soul and I felt an incredible release.

Yoga became my version of religion. It gave me a way to turn my thoughts and feeling into words and teachings that I could follow. It brought me back down to earth and helped me deal with my anxiety. Today, it continues to help keep me happy. Some people get “hangry” – I get “yangry” when I’m not getting enough yoga in my life.

What did I learn? When your body is engaged physically when you’re sweating it out in unison with a room full of people when there’s music playing in the background and the teacher is speaking to you … it’s magic. There's a positive energy like you’ve never felt. You develop a clearer mind to work through everything going on outside the studio, as you engage in this meditative, hypnotic state. There are more complicated terms and explanations for yoga, and I still have a lot to learn, but I don't need to understand any of that to benefit from yoga.

People look at crazy yoga poses and think it’s simply a physical feat to be accomplished, but it’s more than that. Every asana is a mental and emotional accomplishment. Dedicate yourself to your practice and you will end up dedicating yourself to your life. You will learn to be patient, thoughtful, and present exactly where you are in the moment. Yoga has taught me to let go and to see that I can work through anything. So show up to a class, maybe many classes. Find a teacher whose words and style resonate with you. Surrender and let it take over, and I promise you, it will.



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