Back to Bikram at a non-affiliated Bikram Studio

After 5 months of searching, I finally discovered a studio that teaches Bikram Yoga but is not a Bikram Yoga affiliate/franchise.

If you read my post from January about mourning my Bikram Yoga practice, you know I gave up the practice after much struggle, thought, and consideration.

I am a survivor of abuse and work every day to bring awareness and help to others struggling in the aftermath of their abuse. When I discovered the abuse and sexual assault allegations against Bikram Choudhury, I had to consider their legitimacy based on the combination of multiple allegations and on what my gut and intuition was telling me.

And because the majority of studios that teach Bikram Yoga are affiliates and pay fees to Bikram, Inc., I could no longer reconcile giving my hard-earned money and energy to a man and empire that directly counters my ultimate hopes for this world.

Last week, my husband, son, and I were driving through Bethesda. I glanced over in the direction of the Bikram Yoga Bethesda studio and was shocked to see that the name of the studio had changed to Pure Om Yoga. I immediately grabbed my phone and messaged the studio through its Facebook page asking if they still offered Bikram-style yoga and if they remained affiliated with the Bikram brand and empire. Happily surprised, I received a response within an hour confirming that they still taught the same yoga but were no longer affiliated with Bikram, Inc.

Do yo have any idea how thrilled I was? Despite who and what Bikram is today, he created a series of poses and breathing exercises that helped me in many ways. Like with any style, there are teachers who exploit and harm through inflated egos and their need to be revered as gurus.

I just want the yoga without the guru and without knowing my money is lining the pockets of an empire that misrepresents all that I have come to understand and love about yoga and life on this planet.

I am a conscientious consumer. Every day and with each new experience, I become more and more aware of what I put into my body and where and with whom I interact daily. As information is provided to me, I will continue to make choices that resonate with my core values and beliefs. As a deep feeler and emotional person who has been harmed in the past by overlooking the seemingly insignificant misdeeds of those around me, I can never again compromise my core beliefs, as I have in the past, for the sake of convenience.

I visited Pure Om Yoga on Saturday and went back on Sunday. The anxieties I had been feeling a few months ago before I quit my Bikram Yoga practice no longer interfered with my conscience while on the mat and in the hot room. Where I was drained prior, I am invigorated today.

Outside of this explanation, I can’t express exactly how that “letting go” filled me with peace, joy, and hope.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2014 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

I’m going to be featured in OM Yoga Magazine!

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International, UK-based OM Yoga Magazine will feature my book (Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath), me and fellow survivor, blogger, and entrepreneur, Andrea Clark, in their upcoming edition.

As part of a larger story on the benefits of yoga and meditation for domestic violence victims and their children, our professional bios and contributions to issues of safety, DV/abuse recovery, and sociopath awareness will be highlighted.

To put an international spotlight on survivors of sociopath/pathological abuse is HUGE!! It’s huge for everyone from victims to those who offer assistance and support to survivors in recovery.

Please checkout Andrea’s blog, The Eternal Victim and her Safe Girl Security site.

Also, consider following OM Yoga Magazine or getting a subscription. Their mobile app is free!

Namaste!
~Paula

When we choose love over fear

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All I know how to do today is share what I am passionate about with zero expectations. It’s how I operate in every corner of my life, from raising my son and being a friend to working my day job and training to become a yoga teacher.

I’m not lucky, fortunate or privileged. Where I find myself today has less to do with the people in my life who love me but more to do with my ability to believe in their love and that I am worthy of that love.

I don’t know where tomorrow will take me. I just do things today because I love doing them. I love life, and I love to share what I have learned. That’s it.

I have no desire or wish to be anyone’s guru or to be revered. And I can’t control how people judge me. That’s probably the most valuable lesson I have learned on this journey: I can only control how I view myself and my abilities. That view can either stifle me or empower me.

I simply have something inside of me that drives and propels me to get it out of me. My one hope is that someone, anyone, will find what I share valuable and useful and will inspire that person to share what is inside of them, too.

