My Personal Journey to a Health, Happiness and Yoga
by Rebecca Swinburnson
Not so long ago I was your average teenage girl with long green hair, piercings, and in a relationship with a metalhead. I worked full-time as a barista and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
From the Beginning
I was born and raised on a on a hobby farm fifteen minutes outside of small town Sooke B.C. Growing up I was very athletic and a meat eater. My father used to tell me that if you couldn’t kill something yourself, you shouldn’t eat meat. I knew that I never ever could kill anything myself. So I announced that I was vegetarian at age eleven. Three days later I caved for a can of ravioli.
Searching for Answers
During puberty, when my body began to change, I went from 110 pounds to 150 by the time I was fourteen. I worked out a lot, drank skim milk, ate whole wheat bread and consumed a lot of cheese and meat and ate fast food as well. Nothing I ate ever seemed to make a difference, by age sixteen I began to hate my body. I was dieting and it wasn’t working. I exercised and saw no results. I was constantly comparing myself to my friends. As a past academic student, I began to prioritize the wrong things during high school and became discouraged about my future.
A Spark Ignited
I first became turned onto to a healthier lifestyle when I began researching the benefits of teas that I could up sell products at work. I was fascinated by the wealth of benefits offered from herbal teas. I studied and memorized them and increased my company’s tea sales by 50%!
Shortly after, my company hired a girl who was a vegan. As someone who had tried various diet changes, I struggled with a bad body image and was becoming increasingly frustrated I had always admired, and been extremely curious of veganism, however, I didn’t have the confidence I could become one myself.
Education Leads to the Action
During high school, I researched animal cruelty for class project. Undercover slaughter house videos and factory farms left me feeling ashamed and sad. I resolved to be more mindful of what I ate and quit eating red meat. A few months later, I cut out white meat and then, eventually, fish as well.
Though I had made this commitment to animals, I still didn’t know anything about nutrition,
An Up Hill Battle to a Healthier Me
I thought that my metabolism was slow, that my body stored fat easily, that I had to eat very little to be thin. So at age sixteen I went from 157 pounds to 120 pounds. The sadness and self-punishing I felt when I started my weight loss didn’t go away with the pounds, but in fact increased.
I partied all of the time and had a really bad attitude. Things began to snowball and by age nineteen every time I drink, I would black out, I never exercised, I barely ate anything and when I did, it was junk food. I was severely depressed. I would think back to when I was on an amazing path and I felt that I couldn’t relate to that person anymore. I felt desperation to find her, to restore my reputation, to become ‘good’ again.
A Harsh Reality & Hope
Finally, it came to a point where I felt that I was no longer proving a point but only damaging my future.
I started eating regular meals, got a job and stopped partying all of the time. Just with that slight change in mentality, my path shifted, and things began to shift for the better. However, my metabolism had slowed so much from deprivation that I gained back a lot of weight, very quickly, and all as fat, because I wasn’t eating healthily or exercising.
Some friends and I decided to start hiking every day. 20 days later, I was a new woman. My muscles were rebuilding themselves and I felt amazing. I got a full time opening job at a café and quit drinking so that I could quit smoking.
I met a vegan lady who touted all the health benefits of veganism and claimed that it was easy. She also brought to light many incidents of animal cruelty that occur with vegetarian friendly products as well. I decided, one day, cold turkey, I was going to do it. And I did. I became as vegan as the veganest vegan you ever met for eight straight months.
I lost weight immediately. But I gained energy and I felt absolutely amazing. It was like a whole new world was opened to me. Instead of worrying about what I had to cut out of my diet to be thin and trying to accept a body that I didn’t really like, I had to start thinking about what I had to include in my diet to make sure I was getting the proper nutrition and started having to read labels and become aware of what I was eating. I started drinking smoothies and salads, and then I began to run.
I kept growing as a person in health and activity level. I gained an immense amount of self esteem, and started to study nutrition, cooking my own meals and juicing. I even took up boxing and exercise classes.
Healthier, but Still Not Quite Happy
I started doing hot yoga every day and I absolutely loved it. I had never thought of myself as flexible before but my body responded and changed so quickly. However I didn’t find my happiness this time. I was anxious and constantly striving for perfection. I constantly compared myself to others and always, in my own mind, I lost. My friendships were on the rocks as I was trying to create a new image of myself; someone that prioritized exercise and healthy eating and didn’t go out.
After a while I started to realize that when I left the hot yoga studio, a lot of the time I felt substandard. I thought I should be going more often, that I should be doing more in the postures, that I should be fitter.
Getting to the Source
On the search for my happiness, I emailed a Hatha Yoga studio and asked to start an energy exchange for research purposes. At first, I still preferred hot yoga. It seemed that nothing more efficiently exercised my muscles. I soon started to realize that every time I left the Hatha Yoga studio, I just felt a glow of happiness.
I discovered so much of myself, during my own practice, and from other teachers. The number one thing I discovered that contributes to my current and future health was that I was so competitive and goal oriented. The reason true happiness had eluded me was because I was always, always striving, never satisfied. Underlying all of this, I discovered, was a deep seated fear of inadequacy and failure.
In my Hatha practice, I faced this. I hugged myself into so many little balls and just said “You are perfect, right here, right now.” I cried during Savasanas. I stopped running so hard, started wandering and day dreaming instead. I stopped striving to reach my edge during my yoga practices. I had really positive feedback from quite a few people about my practice.
Helping Myself by Helping Others
When I began my yoga teacher training at Feel Good Yoga and Pilates, magic began to happen.
I let the past go and began to respect myself and know myself as a responsible, somewhat introspected fitness nerd.
I watched a lot of documentaries that shocked and abhorred me about animals in suffering and I was crushed. I cried and cried and suffered a compassion burn out. But I was able to build myself back up stronger, knowing that if I plug into this suffering and let it harm me, I am less likely to spread light and positivity, and will be weaker for helping their cause, as well as denying the true joy we should all feel for having Life.
I asked the Universe to let me help. And she provided. Today, I teach a heated fusion Power-Yin Flow class and a Karma Class every week for donations to support local causes. I just got asked to be director of a newly created volunteer group that deals with spaying and neutering wild cats and providing animals in need with food.
I practice my yoga with dedication every day. I play with a tai chi energy ball and do work with auras and slowly, glimmers and flashes of extraordinary things become concrete over time. I feel energy shaking down my legs and exiting through my feet in certain yin postures. I can feel and move energy with my hands. After an intense practice, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and my whole body is vibrating. I don’t know what’s happening, but I know that it’s good.
Finding My Health & Happiness
Yoga is one of those things we must practice with diligence, and commitment to see improvement. Like many new habits we try to form, maybe first we regress. The path to our true selves is not straight uphill, but paved with many pitfalls. To meet our limitations and failures with understanding and without attachment, this is yoga. To see the closing of a door as a possibility to open more, and that regression or relapse is just one more chance for a beginning.
Happiness lies within and isn’t contingent on any person, place or thing. We can spend our whole lives searching for fulfillment without ever being satisfied. Truthfully, it’s about finding, and acting in accordance with our true Selves, our true Needs. Searching the Chitta, our subconscious, and learning to distance ourselves from the voice of Ahamkara, the Ego, Desire and Aversion, and the Illusion of Separation.
Finding the truth is finding that all things are one, and that peace comes with being part of it all.
By Rebecca Swinburnson
We are proud to say that Rebecca is a graduate of the Feel Good Yoga Teacher TrainingProgram.