It’s so cliche and I know it, but yoga literally saved my soul. I know, you’re probably thinking, ‘ok cool Leslie, glad touching your toes helped you, but I’ve got too much sh!t to deal with to think about slowing down.’ My answer to you is, I can only imagine, I’ve been there too.
You see, when I started my yoga practice, it was for a workout. I would take a “stretch” rest day and yoga. I knew taking class instantly made me feel better, but I couldn’t pin-point why. All I knew was it felt different than when I did a HIIT workout.
Outside of the physical, inside, I was dealing with some heavy, heavy emotions. I had body dysmorphia, self-hate, stress, coping with alcohol and compulsive shopping, a broken relationship, feelings of not being enough, not to mention family trauma I’d lived through as a child and never dealt with.
Yoga helped me, unknowingly, by showing me my worth. Yoga, through its movement practice, taught me to sit in the discomfort of my own life and explore it and find healing. Yoga taught me to learn what my body is feeling, to in turn, know what my body needs.
Many people think of yoga and certain images and a certain look of people comes to mind. I learned yoga is so much more than poses and stretchy pants. Yoga is social justice. Yoga gave me the tools to begin to address healing from trauma in my body that had been stuck there for decades.
Scientifically, mindfulness can help activate whole-brain activity. What does that mean? Well, my whole life I’ve dealt with chronic stress from finances, search for identity, being the daughter of immigrants, growing up in an abusive home, experiencing homelessness, you know, the statistic checkbox for people who grow up in marginalized communities. That chronic stress means I spent most of my life living in the Sympathetic part of the central nervous system, the fight-flight-freeze and my body had never really had a chance to move into the parasympathetic side, the -rest-relaxation-digestion.
Yoga taught me to witness and understand how my body was using destructive behaviors and patterns to cope with all the sh!t I was going through. The feelings of not being enough were not reality, it really just meant I was hurt and needed healing.
Yoga has changed my life and now I’m on a mission to help equip other journalists of color and conscience with the healing tools that helped me.
Interested in hearing more about my story and how yoga for journalists came to be? Check out this amazing conversation facilitated by Dr. Melissa Ming Foynes, licensed psychologist and host of The Science & Soul of Living Well. We dive deep into the daily practices I use to deal with our high-stress news job, as well as sharing my personal journey regarding the ways in which yoga has helped me cope with stress and trauma in the workplace & healing my relationship with my body, emphasizing how this capacity for healing exists within us all.
Important Note: Our conversation about trauma and body image does include references to self-harm urges, so please listen at your discretion.