Do You Set An Intention For Your Yoga Practice?

Do you set an intention for your yoga practice? When you begin each practice do you take the time to think about what is on your mind and heart and look to see if what is there is serving you or your loved ones?

When setting an intention it can be as simple as ” I will follow through with the practice uninterrupted.” Or ” I will address negative thoughts with graciousness and forgiveness as I work through today’s practice.” Why do we set an intention? It gives our practice meaning and focus. It allows us to look inward to find the answers to the questions we might be having, whether they be tangible or not. Intentions remind us of why we come to the yoga mat in the first place.

At first it might be purely physical and about the asana (poses). For example, I want to work on sculpting lean arms, or strong legs or strong core. However as we grow with our practice and come to evolve as yoga practitioners we come to the mat for more internal gratification and answers to our abstract questions. For example, “Today’s practice I want to be loving and foster self acceptance.” How each of us does this is completely personal however, with an intention for our practice we learn to take what we do on the mat deeper and do our sessions with more meaning and an open mind and heart. This allows us to become more connected to ourselves, our environment and those around us.

Today, I set an intention to be more gracious to myself by being patient and forgiving. If I come across something that is challenging for me, I need to be mindful of my inner voice . Low and behold it was a good thing that I set that intention because later on I was asked for the first time in a few years to figure out body fat % math by hand. (Anyone who knows me knows that math is not my strong suit) Almost instantly I started with the negative self talk. ” How can I not remember how to do this?” This is basic math, this not supposed to be hard. How could I be so dumb?” Not exactly very forgiving and gracious in terms of self talk and being kinder to myself. Then, I took a step back and reminded myself that it had been a while since I had to do the math without help from a chart. I took a deep breath and thought, what if it was a friend that was saying these things to herself? Would I have spoken to her the way I was speaking to myself? No. I would have been coaching her that she would eventually remember, and that she was not dumb. Eventually, I did remembered, and it did come back. Probably because I settled myself down and took that step back. I was able to get it all out on paper. I also found that chart as well to compare answers. Which by the way, done by hand, were correct and correlated to what the chart came up with.

Had I not practiced my yoga with the specific intention of kindness and graciousness towards myself, I can almost guarantee that I would not have taken that step back. I would not have taken a deep breath to just absorb what was happening at that moment. I probably would not even been of the mindset to say whoa, self talk check. I would have most definitely kept rambling, not even been aware that I was being so mean and hard on myself.  I probably would not have been able to figure out how to find the answers that I was looking for. Fortunately that day’s practice put in my path challenging poses that I had to face with a kinder inner voice. It was not easy. It was not immediate, actually the first thing out of my mouth was , I am so weak, I am so bad at yoga. I had to be on and watching with vigilant eyes and ears to see what triggered those thoughts and hear the negativity in my voice and then use my concentration and the side of my brain that knew better to switch over and start releasing positive self thoughts. I am consistent. I am persistent. I am strong. I can, and I will!

I know that it is a journey, but one that I feel is very important for growing as a person, yoga teacher and yoga practitioner. The lessons learned today were invaluable to learning and creating a positive and more abundant lifestyle. I encourage you to do the same. When you find yourself generating negative energy towards yourself  or a situation that you are in, take a step back. It will take time as you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Each opportunity that is presented is a chance to become more introspective and think about how we choose to spend and spread our energy. Yoga gives us that opportunity every time we step on the mat by setting an intention. Every time you situate yourself for your yoga practice take a moment to reflect on your day, your week, your year, your life and be more aware of the subconscious thoughts that find ways of permeating into our day that might cause us to react negatively. Setting an intention helps us to focus and gives our practice purpose. It gives us a chance to learn to be more active rather than reactive. These planned and practiced opportunities give us a chance to make a choice to be more positive and see things in a more abundant light when we are off the mat and moving about our day to day life.

Namaste 🙂


Be Open

On this journey we travel we learn to cope and deal with the stuff, good and bad and everything in between. I like to think that we are handed opportunities and how we handle them is all part of walking that journey.  When deciding on the yoga practice I wanted to set for myself, I thought about how I wanted to feel afterwards. Even though yoga sessions are not supposed to really make you feel one way or another as part of yoga is non attachment, I still wanted to finish my practice at peace and ready to take on my day. Sometimes I start out with one intention but something else creeps in and focusing my attention on working through that finishes it off. Again, the importance of non attachment and being able to be flexible and change direction if necessary.

While on my mat, I discovered a few traits that I know are both fantastic and yet can also be detrimental to my own growth. One of those traits that can be fantastic and yet detrimental is my stubbornness. While on one hand it shows that I am not afraid to tackle adversity and handle challenging situations without backing down and taking something to completion. It can be a hinderance to me when that stubbornness stops me from looking at an area of my life, business or something that needs to be addressed, thus stifling my growth and development.

Today’s yoga practice was very telling of my current situation. Situation not necessarily being a bad thing, but just my current state of how I do things and feel about things. Again not good or bad just status quo. However what popped up made me realize that maybe I need to re-evaluate how I approach my personal self talk. (You will find this a major theme in my writing right now as it is part of my journey and ability to crack the stubborn streak that keeps me from growing and learning.)

