How Yoga teaches me to roll with the punches…

I started writing this blog quite a few months ago now but for some reason the timing just didn’t seem right. I was recently asked to be a Lululemon Ambassador and last week I was honoured to be interviewed by the awesome Candi from Lululemon about what I do and why I do it. One of the questions was in regards to the biggest lesson or challenge so far. It was definitely the old ‘You can’t control the weather’ line that first came into my mind and it later reminded me of what I had started writing here. The idea of needing to be in total control of my external situation has long been a struggle for me. If I was in a down period of my life, just the smallest changes in routine or plans for reasons out of my control was enough to send me into an anxious spin. Yoga has provided me with the acceptance that some things I just cannot change and the strength to ride waves that I never imagined I would be capable of.

Not many know the story behind Sarah… The Yoga student, studio owner, teacher, permanent health science degree student, raw food chef and chocolatier, ex long distance runner (although never say never), basketball player and real estate agent. The struggles you don’t see that led me to this point… Endocrine disorders, adrenal burnout, anxiety, body image issues, bouts of bulimia. You name it.

It’s a colourful journey but we’ve all got our personal story.

A few of you I know well have been asking me to share the journey for some time now. I guess for some unknown reason I feel ready to share parts of that journey. Because I’m more comfortable within myself and the decisions I’ve made so far maybe. Because I’m in the practice of vulnerability and to not be afraid to share what I feel and what is my personal experience regardless of what someone else might think. I don’t for a second pretend to know the formula to assist one on a similar journey, let’s face it – I needed/need several qualified health professionals and it’s been a never ending rollercoaster ride of ups and downs called life, but maybe if one person struggling with similar circumstance can happen upon reading this journey and if anything, know they aren’t alone, and make small steps to seek the support they need.

The practice of Yoga has helped me in so many ways, I’m only just starting to understand how much. To find inside of myself that which is unchanging instead of trying to find control in everything around me that constantly changes. To find stillness and peace regardless of the circumstances around me. Sometimes – I fail miserably but it’s all part of the journey.

I struggled with social anxiety growing up for as long as I can remember. As in… I literally can’t remember a time in my early life that I wasn’t anxious. Trying to put on a calm front when inside I was literally shaking to bits. This led me to search for perfection within myself. Perfection doesn’t exist but we can try and force it. I wanted the perfect grades, the perfect body, to put on the perfect front, to excel, to always be put together, to be unaffected by anything. This perfection cannot exist. We are human after all.

I also struggled with body image from an early age. I remember at the end of grade seven, the exact moment over Christmas holidays that I first binge ate and made myself sick. This continued for a long time. Sometimes the habit would disappear for months, even a year depending on the circumstances and stress in my life. Not many people knew this side of me. Again… The perfect front. I used it as a way to completely throw my life out of control and by making myself be sick I could bring myself back into a place of control. Which does not at all make sense. But that is how life was for me as a twelve year old.

So, of course come time for puberty my cycle was already affected by internal stress and completely out of whack. Literally the first appearance of a menstrual cycle I went straight to the doctor who recommended I go on the contraceptive pill. Which of course sounded fantastic to me. Again, control. I was travelling for basketball and playing every day so the idea that I could skip cycles was, well… Ideal. I continued on the pill for about 10 or 11 years so my hormones never had the opportunity to develop on their own. By this stage I already had a regular Yoga practice. I was interested in teaching but for me it was still more of a supplement to my long distance running. I was training a lot – overtraining in fact, competing in half and full distance marathons with a keen interest in ultra-marathons. I was starting to study a lot about nutrition as I had noticed the massive difference eating well was making in my training. It had started to sink in that taking the contraceptive pill was not ideal for my body and I wanted to prepare for one day having children so I gave it up. Now really knowing what would happen when I did.

It threw my body into a complete spin. I was also burning 10 thousand different candles in my life at the time. My cycle was non existent. Within a few months, I lost strength, I had no energy, I couldn’t digest a thing, I was gaining weight, I was severely fatigued and thrown into a spin of anxiety. Some morning I couldn’t get out of bed. Other mornings I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house or would call Adam from the side of the road mid panic attack. I went from running for hours on a Sunday morning for fun and being at my fittest physically and mentally… To not being able to run 5kms. I went through fertility treatment to try and get my body doing what it needed to do which went horribly wrong. I had the record in Western Australia for the longest hormone injection treatment which at the end saw me overstimulated and lying on the lounge room floor in severe pain for two weeks straight. In total, I went without a period for almost five years and it’s been a long road back to good health.

It was when I became ill that I could no longer do the lengthy training runs but still needed to do something physical – anything – that I began a daily home Yoga practice. I was suffering from adrenal burnout and pretty much every single hormone level was all over the place or non-existent. I have this problem sometimes, known as ‘all or nothing’. It’s a thing. So rather than just running what I could, when I could… I gave up. And didn’t want to know about it. AKA broken hearted. But it was this decision that led me to completely fall in love with Yoga which I am now so thankful for. It was something so similar in the quietness and stillness of running that I found in Yoga. The mind, the breath, the pavement, the mat. But instead of the drive to get further, to be faster, to better my technique. I learnt to just do what I could do. I learnt that during this time I had no idea how I was going to feel the following morning. One day I might’ve felt like an intense practice and balancing on my hands, the next often a very different story with hardly the energy to get to my mat. But I did. For almost 90 days straight, the length of my treatment until I fell pretty ill. Every single day I got on my mat. And from here began my complete and total love affair with daily Yoga.

When we arrived back in Brisbane some years later and started the journey at Fusion Hot Yoga… Again, Yoga really helped me find some calm in the rollercoaster. It still does through all of the ups and downs of life and relationships. I’ve been very lucky to connect with a couple of amazing teachers and practice buddies that have supported my journey and have helped me stay true to this path that I know I need to be on as well as the support and encouragement of my incredible parents. The sale process was a little stressful and there were things that happened, that shouldn’t have.Β The month prior to settlement was the lowest income month the studio had ever seen and within a few months of arriving we received a 2.5k rent rise… Per month… That we could do nothing about. If you can believe that. In a business bought by a family trust, this was really tough and many times we came close to shutting the doors which would’ve been a devastating blow financially to my family. To be really honest, I’m not entirely sure how we are still here today… But we are and amidst the most amazing and supportive community I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. At the time however, I was thrown into a place of anxiety, depression and fear of the unknown and I needed every bit of will, strength and support to show up and trust within myself that this was our journey and our passion to share with Brisbane.

It is still challenging – yes, some days more than others, but when you have a regular, dedicated Yoga practice, you start to connect with you. When you have that self awareness, that connection to what really matters inside of you… The strength and resiliency that will appear when you truly need it, will totally blow you away. And as you become comfortable and confident with your internal situation, the external situation is just that.

As I sit to write this, today particularly has been a tough day and I’ve had to practice a lot of kindness to myself within in a period of change. I do know that as long as each day I do my best that I can do on that particular day which might not have been my best yesterday or tomorrow, both on my mat and off the mat, I will find the strength to continue living my truth.