Sure, I’m a bit of an idealist. I want to see everyone succeed. I want to see people happy despite their pasts or their current struggles. And I honestly believe it is absolutely possible…a bunch of happy people co-existing and growing and sharing.

What’s so wrong with that?


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Mourning my Bikram Yoga practice in light of rape allegations

My introduction to yoga was through Bikram Yoga, specifically Bikram Yoga Rockville just around the corner from my home here in the DC Metro Area.

If you’ve followed this blog or my other blog, you’re already aware that Bikram Yoga, in a very real and profound way, changed my life.

I didn’t start practicing in October 2011 because I thought I would grow spiritually or eventually begin to heal from past abuse and emotional pain. On the contrary, my motivation was more materialistic and vain. I joined the Bikram Yoga studio because I wanted to get physically fit and maybe heal a knee injury I had been living with for far too many years.

Within days of practicing Bikram Yoga, I was able to stop taking Advil. I could even walk up and down stairs without fearing I’d topple or lose my footing.

Within a few months of starting, I turned 40 and discovered at my annual doctor’s visit that I had lost weight and lowered my blood pressure. There was no doubt that I was gaining energy, too. Soon, the emotional and spiritual benefits of my practice would be evident to myself and to others in my life.

A little over a year into my practice, the accusations that Bikram Choudhury, creator of the Bikram Yoga series and founder of the Bikram Yoga empire, raped women (yes, plural) who had attended his yoga teacher training certification. On the heels of these revelations, past employees of the yoga guru soon came forward with disturbing allegations of their own, depicting Bikram Choudhury as a racist tyrant who ran his business “like a cult.”

Here is a list of recent stories covering the allegations:

Bikram Yoga Founder Accused of Sexual Assaults ABC News Nightline – February 26, 2014

Women Suing Hot Yoga Guru for Alleged Sexual Assault Come Forward, ABC News – February 26, 2014

Bikram yoga guru accused of rape hires former White House lawyer, The Telegraph – January 31, 2014

Bikram Feels the Heat, Vanity Fair – January 1, 2014

Women who accused Bikram yoga founder of rape speak out against the millionaire ‘guru’ after ‘he forced one victim into a yoga pose during an attack’, The Daily Mail – December 6, 2013

Bikram Yoga’s Embattled Founder: The Alleged Rapes and Sexual Harassment Claims Against Guru Bikram Choudhury, Vanity Fair – December 3, 2013

Bikram Yoga Founder Blasted For Alleged Rape, Sexual Harassment And Racism In Explosive Lawsuit, The Huffington Post – August 6, 2013

I can’t say I was completely surprised. Even before I stepped foot into the Bikram Yoga studio here in Maryland, I had perused the Bikram Yoga website. The images of Bikram Choudhury sweating and practicing and standing like a dictator before large numbers of yoga practitioners kind of repulsed me. Silly me, I shamed myself for being so judgmental and was determined to not let my unfair prejudices keep me from trying something that could possibly help me.

After I started practicing, I gradually started learning a little more about how Bikram Yoga studios are managed, how Bikram Yoga teachers are trained and how other yoga disciplines viewed Bikram Yoga.

Briefly, if you want to teach and promote yourself as a teacher of the Bikram Yoga series, you must go through the 9-week Bikram Yoga certification intensive taught twice each year. You have your choice of either going to Los Angeles or splurging and going to Thailand.

If you do not go through this specific training, you can not teach the Bikram Yoga series.

Fine. I get that. Seems fair.

But this is what bothers me a bit:

If and when you are able to open up your own Bikram Yoga studio, part of your membership revenue as a Bikram Yoga instructor and studio owner must be paid to Bikram, Inc. of which Bikram Choudhury is the “Boss” and CEO. This is the fast-food franchise model applied to yoga.

So even after you carve out 9 weeks away from your family and friends, pay between $11,400 to $15,500 for training (depending on your preferred room accommodations) and spend more time after training improving your poses and ability to teach effectively, Bikram Choudhury wants more of you if you decide to run a studio with his name “Bikram” on the sign.