I love back bends. I love wheel pose. I really love that it just gives you that feeling of accomplishment and opens your heart to so many opportunities. Wheel pose is something that I loved to add to my practice as a peak pose to lengthen & strengthen, expand and open up.  As of late, I had not been adding them to my practice, I was focusing my attention else where and had let the practice of working that pose go to the way side. I also had been spending more time in the car and in front of the computer, two activities that I know close off the front body and make the chest and hip flexors extremely tight. It also over stretches the back muscles causing weakness in the back body. Despite my efforts to maintain a well-balanced yoga practice, the driving and computer time trumped the amount of time I spent on the yoga mat. As a result my back bending suffered a bit.

At the same time I was working with a client on being open and learning to trust herself and expand her mind and heart and we did that with lots of practice of poses that enhanced those thoughts and feelings. We worked slowly towards wheel pose since that was one of the poses that seemed to intrigue her and she was curious about it. So each time we met we worked it and for a bit she struggled. I gave her some homework, gave her some reading and had her watch some demos on the wheel pose progression just so that she could immerse herself in learning it in different ways. Then something just clicked and one day we get to our peak pose and up she went and it was effortless and it was with good form and it was beautiful. She felt accomplished, I felt accomplished for her. She finally realized that it was not strength that was holding her back but through extensive journaling and reflection, that it was lack of trust in herself that was blocking her from fully expressing her wheel pose. This was a huge break through and I was so excited for her.

Now it was my turn. I had been putting wheel pose to the side and after all the excitement of my clients achievements I thought I would get back at it and undo some of the damage I had done with activities such as driving and typing. So on the mat I went with the intention of reversing the closed off and roundedness that was occurring in my upper back and chest. I asked myself to be compassionate as I worked through the process again as my intention for my practice. I knew that it was going to be a process and that stubbornness was going to sneak its way in. I wanted some of that stubbornness to be there, but the negative self talk and the desire to want to just say forget it also comes along with it. With the best of intentions I gave it a go, but I struggled and I would stop midway through to throw in the towel, but I used my stubbornness to my advantage and kept going.

The practices looked something like this:

Day 1:

Round 1: “Am I sure about this?” I feel like I have a weight on my chest” “what if I can not handle my weight.”

Round 2: “Alignment is good, I am ready to take this on…”  “Up I go…nope…down I come…”

Round 3: “Maybe tomorrow…”

By Day 3:

Round 1: “Alignment set, I am ready to do this” ” Well that was not so bad, could be better”

Round 2: ” Up I go, oh hey I can give a little more” ” That felt good, its coming back

Round 3: ” OMG, I did it.” I could feel the space being created and my heart open up. I felt energy running up through my arms and legs supporting me effortlessly as I held wheel breathing steadily!

It took time but when I started to treat myself as a student and be compassionate and patient I was able to enjoy the energy (positive energy) that surged through me as I fully expressed a pose that I always came to as a pose that helped me to be open and accepting of all that I am working on and will continue to work on.

Lesson learned: When you treat yourself with respect and you use your traits for the greater good of your practice, you can accomplish and grow leaps and bounds. When you expend energy on activities such as negative self talk and using your traits against you continue to perpetuate the physical heaviness that might be holding you back from opening your heart to all the greatness the world has to offer.  When you are light and positive with yourself you are much more capable of attaining the abundance of happiness and success that you deserve!


Lessons Learned On the Mat

Sometimes you just gotta do what you don’t want to do. I know that this sounds harsh, but it was something that I needed to be reminded of today. As I began my practice my intention was to light my inner fire, I wanted to engage and target the core to draw strength and endurance not only into my practice but all aspects of my life where I felt that I was needing it.  I felt that with all of the changes that I have been making lately with regards to my athletic performance and energy levels, keeping my momentum going and driving that inner spirit fire, this would be an appropriate intention and focus.

The first sequence challenged me right of the bat. It challenged me because while, I do have a strong core, I know that I do not challenge it the way that it should be. With arm balances right out the gate, I had to tap into that area more than ever and it was difficult maintaining that positive momentum and drive to continue. But, seeing as that was my intention for the practice I dug a little deeper and held on tight engaging the non-muscular components of the core such as drive and motivation, and inner fire just as much if not more than the muscular components.  So not only were my abs burning ,but my soul was being tested as well. Initially, I did not even want to continue, I just did not want to tackle it. However, once I stoked the fire and moved past the I can’t and I don’t want too’s I was able to at least eek out some semblance of each of the balances increasing my confidence, motivation and drive to want to continue.

When I am off the mat, I find myself remembering those moments on the mat when I was not feeling like I could even eek out something sort of like an arm balance. I think about how now I am able to at least put forth some semblance of the pose and how eventually with continued motivation, drive and effort, I will be able to do the pose to my fullest expression.  The same holds true for my business. When I do not want to write a blog post. The idea of it can be a bit overwhelming but I know that the anxiety is being caused by my fears and not my lack of ambition or drive. I know that if I want to accomplish a blog post I must dig into my inner fire and remember that I  have the ability to put together two words to make a sentence thus creating a blog post when it is all said and done.  Just like when I am on the yoga mat, I can take a deep breath and reach in for that motivation to create without judgement and fear.  What I find is that when I am perplexed by not wanting to do something it is not out of lack of ambition but an over abundance of fear that I will not be successful. However, just with my arm balances on the mat, I take baby steps daily to get closer to my goal and I need to do the same whether it be an arm balance, a blog post, content creation, or just being visible online to create presence.

