Love at First Practice – Guest Post by Bobbi-Jo Asher
I have never been a big believer in “love at first sight.” While we certainly can be instantly attracted to someone’s appearance or energy, there is so much more to learn about them before we can truly fall in love. However, for me with yoga, I was definitely in love at first practice. Before I tell you about my first class, and how I found my way to the mat, I will tell you a little more about me.
I have always struggled with my weight. In the fifth grade, I looked like a young woman while many of my classmates still looked like little children. It seemed I instantly had hips and breasts, and started gaining weight consistently. Though I was fairly active, my metabolism was not. Genetically, we are a big, fat family. I spent my 20's in the 200's and my 30's in the 300's. It continued to get worse and worse and while I made efforts now and then to lose the weight, I was a food addict and just couldn’t break the cycle of addiction and self destructive behavior.
In August of 2016, I was 42 and weighed over 450 pounds. My weight was out of control and I had been abusing my body with food for far too long. I was nearly completely sedentary and extremely depressed. Because I spent most of my time sitting at my desk binge watching Netflix and Hulu, the circulation to my legs was extremely compromised. I developed lymphedema and contracted cellulitis. I spiked a fever of 104 degrees and found myself hospitalized for a week battling a severe infection. I decided I needed to do something, anything, to save my own life. If I didn’t make a change, I was going to die and my kids wouldn’t even be able to carry my casket.
I had considered bariatric surgery in the past but knew my stomach wasn’t the problem, my brain was the culprit. I didn’t need a smaller stomach, I needed a lobotomy. I was afraid I would only do more harm by reducing the size of my stomach and continuing to overeat. At this point though, I was willing to try anything; so reluctantly, I decided I would have the surgery. I found a surgeon I trusted and could afford and in April of 2017 this was their response:
“Unfortunately, when I did calculate your BMI, it is currently at 71.8 and we have a maximum allowable criteria. Meaning, he won't take a BMI generally over 59-60. You would need to get down to 370 lbs. in order to be able to come to us as a patient and I am always so sad when I have to tell someone this.”
Yes, you read that right. My BMI was 71.8. GAH! I told her I would do whatever it took to lose enough to make it happen. We had a trip to Cabo planned in May so I didn’t get started right away. On June 5, 2017, I changed everything about my life. I cut all toxins out of my diet, restricted my carbs, increased my protein and good fat intake, and started moving as much as possible. I joined our local gym in August when I was able to move my body more effectively.
By September of 2017, I lost that 71.8 pounds and more. If I was able to lose that much weight in such a short amount of time just by living differently, why not just continue to do that rather than have my stomach removed? So, that’s what I have done. NO SURGERY. I have continued to eat in such a way that makes my metabolism burn optimally, and have become a regular gym junkie.
Yoga isn't something I was ever particularly interested in. Taryn had invited me to her yoga classes at her home and I always politely declined. I felt like I wouldn't fit in, feared being the fattest one in the room (it happens a lot), and figured I wouldn't be able to do any of the poses anyway. I was confident I wouldn't be relaxed at all and would come away feeling even worse about myself. It’s sad how cruel we can be to ourselves at times. But, as I lost more and more weight I was able to move my new body in new and exciting ways. I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable and pushing my body to new limits. So, yoga seemed like the perfect challenge.
I figured I had better meet the instructor first to talk about potential limitations. That meeting went something like this:
Me: Hi! My name is Bobbi. I'm a first timer.
Me: I won't be able to do everything...(motioning to my figure)...for obvious reasons. I also have a recovering bad knee so.....not sure where that leaves me. If I have to be on my knees much, that might be an issue. Ya know, like doggy-style...haha...what do they call that in yoga?
Instructor: (laughs as she gets on the ground) Do you think you can do this?
Instructor: (changes position) This?
Me: Probably not.
Instructor: (adjusts again) How about this one?
Instructor: Ok. Hmm.... Let's just see how it goes. Just make sure you aren't in pain when trying and if you need to, just relax through anything that doesn't work for you.
It turns out that the instructor, Alyshea Shaw, is a former student of Taryn’s.
Fortunately, there were all sorts of body types in the room. Young, old, male, female, small, big, newbies, vets, etc. I don't think a single person cared about what I was doing, they were just focusing on their own practice and many had to modify movements for their own reasons, whatever they were. Of course there were a couple “pros” that looked incredible but, I didn’t let that intimidate me. I just see them and their abilities as something to strive for. INSPIRATION!
I DID IT! I did almost every bit of it. There were a couple of transitions that weren’t exactly pretty and some some stretches I couldn't hold quite as long, but I did it all in some fashion or another. I know my husband passed by the window and was even surprised that I was getting it done. Heck, I was surprised I was getting it done. IT FELT INCREDIBLE physically and emotionally. I felt accomplishment like I hadn’t known before. I was hooked and ready to do it again. I was in love with yoga.
Fast forward quite a few months and many classes later and that passion has only grown. It has been 11 months since my health and wellness journey started and I have lost a total of 160 pounds. More importantly, I feel absolutely incredible. This morning in yoga, while I was in downward dog, I noticed a gal in the back struggling much like I did in the beginning. She was modifying movements, having to transition with some extra help, dealing with some cumbersome body weight and I teared up realizing how far my practice has come. I still have a long way to go but, my body can do things now it could not do then. I think that is one thing that is so neat about yoga. It is very easy to recognize your progress because there are always improvements to be made, stretches to deepen, posture to improve, legs to raise higher, balancing to hold longer, etc.
I spend anywhere from two to five hours in the gym each day. I lift, Zumba, UFC train, Aquasize, swim laps, all sorts of other cardio and strength work, and of course…yoga. I attend each yoga class I can as our center currently offers Vinyasa Flow, Yin, and Power Yoga. When I can’t get to them all, I turn to Taryn’s remote option. While the other workouts leave me feeling accomplished, yoga leaves me feeling whole. With breath work, meditation, and mindful intentions, I am transforming more than just my physical body. With yoga, I am transforming my life.
I am looking forward to taking my practice even further. I have decided that I want to get my certification as well and continue to share my passion for yoga. I am so grateful to Taryn for planting the yoga seed in me. I am so grateful to Alyshea for believing I could do something, anything when I was probably looking for excuses at the time as to why it wouldn’t work for me. I am so grateful to Vickie and Stephanie for sharing their passion and guidance with me weekly as well. I tell everyone I meet that if they don’t yoga, they absolutely should. It has changed me and I can’t imagine my life without the ability to hit that mat on a regular basis.
Bobbi-Jo Asher is a member of the Remote Yogi Tribe and is a powerful motivator within the group. Her continued weight-loss journey can be followed on her blog - Taking Me Back. Bobbi-Jo shares her honest pitfalls, tips for others looking to make major transformations, and her meals. We are truly proud of her honesty and the courage it takes to share her story!