Story submitted by Julie Frank
At 18 years old, I was in a car accident that left me in a chiropractor’s office multiple times per week. I started suffering from migraines and back pain. I was searching for natural healing modalities and decided to try yoga. Within six months, my migraines and back pain were gone. After I was feeling good once again, my life was no longer about pain management, simply living normally.
My college years were spent in Bemidji with large gulps of the great outdoors. From there it was on to my first career in Minneapolis, where I spent a decade traveling as a software consultant. While I attended yoga classes as part of my fitness routine, it wasn’t until 2007, when time and fate somehow guided me back to Bemidji, the region of my childhood, that yoga became deeper than just fitness, once again.
Somehow, in the move up here, the stresses of remodeling and selling a house while at the same time, building a house and traveling for work, it was difficult to stay healthy. Combined with pregnancy, I inadvertently gained 100-plus pounds. I’ll never forget the moment I stepped on the scale in the doctor’s office and the numbers read 303 pounds.
It was shortly thereafter I once again found my love for yoga and the quiet I found both in my body and mind. As a result, I took off 100 pounds and was once again loving life and myself. I had removed the fat suit that was suffocating me mentally, physically and spiritually.
In 2010, I began yoga teacher training, I was staying at home with my son, and the timing felt perfect to begin this adventure. I dove deeply into the philosophies behind this 5,000-year-old tradition. We studied the postures (asanas), anatomy and physiology in great depth. We learned to breathe in many different fashions (pranayama). We learned how to meditate. After 200 hours of study, we became Registered Yoga Teachers with Yoga Alliance.
Nearing the end of yoga teacher training, I became pregnant with my second child. A girl this time. I felt very blessed, yet was fearful of regaining the weight. There’s something crazy that happens inside this body when it becomes pregnant. It’s as if the babies are screaming for ice cream and chocolate. While I kept my yoga practice strong, and taught throughout, I still gained too much for my health and happiness.
I had worked so hard to lose this weight and here I was with an enormous amount of weight to lose, again; but this time with a toddler and a newborn to care for. I was exhausted, defeated and depressed. Once again, I came back to my yoga practice.
When the postures finally became easy physically, my mind began to wander all over the place. After I learned how to quiet my mind and breath during these once difficult postures, there was an internal light bulb that turned on that was pointing me to my truth. This weight did not get here overnight. If I was going to change this dramatic weight loss/gain pattern that had been plaguing me all of my life, I had to dive back further than just the blaringly obvious fact that I was overweight.
When you can be quiet with yourself, listen to your body and breath, you can finally make peace with yourself. Become friends with yourself. I needed to love myself despite feeling like a big fat failure. I had to be honest with myself, it was not kind to tax my organs with all that added weight. My toddler showed me just how slow I really was. And I was embarrassed of how I looked.
It was at this time, I explored my unhealthy relationship with food and quit living my life on a “diet,” which had been running my life for as long as I remember. I learned to cook real foods that are enjoyable. This was a lifetime of unhealthy behaviors that had to be undone. I now cook with pleasure and have even started blogging about food. This is such an amazing concept, given my inability to boil an egg prior.
I will be very honest and say that Downward dog did not magically remove 151 pounds. It was a sum of all the parts that helped me not only lose the weight and heal a lifetime struggle of poor eating habits and low self-esteem. Yoga has this way of nurturing you with patience and love, you start to see the magic happen inside and out. It gives me energy, it keeps me healthy mentally, physically and spiritually. There’s nothing life altering about a downward dog, it’s those moments of silence and clarity that potentially happen in a downward dog, (or any other pose) on or off your mat. When you are connecting body, mind and higher consciousness, you are “doing” yoga. We are all on a journey, filled with many twists and turns as life always presents. Find what works for you. I have no idea what life will turn up next, but know that my yoga mat is always within reach.