Sometimes it is a hard pill to swallow but it has to be done and it will be done. Sometimes we have to do things that we do not want to do in order to be successful and in order to thrive in life. I encourage you to take time at each practice and when you come upon a pose or place where you feel you do not want to continue. Take a deep breath and try to understand why you are feeling this way. What is holding you back from finding true success? If it is fear, then I encourage you to find ways to over come it. Whether it be thinking of a time you over came something else that at the moment you thought you could not do, or if it is just stepping away from the situation and writing out what is making you feel a certain way.

Fan your inner fire and tap into the drive and motivation that had you start your quest in the first place. Part of being successful and getting what we truly want asks us to do things we might not enjoy or not want to do. Let go of the can’ts and beliefs that are holding you back from stepping into your greatness. I am learning that the following Yoga Sutra to be true:

“To achieve a strong foundation in our practice we must practice over and over a long period of time without interruption, believing in it and looking forward to it with an attitude of service” 1.14


Aligning Yourself With Your Work

You always know when something is not jiving, when things are not in alignment. You know this because you are always passing through center on a seesaw but never actually hitting center. It’s a struggle, and you are never quite sure why you always feel blocked or stuck riding the recurrent wave.  It’s because you are not working with your authentic self.  This is what was happening to me. I was pushing back on something that I should have been flowing with but wasn’t. I knew I had to spread my wings and expand if I wanted to up-level and take my business with me.

When I said finally said YES, and stopped trying to control everything, slowly the seesaw got a little closer to center. Every time I looked fear in the eye and said, No, I am going to do it, fear fell a few more steps back letting up on some of the pressure that was holding me down. The seesaw slowly became more level. I was able to start walking along more steadily and confidently. A little wobbly at times, but such is on this journey. However, instead of always being all the way up or all the way down the extremes were getting smaller and smaller.  What I am learning is that there is no true balance, you learn to find your own authentic and aligned center.

This is when I knew that what I did and what I do and stand for fell into place. I was able to walk like a gymnast on a balance beam gracefully putting one foot in front of the other. I finally practice fully what I preach, teach and lead because what I use and what I do are in alignment. I am all in and ready to share fully my whole business.

What I have learned is that looking like you walk the walk and actually walking the walk are two completely different things. When you just look like you walk the walk, that is when you feel heavy, and off.  When you actually walk the walk, the load is so much lighter and you move more freely flowing with grace and ease!Namaste- Jules


You Have A Choice

I know that I am taking a flying leap here especially when the holidays are right around the corner, but I want to put a spin on it. I say flying leap because I know the thought process and many of you will think I am trying to be overly optimistic when in reality, I am merely re-framing it and taking another perspective. You can choose to agree or choose to agree to disagree or just disagree but just like the title of this post. “You have a choice.”

As a personal trainer and yoga teacher it is always right around this time that people are ready to get back into the routine of a regular fitness and yoga practice but at the same time they are bombarded by the challenges that comes around at this time of the year. Some of the things I hear from clients is,

” I want to start losing weight, I want to start getting back into shape, but (sigh) it is just so hard with the kids schedules and holiday’s right around the corner. I mean, first it starts with Halloween with the kids bringing candy into the house, then Thanksgiving with all that food, followed by Christmas and New Years Parties, it just seems endless and impossible to to start a program right now.”

The intentions start out so positive and then slowly they spiral into the negative, as if for some reason, the holiday’s are to blame for people to not continue making good choices. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday’s and I will be the first one to indulge in foods that I only get once a year, but what I think sets me and my mindset apart from the rest and keeps me moving in the direction of leading a healthy lifestyle, is that 1. I choose to not see food as good or bad. 2. I give myself the permission to make the choices I want to make. 3. I know that each day I am presented with an opportunity to continue on with a lifestyle that is not limited or confined restricted.

This is where I take that flying leap. I say that because I feel like sometimes when I say this, people look at me like I have my head on backwards or that I am overly optimistic or they give me that look that screams…well you are a personal trainer and yoga teacher, you HAVE to eat that way, you HAVE to be fit, you HAVE to make good choices, you HAVE to do it because it is part of your job.  Well here’s the thing, I do not HAVE to do ANY of those things. I CHOOSE to do those things. I Choose to make healthier choices when it comes to food. I choose to eat the right portion sizes and I choose to stay fit, and I choose to work in this profession. Here’s the other bit of advice, when you look at something as having to start that means you anticipate there being an end and when it comes to living the best and healthiest and fullest life possible there is no end. Once you decide that you want to make changes then those changes need to stick with you through thick and thin, through good times and bad. Those changes are being made to allow you to live fully, give fully, and be everything that you want to be.

