How One Lifestyle Change Helped Me Reinvent My Whole Life!
Life is a never-ending rollercoaster. Each and every one of us faces a multitude of challenges; some are small and insignificant, while others are large enough to knock the breath out of us. Consequently, it is not unusual to spend our lives overwhelmed by problems - immersed in how to overcome confusion, pain and frustration - while trying hard to understand the unique affliction that has come upon us. So many of us live in loneliness, frustration, anger and depression, hoping for a better tomorrow.
This was once my life too.
By thirty, I seemed to have it all. My husband and I were running a successful telecom company. We were living the high life - plenty of money, a big home in a gorgeous, upscale neighborhood in San Francisco, a beautiful daughter, fancy cars, wonderful vacations, a very busy social life, and all the respect and admiration we could possibly want. From the outside, we were the perfect image of a successful couple, living what most would consider a dream life.
But inside me was a very different story. Most days, I woke up feeling depressed and unhappy, as though there was a deep void inside. The problem was that my marriage was a difficult one and the disharmony overtook everything. On the one hand, my husband and I were strong business partners running a very successful company, while on the other, our personal lives were in complete disarray. Torn between material success, marital disharmony and my deeply ingrained Indian values, I did not have the courage or conviction to make a concrete decision about my life. I would often try to imagine what life would be like without my husband and it would send me into a complete state of panic. I was caught in a web of confusion, with no apparent way out. So I did nothing. I waited patiently as the years rolled by, hoping that the future would bring something better.
Instead, my life became mechanical, as brick by brick I built an emotional fortress around myself. The mounting stress soon manifested in allergies so extreme, that I could only function after popping far too many pills. My days would swing wildly from moments of enthusiasm at work to the darkest moods at home. I was falling into an abyss, my circumstances worsening and becoming more complex, as my responsibilities grew with the passing of each painful year.
One day, after a chain of very painful events, the inevitable happened and I hit rock bottom, leaving me devastated and with nowhere left to turn. I had no choice but to confront my marriage for what it was; forced to make the most difficult decision of my life.
In December 2005, I returned to India with my two young children, aged one and seven. My world was a complete mess. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained, frozen with fear and panic, and shattered by the circumstances in my life.
A New Awakening with Yoga
We live in a physical world that is impermanent, uncertain and challenging. All of our experiences fluctuate between pain and pleasure, light and darkness, health and sickness, birth and death. Despite this, we still desperately seek happiness, permanence and certainty in a chaotic world, where sustainable peace and happiness seem to be virtually impossible. As we continue to live and experience life, there comes a time when we begin to question the meaning of our existence and we seek more fulfilment, becoming open to something new.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras begin with sutra 1.1, ‘Now the discipline of yoga.’ Little did I know that this firm decision would be a defining moment in my life. My journey from total pain and unawareness towards greater clarity and strength had begun.
I dabbled with yoga asana in San Francisco, attending various classes and trying different schools. Now that I was in the land of yoga and great spirituality, I was determined to find a more fulfilling practice: one that went beyond just the physical benefits of yoga, to help me find the peace and serenity I was so desperately seeking. Instead, I was confronted with a series of home teachers and yoga studios offering an ‘exercise program’ called yoga. Frustrated, but determined to find a solution to my distraught and disturbed mental and emotional state, I decided to seek out yoga legend BKS Iyengar. And when I did, the journey to turning my life around began.
At first Nandu Pawar, a fabulous and highly knowledgeable senior teacher from the Pune Institute, who shared a very close relationship with BKS Iyengar, guided my yoga practice. Starting out, my body was extremely stiff but I was determined to get out of my debilitating state. Nanduji spent a lot of time working with my body, patiently opening it up layer-by-layer, releasing stress and blocked energy, increasing my flexibility and awareness around my body tremendously.
After some months of dedication and hard work, I could feel the benefits of yoga. I began to feel much more energized, alert, stronger and healthier. Three months later, my allergies disappeared completely: no more sneezing, watery eyes, exhaustion or pills. I had also been suffering from a very painful rotator cuff injury from a skiing accident, which severely restricted the movement of my left arm and shoulder. Working through the intense physical pain, I was soon able to move my shoulder and arm with ease.
With a lot of perseverance, but in a relatively short time, my dark moods began to disappear too. As my body began to evolve, I started to understand the inherent principles so critical to the Iyengar School - becoming conscious of the mind-body-spirit connection. I learned how to work my muscles, joints, bones, organs and skin, which led to energy flowing from all corners of my body.
Something magical was transpiring inside me. I became aware of an intelligence that was different from what stemmed from my chaotic mind, and this became the source of my transformation. Energy started flowing in a way that I had never experienced before. I was laughing a lot more and a wonderful lightness of being, began to set in. As my dark moods, fears and insecurities started to disappear, I felt a new kind of exuberance, clarity and confidence. I felt much more alive, animated, stronger and happier. I was feeling more balanced and calm for the first time. No matter what challenges I faced - and there were many - my attitude remained positive, my thoughts became clearer and my intuition grew stronger.
Yogacara's health retreat at Leh-Ladakh
As my practice intensified, my perceptions also changed dramatically. I started viewing the world as a friendlier, more supportive place. Slowly I started rebuilding my life, one step at a time, with an innate confidence that I could not explain. I realized that I could consciously take control of my life and architect it to be more meaningful.
This was my journey with yoga, and how it became so much more than I ever thought or imagined it could be. When you really dive in, and become disciplined about your practice, opening your heart and mind to a more meaningful practice, the physical practice of yoga asana can become a gateway to a journey of self-discovery.
This is an excerpt from the book ‘Just Breathe: The Most Powerful Tool for Personal Transformation and Happiness’, by Radhika Vachani, available in stores and online. Want to get a copy of her book? 30 copies up for grabs. Just post a picture of yourself doing your favourite Asana, on SHEROES.com, SHEROES facebook page or SHEROES twitter page and win! Participate NOW!
Radhika Vachani is a motivational speaker, yoga and holistic wellness expert and the Founder of Yogacara Healing Arts in Mumbai, India. She also runs life-transforming retreats all over the world, in the Himalayas, Ladakh and at her Retreat Center outside of Mumbai in Alibaug. To learn more, connect with Radhika at [email protected] and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.