You can’t teach Bikram Yoga without Bikram training and then you can’t call yourself a Bikram studio or say your class is a Bikram class without paying more money? It all seems very non-yogi-like to me.

Despite all the yucky sensations I was feeling and tasting, I kept paying my monthly dues and attending classes. I just loved my teachers and the other yogis at the studio.

But the rape allegations have stopped me in my tracks. I have only attended a handful of classes at the Bikram Yoga studio since January 1, 2014. Instead, I have been practicing yoga at home (YouTube is full of great teachers and free videos!) and at another yoga studio where I am participating in 200-hour yoga teacher training.

I’m struggling. After all, Bikram Choudhury hasn’t been found guilty. However, as an advocate who is determined to bring as much awareness to the forefront about pathological, abusive predators as I can, I MUST take a stand and believe that these women are telling the truth. Too much of what they say and the struggles they repeat about finally coming forward have me more than convinced.

As far as Bikram Choudhury’s responses and defense…his words echo classic perpetrator speak. I can’t deny what I hear and what I know about abusers. I can’t. I believe Bikram Choudhury is an abusive rapist and has hurt and harmed far more than just these few women brave enough to come forward.

Today, I am left to mourn my Bikram Yoga practice. I never revered Bikram Choudhury as my guru. However, I looked to my Bikram Yoga instructors for nearly two (2) years for spiritual guidance and support. I have zero regrets. I also know that there are predators everywhere–teachers teaching other styles of yoga throughout the world preying on the vulnerabilities of women and men. Nothing I do can stop that from happening.

But I have the power to disconnect from the negative energy in my life that simply doesn’t seem to be dissipating. If one day Bikram Choudhury releases the studios from paying the franchise fee, I may go back.

And if my information about the franchises is erroneous, please let me know. If there are Bikram Yoga-trained instructors freely teaching the 26-posture series without being obligated to pay Bikram, Inc., let me know.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Is yoga okay for kids?

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This story was originally published on June 24, 2013, to the author’s The Washington Times Communities column with the original title, Teaching Yoga to Children: Harmful or Beneficial?


Like anything new and foreign introduced into a community or society, offering and teaching yoga to our children is accompanied with skepticism and controversy.

The popularity of yoga in the United States has increased dramatically in the last five years. In December 2012, Yoga Journal revealed that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous Yoga in America 2008 study, an increase of 29 percent.

From celebrities and corporate executives to housewives and the elderly, yoga is attracting and maintaining a strong following, for good reason. Regular yoga practice can help reduce stress, increase overall fitness, and provide relief and management of chronic conditions and diseases.

In addition, recent studies have suggested that teaching yoga to school-aged children increases their patience, attention span, competitive spirit and cognitive abilities, leading to increased learning and ease of new-skills comprehension, according to T.S. Ganpat and H.R. Nagendra.

So it’s no surprise that yoga programs for children are popping up across the country.

Unfortunately, bringing this awareness and understanding to all parents, not just those parents who already practice yoga themselves, is proving difficult.

“Although my adult classes are full and growing, the kid’s program is not,” explains Marta Fiscus, certified yoga instructor and K-12 arts teacher.

“I think there are two reasons for this. First, children already have their schedules full with soccer, ballet, music lessons, etc. These are activities that parents automatically enroll their kids in. It’s common ground. The new offering of yoga in this community has never been routine. Also, I think this community still has a preconceived idea that yoga is something foreign.”

This community Fiscus refers to is the small, Appalachian town of Cumberland, Md.

Fiscus has been teaching children in many capacities for almost 25 years, beginning in New York City where she worked as a toddler specialist teaching gymnastics, movement, art and music. After moving back to her native Western Maryland, she became a certified K-12 visual arts teacher and worked in both the public and private schools.

In 2007, shortly after she gave birth to her second son, Fiscus began teaching yoga to adults.

“I never had any intention of teaching yoga, but a job became available and my fellow yogis suggested I would be good at it. Once I became more confident as a yoga teacher, I was able to expand my vision to bringing yoga to children.”

With her extensive childhood teaching experiences, along with a desire to deepen her own yoga practice, Fiscus felt it was time for the children of her community to experience the joys and benefits that come with yoga.

