Why Yoga?

A little more than a year ago, while visiting my family in TN, my adorable nephew, intrigued by the fact that I spent every morning doing yoga while every one else had breakfast, asked me, "Aunt Jo, why do you do yoga?" And; I didn't know exactly why, but the question unnerved me.
Sure, it is a simple enough question; but I suddenly felt all the blood drain from my face, and all I could really tell my lovable nephew was that I was doing yoga to get healthy. To which he smiled and quickly walked back downstairs, obviously satisfied by my answer.
I, on the other had, was neither ready to go downstairs at that moment (feeling disoriented as I was), nor was I satisfied with the answer I provided but I could not for the life of me figure out why.
I later mentioned this to my oldest brother, looking, as I always am when I speak with him, for words of wisdom. But he didn't understand why i was so upset with my answer or the question, so I figured I was just overreacting, and decided to simply drop it.
The trouble was, I wasn't really able to drop it. And the little question would randomly bother me from time to time. Always leaving me out of sorts and annoyed.
This went on until a few months ago, when it finally hit me.
In order to get to the heart of it all, I needed to dig deep and realize that I was bothered by the question because:
1- I had fallen in love with yoga back in the 90's but was told (it isn't really important by whom) to stop practicing because yoga was going to lead me away from God, and I would end up involved in some weird religion. (Obviously, there was no understanding, at that time, that yoga is not really a religion and that I was not channeling demons into my body by meditating. But hey, you live, you learn, you realize the truth about things)
2-I was able to reconnect with yoga when we moved to the U.S but I was still a little afraid of what I had been previously told, so I dropped the yoga dvd, and simply opted to focus on things that would make me thinner. I went with pilates first, then diet pills and then extreme yo-yo dieting. All in the pursuit of what I had seen society deemed "acceptable" in terms of looks.
3- By the time we moved to Houston, my self esteem was in the gutter... nope, it was beyond that, it was buried deep in the abyss. And my health? Well, besides the damage done to my heart (which has been fixed, and is now in tip top shape, thank you very much surgery :) ) all the stress and starving I had put myself through gave me severe gastritis, an ulcer and all around a weak immune system and, much to my lovely husband's (then fiance's) dismay, a terrible temper.
4- While in Houston, I forgot all about yoga and all things healthy and decided to focus all my energy into looking as thin as possible so that I could be "happy" and "accepted". So, I ate nothing but meat and cheese, developed a deep hatred for fruits, veggies and carbs, and spent about 3 hours at the gym almost daily. I also tried to get involved with the fencing team, but found I was too tired, distracted and all around super insecure to be fencing. (Seriously, those who know me, know that there are few things I enjoy more than holding a sword or a bow and arrow, or a riffle, I mean, I am all about this stuff, but the second I was in a team, and realized people were looking at me, I panicked, because all I could think about was how they must be noticing how fat I looked while i tried to get the foot work down... goodness, that was terrible)
5- Then, I got married, and was the happiest woman on the planet. I was truly happy, and complete, I even forgot about dieting for a bit... unless I happened to see a picture of me that was less than flattering, then it all went to hell and poor Eric had to pick up the pieces. But I digress, the point is Eric spent all this time helping me, trying to open my eyes to reality, letting me know how much I was loved by him, and slowly, this began to cure little parts of me that had been bleeding for far too long. And when we started to work together, and the company paid for me to take "yoga" (ok, it was more like quigong but they called it yoga... long story... and to be fair, some asanas and breathing techniques were used, so it was more a combo of hatha yoga and quigong...) classes, it seemed as though things would begin to settle down. And they did. Honestly, the gastritis and ulcer disappeared and the horrid vertigo (not mentioned above, but still a nuisance) was reseeding. I was slowly starting to realize that I was a wonderful human being who was loved, beautiful and worthy. Every now and then, though, those horrid voices would bring me down, and I would have to start over. But all -in- all, it was good. But then, I stopped attending the lessons (Basically, it was all a little like a cult, like a real cult not like a dumb baseless scare like the one I was put through back in the 90's. And I was just freaked out by certain things, so I left; and not a moment too soon)[so, the quigong exercises had worked but the crazy aspects of the... cult were just too creepy]