So with that being said, I am going to state the obvious, when you are ready to start, it will not be the perfect time, when you are ready to make changes, there are going to be hurdles that stand in your way. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, birthday parties, parties in general, are not going away. They are always going to be with us. How we choose to manage those holidays and events while still being able to enjoy them is what will allow us to stick with our choice to live a healthy life. Here’s the thing, we are not incapable of achieving our goals and dreams, how we choose to react in times that challenge us and the conscious and even subconscious decisions we make are what influence how successful we are.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves and making healthy choices we can not afford to make choices that are going to hurt us. Even though, it might be the cheaper, easier or quicker option, down the road those choices will catch up to us. I do not know about you, but I want to know that I am making choices today that are going to save me time, money, and energy in the future. Just because it is easier cheaper and quicker now, could ultimately lead it to be longer, harder stays in the hospital or doctor visits, more expensive medical bills and paying for medications I could have avoided and now everything goes slower because I have pills to take, doctors visits to make, and that is time and energy that is out the window when I could have been enjoying my time doing something I enjoyed.

A lifestyle change is something we must not take lightly. It is not something you start and stop and start and stop, even though with the bumps and blocks life throws at us it can feel that way. I would encourage you to think about your journey more as weaving a little to the right or left, but always staying consistent to yourself. There is no track, there is just a way of life. If you are not on a track or wagon, you can not fall off you can not lose your way. You are just moving in one direction, the direction of living a quality life. I think that part of the problem is that so many diet programs and our culture in general like to put dates on things and likes to say this is the best time to start, this is bad, this is good, this is right, this is wrong. Everything when it comes to living a healthy life it seems is either black or white.

As a personal trainer and yoga teacher, I work daily to change peoples mindsets and perceptions around this concepts. When a clients tells me that they were bad and at all the wrong things. I quickly come back to them with the questions, well why do you think that YOU were bad, or why do you think you did ALL the wrong things? They always are a bit confused at first, but then they realize that what they are saying is coming from a place of all or nothing, from a place of black and white with no shades of gray. This is an important realization because they need to realize that eating foods that are not the healthiest on occasion does not make them bad people, it does not make them incapable of making good choices, it merely means that there were no other options available at the given time or that on occasion we can enjoy foods that should be kept in moderation. When you re-frame your situation to a more positive mindset, you will be more likely to continue with the healthy lifestyle that you started.

You will have people that try and convince you other wise to deviate from making good choices. Or it will seem that way. I encourage you to re-frame how they are approaching you. You must understand that because of the stigma of eating healthy and living a healthful life has, people are more likely to feel insecure and or even awkward. That is their insecurity not yours. That is their feeling and because it makes them feel uncomfortable they are going to do what they can to make you feel like you are the one who is being “weird” or deflecting their feelings on to you to make you uncomfortable. That is when you must pull yourself by the boot straps and let them know that you are making choices that are in the long term bettering your life. Either they accept it or they don’t. Not your problem. You can nicely even let them know that you are fine eating a piece of cake a birthday party or enjoying a glass of wine with a nice dinner but those are occasional things and that in general you are being more conscious of the choices you are making. Again, either they will accept it and leave it be, or they won’t. Again, not your problem it is their issue.

You are your best advocate for a life that is the greatest it can possibly be. You are your own best friend when it comes to taking care of yourself. I encourage you to be more mindful of your choices. Take a look at the impulsive and subconscious choices you are making and try to understand why you are making that choice, is it a habit, is it something you need to be more conscious of? Think about how you want to retrain and rephrase your words in your head to be more positive about the changes that you are making. Today is your day to saying YES to conscious eating choices. Today is your day to move forward in living a life that is the best possible. You have amazing things to accomplish and things to do and awesome things to experience. Live each day fully with the mind set of nourishing your body with foods that are going to allow you to do all of it!

Namaste! Jules


The Day I Decided To Take Action

As an entrepreneur it is so important that you take time to take care of yourself. Eating right and exercising are just some of the ways that you can do that.

Sometimes though, despite your best efforts to eating right and exercise, you are just missing some nutrients that could be leaving you feeling drained and lacking energy.

That is what happened to me. I felt like there was no amount of sleep that I could get to feel awake. Keeping up with my exercise which consists of<span class=”text_exposed_show”> a regular yoga practice and running and strength training was getting harder and hard to maintain as I picked up more clients and tried to keep up with my daughter who is on the run now!</span>
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This was NOT how I had pictured my business growing or me as a mom. I LOVE what I do and I LOVE being a mom, and I felt like a fraud as a yoga teacher and personal trainer and a failure at being the mom I wanted to be. I could not understand it. I eat healthfully, I have learned over the course of my education how to build healthy meals and make sure that I am taking in enough lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and veggies. Yet, wanting to get up in the morning was a struggle, and my last client of the night was spent with me apologizing for the yawns because I was not bored or uninterested, I was just plain tired and I could not understand it.

The none day, after a bit of time sitting on my solution and telling my friend, I want to do it my way, I decided, what do I have to lose? I made ONE simple change. I called my friend and said, lets to this, the whole thing, I am tired of being tired. So I jumped on board and made ONE addition to my already healthy lifestyle, and with in a month, I felt amazing. Yoga and running and lifting weights became not as challenging, My first client of the day was shocked at how I had color in my face and my last client of the day was curious as to what I was doing because I did not look like I was going to pass out on her floor. But more importantly I was being more active and playing more with my daughter. That is what really made me happy.