Fiscus researched children’s yoga programs and discovered Radiant Child Yoga founded by Shakta Kaur Khalsa. She enrolled and became certified. Fiscus now teaches the first yoga program ever offered in Allegany County Maryland through a partnership between Tri-State Community School for the Arts and Beginnings Montessori School as an after-school activity requiring fees and signup.

Fiscus has great expectations for the program’s future sprinkled with some reservations and concerns considering Cumberland has an unemployment rate of more than eight percent and was recently listed among the top ten poorest cities in the country.

“At this point, the only way I foresee the program being successful in this area is to make it part of the school curriculum,” Fiscus states with hope.

Unfortunately, the ‘foreign’ fear and misconception of yoga may be what keeps yoga from becoming a part of public school curriculum, regardless of the demographics and economics of the community.

Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) in California is learning this lesson the hard way.

EUSD implemented its yoga curriculum last year as part of a larger health and wellness initiative, funding the program with a $533,000 grant awarded to EUSD by the K.P. Jois Foundation.

In April 2013, a lawsuit was filed by concerned parents of EUSD on behalf of attorney Dean Broyles from the National Center for Law and Policy. The suit alleges that EUSD incorporated Ashtanga yoga into the school’s curriculum, which “unlawfully promotes religious beliefs” and violates the U.S. Constitution.

The trial began May 20 with testimony given by many experts for both the defense and plaintiff.

Witness testimony for the plaintiff began with Dr. Candy Brown, professor at Indiana University. Brown presented arguments that yoga is “inherently religious.”

“Ashtanga yoga, as endorsed by the EUSD yoga curriculum, in my expert opinion, promotes and advances religion, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Western metaphysics,” testifies Brown.

As one of three witness for the defense, Chris Chapple, Ph.D., professor of Indic and comparative religion at Loyola Marymount University, asserted that “yoga may be practiced free from religious ideology,” and concurred with parts of Brown’s testimony related to who practices yoga but added that Brown neglected “to note that yoga is also practiced by Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians in India and elsewhere.”

Adding further testimony for the defense was Mark Singleton, Ph.D. and professor at St. John’s College. The website for Yoga Alliance, quotes Singleton as stating, “In my opinion, to claim that the practice of yoga techniques in secular, ecumenical, or religiously plural settings in the United States today is inherently religious is akin to claiming that college basketball is inherently religious because of its missionary Christian origins.”

There is no denying that yoga is a Sanskrit word and that Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, India’s ancient religious texts. But the common practice of yoga in the West has been stripped of these religious and ancient roots and is considered by many to be a secular practice beneficial to anyone regardless of their spiritual path or preference.

And who has more to benefit from a healthy mind/body practice than our children?

“I am really hoping the word about kid’s yoga will get out there,” Fiscus adds. “Yoga poses come naturally to children, whether they are athletic or not. So when a child realizes, ‘Hey, I can do this,’ it sparks excitement and confidence. No doubt parents will see that children’s yoga is not only fun, but helps their kids develop confidence, self-awareness, and the ability to calm themselves, which is only the beginning of the lifelong gifts yoga gives to the young.”

The judge in the EUSD lawsuit ruled this morning that the yoga program was not religious and could continue being taught as part of the District’s wellness program.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

The Results of My 30-day Bikram Yoga Challenge

At the Sackler Museum Yoga exhibit, October 2013.

My son’s shadow at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Museum exhibit: Yoga~The Art of Transformation, October 2013.

A week ago, I completed a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge. The challenge began October 21 and ran until November 19. I actually started on October 23 because I hadn’t been to the studio in a while and didn’t know a challenge was happening. Needless to say, I was at a disadvantage from the beginning in more ways that one.

At the beginning of October, my day job responsibilities were taken away from me, which is a nice way of saying I was out of a job. Unfortunately for me, this coincided with the government shutdown.

Living in the DC metro area, even if you don’t work as a government employee, your life is directly affected by the government’s business. So for the first two weeks of my job search in October, I didn’t hear a word or a sound from any potential employers. Heck, I didn’t even hear crickets!

