I Am A Yoga Girl - Esther Nagle

Whenever people ask me why I love Yoga, I have a simple answer. It may sound like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. Yoga saved my life.

This is not hyperbole. I know beyond doubt that without Yoga, I would be dead now.

I dipped in and out of Yoga since my 20’s, inspired by my adoration of former Beatle, George Harrison. It was only in 2007, in my mid 30’s, that I made it a regular part of my life.

I loved my Yoga classes. I loved the way my body felt during and after my classes. And I was 'good' at it. My fragile ego loved that!

But something was amiss. The classes gave me space to stretch my body, and enjoy the postures. This was good and I needed it. But I struggled with the breathing, and so I struggled with the relaxation.

My nose was almost permanently blocked due to a dust allergy. Pranayama was challenging, and I found it hard to control my breath. Savasana at the end of class was a time when I would think about the day, and what I was going to do when I got home.

And what I was going to do when I got home, almost every time, was get drunk and smoke lots.

Although I had never admitted it to myself, I had been self medicating depression and stress since I was 20. I was an alcoholic in denial. I smoked cigarettes and marijuana, took other drugs and raged against the world. In my quest to find peace, I was destroying myself. This is not sustainable. In 2013, at the age of 40, the inevitable and much needed breakdown finally happened.

My solution to my problems seemed, on some level, like an indulgence. I had wanted to train to be a yoga teacher for some years. Yoga seemed like the perfect career. It would keep me calm and grounded, and I could help myself by helping others. As if by divine intervention, a local teacher started promoting her first teacher training course. This fit in with my childcare responsibilities, and I enrolled.

Arrogantly, I thought I knew Yoga and there wasn’t much I was going to learn. It took only a few hours of the first session for me to realise that knowing the postures did not mean I knew Yoga. I surrendered to being a beginner, and threw myself into learning.

As well as learning about Yoga philosophy and practice, I also started to learn about me. Facing aspects of myself I had hidden, or had been hidden from me, was often difficult, but I embraced it all. I started to see patterns, make connections, and learn to forgive myself for so many past mistakes.

I stopped eating dairy, eventually becoming vegan. Within weeks, my nose was no longer blocked and I could breathe properly. Pranayama was a revelation. In my breath, I was able to find peace and self understanding that had always eluded me.

I had curbed my drinking so I was only drinking at weekends, but I was drinking lots.

Six months into my training, I woke with the worlds worst hangover, and vowed never to feel like that again. Sober weekend after sober weekend, I learned to appreciate and love sobriety. I focused not on the lack of alcohol, but the gifts of staying sober. I practiced more Yoga, I breathed better, I could sleep and find peace in my life.

Eventually, I realised that I no longer wanted alcohol in my life. Sobriety was making me happier than alcohol ever had. That was over four and a half years ago, and I have not regretted it for a second. As my practice deepened, I untied more of the knots in my psyche that had kept me in addiction. I started to feel comfortable talking about my struggles. I found my voice as a writer.

Thanks to Yoga, my sons still have a mother. What's more, they have a mother they can look at as a good role model, rather than one that hurts and embarasses them. My parents still have their daughter. I know that my story has inspired and helped others to conquer their addictions and mental health struggles. I can look in the mirror and smile at the person I see, not scowl and hate.

When I thought Yoga was only about what my body could do, it was merely another distraction from my troubles. When I surrendered to what Yoga truly offers, it transformed my life.

I am a Yoga Girl even though at 46 I might be considered too old for such a title. But Yoga has given me a new lease of life. I was reborn on the Yoga mat, and am growing daily through Yoga.