Every day you have the opportunity to make a choice and change. If what you are doing day over day is not working you can not expect the outcome to ever change. When you are done spinning on the hamster wheel like I was and you want to see a change you need to make a change. This is true for life and business. In order to be the person you want to be you need to be willing to take the leap and make the change! I encourage you today if you see patterns in your life that are not working, to stand up and say enough! Then take the bull by the horns and make the changes necessary to be the person you always saw yourself becoming!

Want to know more about the ONE THING I changed? I added Isagenix to my already healthy eating program. It was easy and simple to do and I was able to notice a change in 9 days and to me that was worth its weight in gold!!  Learn more about Isagenix by doing two things 1. Like my Facebook page: “”

2. check out my website “”

I hope to see you and answer any questions that you might have!!

Network Marketing

Too Tired to Exercise?

This morning started at 4:30 am with the alarm clock ringing by my side I reached over to turn it off and began to start my day. Breakfast check, coffee check, bag packed check. Out the door and on the road to my first shift. At 8:30 am I am off again to another destination. With each progressing hour, I get a little more heavy eyed. By 10:00 am I am back home for a break and ready to crash. No, I can’t, not yet anyways, I still have to get my cardio session in.

Even as a personal trainer I find myself lacking the motivation to put in the time. However, I know it’s important so I catch up on some email pay a few bills and then make my way over to the bike to log in my time. Thirty minutes, that’s nothing, I can do this easy. I start pedaling the bike and that first revolution feels like I had never set foot on the machine before, ugh this is gonna be the longest half hour ever.I know I  have to be back to work in two hours so I continue pedaling along feeling the sweat dripping from my forehead, I begin to pick up speed. I start moving faster and each revolution gets just a bit easier.

No longer do my legs feel like lead and im keeping a good clip. I get a second wind and before I know it the timer beeps and I am done. I sit there a minute, tired but invigorated because I pushed through and accomplished what I had said I would do. I was excited that I held myself accountable and completed what I set out to do.

The second half of my day also moved along much quicker because I felt good. I had energy to get things done. Was I tired at the end of my day, yes, but was it in vain? Absolutely not!! I would take this kind of tired any day knowing that it was because I worked fitness into my day and it gave me the boost I needed. I am a well deserved tired and for that, now I can take a little rest and feel good about my decision!What I am trying to say is that it is possible to do things you didn’t think you could do. Seriously, I thought I would rather sit on the couch this morning than sweat it out on the bike it just seemed to be too much work. I didn’t sit the morning away though, and you don’t have to either! You too can get up, tie your shoes and get to working out even if its for a half hour like me, do it you will be proud you did and your body will thank you later! Have a great day!Written By Julie S


It was a weight problem…But it wasn’t

Blowing out the candles on my thirteenth birthday I had one wish. It was something I asked God to take away every night before I went to bed.  Holding back tears in front of a room full of family, I closed my eyes tight, pretending to wish for something grand in the eyes of my family and blew out the candles. For me though nothing could be grander than being normal again. Being happy again, and not worrying anymore. When I opened my eyes I thought for sure this wish would be granted and things would be the way they used to be!

The next morning, I woke up and the same daunting worries were on my mind. Nothing had changed. My brain was still infested with horrible thoughts. The same thoughts that clouded my mind since that fateful August afternoon.

The irony of this whole story is that before all of this started, I never had a problem with weight. I never had an issue with body image, and I never would have thought this was ever something I would have to worry about. I was happy, healthy and active. I had a great childhood with loving parents, supportive sisters, and at the time, I could not have asked for things to have been better. As a child I was always on the tentative side and usually always the last to learn something, but I never shied away from the experience I always eventually learned or tried things. There was nothing in my childhood that I can remember that would have made my parents or myself believe that confidence, self-image or self-doubt would ever play a role in hindering my development, much less concern them with me having an issue with body image. Then on a warm sunny August day while basking in the last few weeks of summer vacation everything changed. Pandora’s box opened and my mind was flooded with unstoppable thoughts. I went from happy-go-lucky and carefree to quiet, cautious, and filled with fear.