But I persisted. I was determined to stay positive, but it wasn’t easy. I was struggling. In all honesty, when I walked into Bikram Yoga Rockville’s studio two days into their first Turkey Trot Challenge, I was in a deep slump emotionally, mentally and physically.

However, instead of saying, “Damn! Another opportunity lost because I wasn’t paying attention,” I took it as a sign. I saw it as an alternate chance to move myself in a better direction. So I asked the owner of the studio if it was okay to sign up late. She said, “No problem!” and had me sign my name to the top of the challenge board where she drew in more grid lines to accommodate my late participation.

(I’m happy to also report that a few others joined me as late comers, so to say. I wasn’t alone. Hehe!)

But enough about why I started, most of you are probably more interested in what I learned as a result of doing the challenge, right. Well, here goes:

1. I don’t mind ending up in a hot spot.

Bikram Yoga is hot and sweaty. REALLY hot (105 degrees Fahrenheit) and sweaty. Many teachers of Bikram Yoga refer to their studios as “The Hot Room” and/or “The Torture Chamber.” Personally, I don’t find it torturous, but I have, in the past, found myself consciously avoiding the hottest parts of the room.

You see, not every spot is the same. Some spots are hotter and some spots are much “cooler” (if that’s even possible to say). I discovered that the hotter and more uncomfortable I was, the more focused and determined I was. My mind wondered to places outside the room far less when I was in a hot spot and when sweat was running down my face, than if I were in a “cooler” spot in the room.

The hotter my spot, the better my practice. Who knew!!

2. I learned that I can trust my body when it tells me when to eat and when not to eat.

During the challenge, I ate what I wanted when I wanted it. I don’t eat a lot, but I did during the challenge. My body just needed it. I even ate Halloween candy, including chocolate, which I try to avoid because it has been known to cause me headaches in the past.

According to the calorie calculator over at everydayhealth.com, it’s estimated that I burn between 850 calories during a 90-minutes Bikram Yoga practice. Before the challenge, I wasn’t so sure that was true. But now I am convinced it must be true considering all of the food I ate without gaining or losing weight.

I am the type of person who eats to live, rather than lives to eat. (I haven’t always been that way.) So my body was telling me it needed food, so I helped myself!

3. I realized that what I learn about myself while on the mat translates into how I should be off the mat.

I like to be challenged. But whereas in the past I would become frustrated and upset if I didn’t meet my standards, I’m more inclined now to brush myself off and try again.

One of the yoga teachers at the studio mentioned in the early part of the challenge that if we can remain patient and non-judgmental in a 105 degree room as we try to balance on one leg while trying to touch our head to the knee of our other leg, we can remain patient and non-judgmental anywhere.

In the yoga room, when I fall out of a posture, I just try again. Not because I am competing with anyone else in the room or even because I’m competing with myself. But because I have a desire to honor my practice. Not giving up is honoring the time I invest in my yoga practice. I am patient with my physical limitations and know it takes time to build muscle strength and balance.

Why not translate that kind of thinking off the mat and apply it to my emotional and mental needs for strength and balance? So I did. After about day 15 or so, I repeatedly reminded myself of my yoga teacher’s message.

Today, I actively practice mental patience off the mat more than I had been doing before the challenge. When I start to feel myself becoming agitated with myself or with someone or some situation, I stop myself from diving into negative thought patterns. I step back and say, “Hey! This kind of thinking isn’t going to make the situation better. It’s only going to make it more difficult. Stop. Rewind. Start over.”

There is no shame in admitting defeat and trying again.

4. I love yoga!

After completing the challenge, I realize now more than ever how much I love yoga. I love the smell of the mat and sweaty room; I love the collective sound of the pranas (breathing exercises); I love how the mat feels between my toes; I love the taste of my ice cold water after eagle pose; I love the feeling I get coming out of camel pose (sometimes it’s relief, other times it’s nausea); I love meeting fellow yogis and learning more about why and how they got started on their yoga journey.