6- I then changed jobs and had no time for any kind of physical activity. Plus I was beyond stressed, and spent pretty much every other month sick as a dog, which sucked. (although I did, get the chance to try out P90X which was cool, and box with my bff which was awesome, but also not sustainable due to time, health, etc. Not to mention, any kind of physical activity was always done in order to make me look thinner)
7- And then, my amazing big brother offered me a job, and everything changed. I suddenly had time to think, breathe, and yes, even work out. So, I decided I didn't want to be unhealthy and obsessed with my "thinness" anymore, so I finally acknowledged the fact that I had a problem... or rather, problems, and decided to learn more about nutrition. (Side note- getting to learn that carbs were not the enemy was probably the hardest thing ever) And in the process, I got a hold of Bethenny Frankel's book "Naturally Thin" and realized, I could be healthy and eat well, and let go of crazy "diets".
While I was learning more about nutrition, I also decided to get a new yoga dvd, and the second I finished the 60 min flow, I knew, I had found it. The "it" I had been looking for since way back in the day.
See, from the very first time I was introduced to yoga, I knew that this practice was meant for me. I knew that it was different and important and life changing, but I hadn't had a chance to give it a real chance until that moment. And I was simply blown away.
That being said, I was still (and still can be) a mess, and had not let go of my hatred of my self completely. I was still sure that I would never be anyone of importance if I was not thin and I was using yoga to get a long and lean body, that I swore would land me more roles and ultimately make me a better person.
A little later, I noticed the peace I had acquired through practice and meditation, and I was glad I had found the practice, but was still holding on to the physical side of the practice, which is also why I spent one hour doing cardio in the morning, then an hour of yoga and an hour of belly dancing to end things (yes i used to wake up at 5am... no more haha) {and this is why I was tired during class, when I finally found a yoga studio to attend}   
I then visited my nephew, and his question jarred me because I was practicing in an incomplete manner. I was focusing only on the physical side of the practice, and semi-dabbling on the mental/spiritual part by meditating for about 10 minutes a day. So, see, the problem was not the question but all that lied beneath the surface of the question. And I was the only one who could get to the bottom of that well, which is probably why my brother thought it was weird that I was thrown by this innocent inquiry.
After this question, a trip to the Dominican Republic and an angel both saved me (you can read about this story in my past posts if you haven't already)
Anyhow, after a few more months, things began to change slowly. I no longer hated myself, I was able to recognize the "negative" voices and gently push them aside. I was also able to sit with the shadow and the light of my practice and my day to day (with some tougher days than others, after all, I am human and I still do and still will have my ups and downs when it comes to this stuff. But it will never be as horrible as it was, I will not let it get that way anymore) I also suddenly became aware of how my body really needed to be nurtured and began to slowly crave more and more plant-based foods. I developed more ahimsa for myself, my practice and all beings around me. I feel connected to myself for the first time in years and I finally know me. I know who I am, what I am worth, and I love my self every day, at every moment, just as I am... even when I doubt a little, I still can find my way back, which is better than never being able to do so, the way it used to be.
I have been growing tremendously over the past years, and months and I owe it all to God, because he has protected me all my life and because he has allowed me to connect with this yoga of mine. This union. This wholeness and this life. (I could literally spend about 40 pages describing the amazing ways in which this yoga of mine has changed my life for the better. But I think this blog is long enough already, so maybe some other time I shall go into detail)

So, why yoga?
Because yoga is my natural state.
 And the more I nurture this eight limbed tree of mine, the more I become alive, and the more I am exactly me at every moment, just as I am; a little lotus flower, pushing her way out from the mud to shine her light and spread her love over the world.

"You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state."-- Sharon Gannon