It was the last week of summer camp and the annual trip to the water park was always the highlight of the whole summer. We waited months for this. This was why we went to camp. We thought we were so grown up. At the age of twelve to go to the water park without our parents made us feel very independent and confident. The counselors were cool, they pretty much gave us the freedom to do as we pleased as long as we were back at the bus on time. It was the perfect summer day, warm, sunny and just right for a day at the park. When the bus pulled into the parking lot, we could hardly contain ourselves with excitement. We took our seats feverishly planning our day with friends. Once at the park we jumped out of our seats and as we exited the bus the counselors shouted “be back at 3:30 pm” we barely heard them we were so ecstatic. Straight to the water park was our initial destination. We did not want to waste one minute of our time dawdling around. We knew it would get crowded fast and we didn’t want to be held up in lines. Off we went basking in the sunshine, zipping down the water slides, having a great time.
After endless runs on down the water slides my friends and I gathered to decide if it was time for lunch. We decided a few more runs would be better and then we could eat quickly and check out the rest of the park rides. On my way up to the top I felt something funny on the bottom of my foot. Thinking nothing of it, I picked up my foot and saw it was a band-aid. “Gross”, I thought, but with my mind on the ride, I quickly brushed it off and kept going. I made a quick  mental note to wash my hands before I ate and forgot all about it. About an hour later, we decided enough was enough and it was time to eat lunch. We grabbed our lunches and sat at the table planning what we would do for the rest of the time. Finishing our lunches and our plan set, we cleaned up and headed out of the water park. As we were packing up, it hit me like a ton of bricks on the head, I had not gone and washed my hands. I just ate lunch with my hands, the hands that had touched that band-aid. What if that band aid had been worn by a person who had HIV? Having just learned about this horrible disease in health class I became nervous. Could I have contracted HIV from that band aid? Could I get sick? It was at that moment that a switch had been flipped in my brain the “on” button had been pushed and like a flood gate, the thoughts took over my mind and like flooding water rushing down a street they were unstoppable. I became terrified, it was at that moment my life changed forever.
My days became consumed with research, reading encyclopedias, searching the internet, and asking vague questions to counselors at camp. I prayed nightly that the tormenting thoughts of getting HIV would just stop. I became quiet, reserved. I became cautious, careful. I didn’t want to get sick, I didn’t want to do anything to set off my “compromised” immune system. I thought for sure once school started, that the thoughts would disappear, that I would be too consumed with homework, theater practice, etc, that I would not have time to think about it.  It didn’t. The light-hearted things that most pre-teen, teenage kids thought about, talked about, and worried about, were not things that I thought about. I spent my time, reliving that specific moment at the water park when I made the decision to touch that band-aid. It became difficult to concentrate, I lost interest, what was the point? I was doomed to spend the rest of my days in a hospital bed, or so I thought.  While my friends started going to parties, and talking about boys, I waited anxiously for symptoms that might begin popping up. Instead of counting days to homecoming, I was counting how many days it had been since I had touched that band-aid.  As the days progressed, my behavior started changing too. All of a sudden the finger I had used brushing the band-aid off, I would not use it. When I saw a band-aid on a waitress at a restaurant I would not eat. I was constantly washing my hands every time I touched something that I believed was contaminated. I would not shake people’s hands at church. Now, not only was I obsessive in my thought patterns but to calm those thoughts I started acting strangely and my parents started to notice.

My mom was the one who confronted me and asked me what was going on. When I told her she laughed it off. Told me not to be ridiculous and not to worry. She tried to talk me out of the nervousness and fear that I truly believed that I had HIV. She tried so hard to make me believe that it was not possible to contract HIV from a band-aid. She tried to explain that the chlorine in the water would have killed it. That HIV does not live outside of the body for very long. She made me watch the Greg Louganis story so that I could see that the doctor that helped him who was bare handed touched Greg’s blood and did not get HIV to prove how difficult it was to get that way. She started stating facts about how it is contracted and even set up an appointment for me to talk to my pediatrician. It didn’t matter though, my mind was convinced and nothing was louder than my mind. It hollered so loud, no amount of reason from my doctor was changing my mind. I wanted him to test me for it, but he said “No.” He felt that I needed to overcome the issue without feeding into the fear. Getting tested would feed the fear and he was confident 100% that I was fine and I needed to see a psychiatrist. Angry and frustrated I left refusing to get help.
As the urges to wash my hands, purge of contaminated clothing got stronger and stronger, my behaviors became harder and harder to control and in turn, they became very obvious and frustrating to my parents, friends, and family. Every time I washed my hands my mom asked me why? Every time I needed to throw something out I got asked why? I found myself making up excuses, lying and feeling guilty.  I needed to find something less conspicuous than my go to behaviors, that’s when I found food. It was the one thing that I could turn to that was not going to be obvious and it calmed my mind just as well as washing my hands. If I could not control my thoughts then I would control my actions by eating.

The calmness that overcame me with each bite was almost addicting. It felt good to be able to hide my feelings and not get questioned. It was easier to convince my parents that I was better.  By the time I was a senior in high school I had gained 50 pounds. I was self-conscious, I was lacking self-esteem, and my body image was in the toilet. I could no longer shop in the stores I used to shop, because I had gone from a junior 6-8 to a women’s 12-14 and I was heading towards 16’s.  Shorts, tank tops and a bathing suit were out of the question. I was disgusted but I thought it was the only option I had.  With this plummeting self-confidence came declining friendships.  It was not long before I was besties with “Ben and Jerry’s.” Ben and Jerry didn’t care that I was gaining weight, they didn’t question me, they were simply there to quell my thoughts. To feel a little more like I had a social life or at least feel like I was a normal teenager, I spent my afternoons living vicariously through reruns of  90210.
Before I knew it I was graduating high school and going off to college. It was my chance I thought to start fresh. One of the perks of going to college was getting a physical and getting up to date with blood work and vaccinations. Knowing that my new doctor could not go to my parents because I was eighteen, thank you HIPPA, I was able to get blood work done.   I was given a new lease on life. I was given a clean bill of health from my doctor. Finally knowing for sure that the band-aid at the park had not given me HIV, was surely just what I needed to get these obsessive thoughts out of my head. Or so I thought. The scale at the doctor’s office left me less than thrilled at the self sabotaging.  I spent that summer in pants and short sleeve shirts to cover my thighs and arms. I tried to prepare for preseason as I was going into college as a varsity athlete, but it was so hard. The runs were unbearable on my knees and my runs consisted of me telling myself to “just finish fat-so.”