On the final day of the challenge just before my 30th consecutive practice began, one of my fellow yogis approached me and handed me a small, rolled up piece of yellow cloth. She stepped back to her mat, and I opened it.

30-day challenge banner

Vera’s gift to me

I immediately got emotional and walked over to her mat and hugged and thanked her. She just said, “You inspire me, Paula.” I cried some more, returned to my mat and finished out my challenge with my last moving meditation.

Her generous and thoughtful act truly humbled me. I couldn’t believe she had taken the time to create something so special just for me. As I walked to my car after practice, I thought about where to hang it in my home to honor her and to honor my challenge. I couldn’t wait to show my husband and my son, who were my biggest supporters and cheerleaders, not to mention they put up with my stinky yoga laundry every single day for 30 days!

Once inside my car, I reached for my phone to call my husband. But before I could call him, I noticed I had missed several messages from a staffing agency I had been working with over the previous three weeks. It seems I had gotten a job offer while I was in yoga!

5. I owe a lot to my yoga practice.

Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Most of all, I appreciate all of my family and friends who don’t tell me to shut up when I start talking about yoga. It’s been too much of a good thing to keep to myself. I can’t stop myself from sharing.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Practice Yoga, Gain Confidence in Your Mind and Body, and Eat Whatever You Want

Marilyn Monroe eating a sundae

Marilyn Monroe practiced yoga…and ate dessert!

Don’t you just hate those people who never seem to gain weight and never look out of shape yet claim to eat whatever they want? Well, I’m sad to say that I am one of those people.

Before you start hating me, please know that I haven’t always been one of those people, not by a long shot. It’s taken me over 40 years and a regular yoga practice to transform me into one of those people.

To be completely honest, I have never had a weight problem, but I did have an eating problem: I couldn’t eat everything and everything I wanted to eat, and it pissed me off!

Before practicing yoga, my appetite was huge! But because I feared gaining weight (intricately related to my lack of confidence) and knew myself well enough to know that gaining weight would not make me happy, I pushed away my cravings often. I refused cakes and muffins and pies and donuts. Even though I’d look at these types of foods with eyes and mouth drooling, I rarely, if ever indulged. And when I did indulge, I’d feel guilty afterwards and force myself to run on the treadmill the next day for an extra hour or deprive myself of food even more than usual to make up for “being a pig” for a day.

Most days, I just really felt deprived when it came to food, which made me irritable, which made my body and mind toxic in many ways, which resulted in a perpetual anxiety around food.

Food was not my friend; it seemed to control me. For years, I wished and wished to have a better relationship with food one day. But that day always seemed elusive probably because a better relationship with myself was what I needed to establish first before attempting to improve any other relationships I sought with food, people or otherwise.

I started practicing yoga in October 2011 just a few months shy of my 40th birthday. My relationships with my family, myself and with food didn’t change immediately, but within 6 months of my first practice, food was becoming less and less of an issue with me. My previous and persistent unsatisfied cravings were fewer and fewer, and I actually started looking forward to meals and snacks.

Why and how did this happen?

Well, I am not a nutritionist nor am I a biologist or a neuroscientist. But based on what I am learning about the benefits of yoga as I go through yoga teacher training (YTT) this fall, yoga really has become the “magic pill” that changed the way my body and mind processes and thinks about food and my entire being.

1. If you don’t love it, it won’t work.

First, it definitely doesn’t hurt that I absolutely love the immediate results I feel physically and emotionally following a 90-minute yoga session. This “high” keeps me going back 3 to 4 times each week. Between now and Thanksgiving, I’m doing a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge, so my motivation and determination is currently elevated.

Yet, even without an official challenge to maintain my interest, just the memory of how I felt the day before or two days before pushes me to pick up my mat and water bottle and head to the studio. It’s important to note that before my car accident in 2002 that left my right knee in bad shape, I was a distance runner. I ran cross-country in college and continued running throughout my 20s. After the accident when I was 30, I tried other forms of exercise like elliptical training and swimming and other low-impact aerobic workouts. Outside of swimming, nothing captured my attention or interest. But finding pool access year-round was a challenge for me and just not convenient.

