Melinda is a yogi I met through an Instagram challenge. I truly admire her strong, home practice and how honest she is in her poses. Melinda is a former smoker and fibromyalgia thriver. Melinda is what a yogi looks like.

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1. When did you start doing yoga and why?

I had always be pretty healthy and active throughout my 20s and 30s but kind of went through a “midlife crisis” just before I turned 40. I had really neglected my health and diet and had picked up a really bad habit of smoking just before my 40th birthday. Jump ahead 10 years just before my 49th birthday. I had started having pain from what I now know was from fibromyalgia and severe back pain. I was terrified of spinal surgery and was going to do anything possible to avoid it. I decided I was getting healthy no matter what it took! I gave up my bad habits cold turkey. No smoking, no junk food, no fast food, and I had to increase my activity. Chiropractic therapy and spinal injections were not helping very much but I did get instructions from my Chiropractor of exercises to do every day. One look at the drawings and I thought “this looks like Yoga”, or what I thought Yoga looked like. I looked up yoga on youtube and was hooked! I couldn’t get enough of it! It’s been almost 6 years now and my only regret is that I wish I would have started sooner, much sooner.

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about Yoga before starting? I thought that if I walked into a yoga studio I would see people sitting on mats chanting and doing crazy poses that only thin, extremely flexible people could do. That you really didn’t sweat, exert yourself, or build muscle it was mainly for relaxation and stretching. I didn’t see myself as the type of person who could practice yoga. I was overweight, in bad health, and didn’t even know the first thing about it. In my small rural town there are no yoga studios or gyms that offered Yoga and I didn’t know anyone who taught or practiced at home. I didn’t understand that there was more to it than a physical practice and that Yoga was a lifestyle. That you could actually LIVE yoga.

3. What is your favorite pose and why? I have several but if I had to choose only one it would be Wild Thing! Or Camatkarasana. I used to be able to drop back into Wheel Pose anytime I pleased when I was young but I thought those days were far behind me. Before I started my practice I couldn’t even turn my head to look behind me without pain or even do a simple twist. No way did I ever think I could do Wild Thing! After about a month of daily practice I was in the pose without a care in the world. I can’t flip into the pose without a smile on my face. My next favorite pose is Sleeping Pigeon. This is the first exercise my Chiropractor gave me to do that reminded me of “Yoga”. I love this pose and it helps my hips and back so much. I get so much benefit from it. My last one I’ll add to this list is Headstand. I have never NOT been able to do headstand. It shows me how to look at things from a different angle and perspective.

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4. What are your thoughts on Yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? My answer to this question has changed many times. I started my practice to help with my physical pain, and it did help but not only did I benefit from how my body felt but how I felt about my body. I was overweight and unhealthy in the beginning and so my focus was on how to make my body feel better. I thought I was not “in shape” enough to perform the poses correctly and it bothered me a bit. I thought if I just got some weight off I would be able to do this pose or that pose. As time went on I saw improvement in my strength and flexibility and found it didn’t matter what the scale said. I did drop 50 pounds, not that it mattered to my practice but I did have more confidence and wanted to interact with other yogis. I don’t have a studio in my town and no one I knew practiced. I came across a studio 90 miles from me that had a workshop with Kathryn Budig. I couldn’t pass that up! I came back from that weekend with a different attitude toward my body as well as other’s bodies. Kathryn told us to forget about how we looked and asked us not to adjust our leggings if they rolled under our muffin tops! We were all enjoying the practice and it was wonderful! I still struggle with my own body image from time to time just like most women but I try to not let it affect my practice. To just be there in the moment just as I am. I know to some, social media is not their thing but to me it is contact with other yogis that I wouldn’t get elsewhere. I get on Instagram and join in on challenges, post my pictures as well as look at other yogis’ pictures. Everyone and anyone can practice yoga and should without being afraid of what their physical body looks like. We are not our bodies, we are so much more! I know I’m rambling on about this but I get so upset about comments I read on social media. I don’t understand how people can be so rude to others and make such hurtful comments about the way they look or what they’re wearing or even if they are “real yogis”. Ok, off my soapbox.

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5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification, or any other form of your identity? I feel that yoga compliments everything about me. I decided early on that my yoga was just that. Mine. Whatever I wanted it to be. Once I found out it wasn’t all chanting and twisting your body into contorted poses that is, unless that’s YOUR yoga of course. It’s whatever you want it to be. I believe there are no set rules and anyone can join in at any time no matter what their religion is, who they love, or whatever. But that’s just me. It may be totally different for someone else. I believe yoga is about being true to yourself and your beliefs. It’s about being a good person and doing what is right for yourself, others and our great planet and universe. Being honest, the thing that brings me some grief in relation to yoga is my husband. He totally does not get it. I mean not at all. He knows how it helps my back pain and fibromyalgia but that is really it. One time he jokingly referred to yoga as a cult and my use of essential oils and crystals as voodoo! I laughed because he really thought he was being funny but I did let him know it hurt me a little. I just do my thing and hope that one day he’ll want to practice with me a bit. Who knows!

6. What do you love most about yoga? Hmmm. Most? I guess if I had to choose what I love MOST about yoga it would be the way that it has touched all aspects of my life. I didn’t know this going in but it didn’t take long for me to weave it into every part of me. My body, mind and spirit all get to benefit. I guess some people practice for the physical benefits alone but little by little it has become my lifestyle. I have gotten so much benefit from it in fact that I want to get my yoga teacher certification so I can bring yoga to my little rural town. It’s difficult to find a teacher training close to me without costing me an arm and a leg but I’m determined!

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? I would first ask “what is holding you back?” “What do you think yoga is and how do you want to benefit from yoga”. I started my practice at age 49. I know I had doubts about my abilities and what kinds of physical benefits I would get. Yoga is something everyone can do despite any physical limitations you may have, what your weight is or how old you are. Only do what your body is ready for and don’t think you have to keep up with anyone. Yoga isn’t a competition and you aren’t getting a grade for your practice. Modifications and props are your friends. Find a studio or private teacher. If you are nervous about starting alone grab a friend to join in the fun. Just do it!

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Thank-you, Melinda <3 You can follow her beautiful yoga journey through her Facebook, blog or amazing Instagram. 

Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com.