“ You are a disgusting disgrace.”

“ I can’t believe you let yourself get this way.”

“ How could you do this to yourself?”

“ What a jerk you are. “ The self loathing was incredible. The amount of self hate that I generated that summer was extremely intense and even though I was not binging my way through the summer the weight seemed to not budge. I tried my best to keep up with the workouts but my best to me was never good enough.
Despite the discouraging summer, I was excited to go to college. I was playing tennis on the varsity team and I was making friends and things were starting to look up. I hit the tennis courts and worked hard during the season.  That resulted in the dropping of 20 pounds because I was not compulsively eating to calm my mind any more, plus dining hall food was less than desirable. It felt good. I was gaining confidence, I thought I had for sure kicked this thing to the curb. I had finally beaten it.
Then like a slap in the face the obsessive thoughts started bombarding my mind again. This time, it was not that I had HIV, but that I could get HIV from contaminated things from my tennis team. During a team trip one of the girls got a blister from her sneakers and her heel was bleeding. She grabbed some bandages, and antiseptic. Cleaned it up threw her sneakers and blood stained socks in her bag. She then threw her bag in the van on top of all the other bags. I froze, what if it was on my bag, what if it leaked through her bag and stained my bag. I was silently freaking out. The whole ride home I was quiet on the outside, but on the inside my brain was screaming. I started crying. I could not help it. It was uncontrollable. My team mates were concerned. They could not understand why I was upset, I had won my match, I played well. I was smiling and having fun not a few hours earlier. I made up an excuse that I thought I had eaten something bad and that my stomach was in a lot of pain. They bought it. But not for long. With the resurgence of the obsessive thoughts came the compulsions. The urge to wash, toss, and avoid, was ten time stronger than it was the first time around. I was throwing out contaminated clothes like it was my job. I was washing my hands until they were red, and my self-confidence and fun-loving personality disappeared as quickly as it had come back.

My teammates started to notice. They started to question. I had to do something, but there was no way I was going to gain all that weight back. I felt good. I looked good, and people noticed the weight loss. It was exhilarating and it was empowering. There had to be another way to quell the thoughts. Again I turned to food. But rather than over consuming food. I began to restrict it. The less I ate, the more I lost. The more I lost the more I was complimented, it was powerful and it was perfect. It was a perfect way to hide my true problem.
I came home from college another 20 lbs lighter. Everyone noticed. It was awesome. It gave me something else to focus on. I joined a gym that summer and started taking fitness classes. I loved the feeling I got from working out. My obsessions shifted from worrying about getting sick to getting fat. I was so afraid that I would revert to old ways, I hit the gym hard-core. I gave myself reasons to not eat. I took a part-time job, went to summer school and spent my time at the gym. I ran myself ragged and was eating toast and milk for breakfast, sweet potatoes for lunch and a piece of grilled chicken for dinner. If I veered from this regiment I panicked. Being preoccupied with studying, work, and gym helped me to maintain my schedule.

As the summer progressed, and the self-sustained stress mounted my body started to revolt. I had the shakes, my hair was falling out and my skin was getting dry. I attributed the shakes to drinking too much coffee, my hair while it was scary, I attributed to stress at school. The dry skin I really didn’t think too much about it was summer after all and much of my time was spent in the air conditioning. Then one night I woke up, I had a funny pain in my stomach, I went to the bathroom thinking that might help. It didn’t. I thought maybe I’m just hungry, I will grab something small and go back to bed. I had to be up early anyways so I would consider that breakfast and head out to work. I never went into work that day. The pain spread, down my shoulder, into my back, across my stomach, before I could even think, I was doubled over screaming in pain. My dad came running out and rushed me to the hospital. The whole ride I was thriving in unbelievable pain. We barely made it in the ER I was screaming and crying and crying and apologizing. The woman who was registering us called a nurse and I was whisked into the ER.
On my way to get an ultrasound, the nurse was asking me routine questions about my height and weight. After I gave her my weight, I asked her if the weight and height were normal, if she thought I was fat. She stared at me and said, “I wish I could be your height and weight.” “You are perfect for your height.”   She rolled me into the room and the tech came in. The nurse told me she would be back to get me in a bit. She brought me back to my room and my parents were there waiting for me. All of a sudden, I had to use the bathroom. I was barefoot and the bathroom was about 100 feet away and I was hooked to an IV. I asked my mom for my shoes and she told me she had put them in the car. I freaked out. I lost it. There was no way on this God-given earth I was walking barefoot to the bathroom on a dirty hospital floor. What if I stepped on a syringe? What if I stepped in blood. I was furious, and my mom began to understand exactly what was going on. It had nothing to do with not having my shoes, it had everything to do with me not getting over my fear of diseases. That the strict regiment I was putting myself on was to control my intrusive thoughts. The food restriction, the over emphasis on homework, the added stress I was putting on myself to take extra shifts at work. They were all to minimize my need to worry. That day I was given an ultimatum. I was either going to get help from a psychiatrist or I was not going back to school in August. With only 4 weeks left, I wanted to go back. I had friends, I loved my classes, I enjoyed playing tennis and all of it was going to be taken from me if I did not agree to get help.  I agreed with a condition. That I get that help back at school. I promised that when I got back to school I would go to the health center and get a referral.
Knowing my mom would pull me from school in a heartbeat, when I got to school for preseason my sophomore year, I went straight to the health center.  It happened to be perfect timing. The college was starting a new program with local mental health professionals to come onto campus and be a resource to students that needed it. If we needed more that a few sessions then we could get it covered under our health insurance.