Exercise needs to be convenient and accessible. Yoga is both.

2. I see food differently.

Like any regular exercise routine provides, yoga has naturally boosted my metabolism and regulated my bowels, digestive system and urinary system. Eating has become an activity I love, because what follows my meals today is a sense of satisfaction and an actual physical release. I feel no guilt around food and sometimes even over indulge. (Like last weekend when I went to a “foodie” wedding and ate four, yes four, pieces of pie!)

I get a sense that I need to eat so the cycle of my life can continue seamlessly from day to day. I ingest one meal and the previous meal’s waste is flushed. (Sounds a little too personal? I have no other way of explaining it. Too bad I can’t attach a camera to the food I ingest and record its journey. That would be interesting but even more personal. Hehe!)

Specifically, the following poses offer the most benefit to my digestion:

>>Garurasana (eagle pose) – increase fresh blood supply to the kidneys.
Our kidneys are responsible for filtering and flushing out toxins and unnecessary waste from food and water. Our kidneys also release three important hormones into our blood stream to keep us healthy: erythropoietin, renin and calcitriol. If not working properly, waste builds up in our blood supply causing damage and disease to our bodies. The most common diseases related to compromised kidney function are high blood pressure and diabetes. (source: NIH NIDDK)

>>Dandyayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana (standing separate leg stretching pose) – increases the functioning of the large and small intestine.
“The intestine is a winding muscular tube extending from the stomach to the anus. Its main purpose is to digest food. But the intestine is not only there for digestion: it also produces various substances that carry messages to other parts of the body, and plays an important role in fighting germs and regulating the body’s water balance. For some people, the intestine reflects how they are feeling: for instance, they might get a stomach ache, diarrhoea or constipation when they are stressed or upset about something.” (source: PubMed Health)

>>Pavanamuktasana (wind removing pose) – cures and prevents flatulence (which is the source of abdominal discomfort) by massaging the ascending, descending and transverse colons (aka the large intestine).

3. I still crave food but healthier stuff.

No longer do overly processed foods like fatty meats, breads and cakes get me excited. When I get hungry, I think about a big bowl of rice or sautéed veggies and salads. I occasionally indulge in desserts (like at that wedding) but without the guilt associated with eating sweets like before. I have more trust and confidence in my body’s ability to take what it needs and flush the rest out. So when I say I can eat whatever I want, I can because the “whatever I want” list has dramatically changed. I want fruits and vegetables (and have even been contemplating going vegan thanks to a couple bloggers–Ivonne and Susan–whom I respect and are teaching me a lot about how food is processed and manufactured in this country and across the globe).

4. My entire attitude and trust in myself and others has been transformed.

My attitude toward food and life in general truly parallel and often intersect. Where I once had increased anxieties over being perceived as skilled and able, I have confidence. I attribute this to increased patience with myself and with others. My expectations are more realistic. Today, I understand, through deep reflection on my life experiences, that sometimes expectations can be completely shattered and that not all humans have human/humane interests at heart. I accept that more freely now, and I attribute my ability to maintain this philosophy and outlook to yoga. Again, not something that happened over night. I’d say building this confidence, patience and awareness took a lifetime, but the past two years of a consistent yoga practice definitely nurtured and provided the boost and momentum necessary for my confidence to grow uninterrupted.

Again, I am no medical doctor or counselor. However, as a testament to my own growth and development–mentally, physically and spiritually–in such a relatively short period of time, I invite everyone who hasn’t already tried yoga to please try it. If you don’t like it after a week of consecutive practice, come back and complain to me. However, I am confident (see, I really AM confident) that you will come back and thank me. If you have tried yoga in the past but didn’t feel like it did much for you, try it again. Sometimes it’s our attitudes that get in our way. Sometimes all we need to do is read a few positive testimonials surrounding something in order to release our negative first impressions and try something again.

It took me too long to get beyond my yoga phobia and let go of my preconceived idea of what I thought yoga was and what it wasn’t.

Yoga is what you make of it. Take what you need from it and leave the rest behind.

Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself!

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.