Knowing I would need more than one or two I called my mom and had her get things situated with the college and my insurance to get my help. I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Disordered Eating. It was with this psychologist that I was introduced to meditation. Along with my primary care physician getting me on some anti anxiety medication, the psychologist had me doing daily meditation. We set up a gym schedule with boundaries that helped me to learn the difference between healthy exercise and using it to reduce anxiety rather than abusing it and using it as a crutch. I learned to understand that I had control over my situations and that I needed to develop language that was going to help me deal with my anxiety. I came to understand that my OCD was fueling my disordered eating and that while these things are  part of me, it did not define me. I learned to have a healthy relationship with food.

With this healthy new outlook on food, exercise and life, I became intrigued with teaching group exercise classes. I wanted to know more and spent time studying to become a certified group exercise instructor. I worked hard not only to maintain a healthy weight but to also have a healthy relationship with food and myself. Having worked hard to get my group exercise certification, I was given an opportunity for an on campus job of teaching classes. I was stoked. I began making more friends, I was having fun and it felt good. My self-esteem was beginning to rise.
My senior year of college came quicker than I had ever imagined. I was playing tennis, I was having fun with friends, and I had learned to love myself and have some self-respect and confidence. I was still working weekly with the psychologist and I felt myself getting better feeling more like the fun-loving “kid” now young adult, I had planned on becoming. As senior year progressed I was still teaching exercise classes, but my regular classes were getting intense. I was still practicing my meditation nightly, but I was still feeling anxious.

These were things that I was working with the doctor with but I still felt like something was missing.  I was flipping through the channels on TV and found Ashtanga Yoga. I fell in love. It was an amazing combination of the feel good fitness benefits, along with the meditation practices that I maintained as I worked with the psychologist. I made it part of my morning routine. I woke up a bit earlier, did yoga, got ready and headed out to class. At night before bed, I listened to my meditation CD’s. It helped. It was exactly what I needed to round out my self-care practice. Interestingly, the last semester of my senior year  I took the Psychology of Buddhist Meditation. It was as if the college had dropped that class in my lap as a congratulations for working so hard on your studies and yourself.  BAM mind blown. When I finished the class I knew I had to teach yoga and I knew that I had to share my experience with others.
After graduation I spent the summer teaching group exercise classes, getting certified as a personal trainer and I took my first job at a local YMCA. I then started going to yoga classes and reconnected with my love of yoga. I decided that it was integral to my personal growth to understand why yoga was such a powerful force in helping me heal. I became certified as a 200 hr yoga teacher.

Looking back on the experience, what I realized was that it was a weight problem, but it wasn’t. The reality was I needed to come to terms with and get a handle on my own fears. I was using food in both ways, over-consumption and under-consumption to fuel the fire rather than put it out. Since then, through teaching yoga and fitness classes  I have been using my experience to empower women to take charge of their life and be accountable for them understanding why, they truly turn to food when they are struggling with their weight. I encourage women to look at themselves and question why they are choosing to eat what they eat.

I have learned that we have a choice and what we choose to do is what leads us down the path that we follow. I also learned that even though we might make the wrong choice the right choice is never far away and we can always choose to change our direction. The power and the choice is ours and ours alone. For so long, I spent so much time resenting myself for having that time in my life. I spent so much time I wishing I could have gone back in time and changed that fateful day. I day dreamed about how I would have told myself to go and wash my hands. I should have scrapped the band-aid off with the step rather than touching it. I spent so much time replaying that day, that I forgot how to appreciate what I had at that moment. It has taken a great deal of time to forgive myself for the resentment. However, part of my ability to be successful as a fitness professional was taking that time to forgive myself and to use my story to fuel motivation and inspiration to other women.

It has been 21 years since that day at the water park. I can not really believe that much time has passed. The lessons I learned from that fateful day have made me who I am today. I don’t regret that day anymore. I appreciate the experience. I feel that it has made me more compassionate and empathetic to the needs of my clients and the growth of my business.  Today I have an amazing career as a fitness professional and most importantly I have a healthy relationship with food. I have a positive self-image, and I am confident in my abilities to be the best l can be. Are there days that those fears pop up, yes, but I can handle them so much better than ever before.  I attribute my ability to snuff out the fear because I have learned to forgive myself, to be patient with myself. I remind myself daily that food does not have the answer to my problems. I have the answer to my problems with in me. For me it was a weight problem, but it wasn’t. I used food to hide and as a result my weight suffered. It suffered greatly. Now that I understand this I am able to move forward and create the life that I want and I will not be hindered or deterred from being happy, healthy and self-confident.

*This blog post can be found in the soon to be published book “BeYOUtiful Book” By Yaisa Mann & Contributors. This is my piece.