I Am A Yoga Girl - Leanne Matullo
I was on my back. I had just completed a sweaty home yoga practice, trying to shake off the pain and heartache, attempting to relax into savasana. A mantra came pouring out of the speakers that I didn’t expect, the “Ong Namo” mantra, and its words along with the nature of the practice itself encouraged tears to pour down my face.
To me, this is yoga. We allow ourselves space to feel, to acknowledge deeply rooted emotions, and to splay them all out on our yoga mats. Our bodies crave release from the physical tension our minds create. Our minds seek peace, but are often so full of chatter that it makes it difficult to access. Our souls crave connection to each other, a realization of our own wholeness. Yoga offers this.
That particular moment of heartache came nearly three years ago. At the time, it had been two years since my husband and I had been “trying” to have a baby. We felt a longing to become parents, but I was diagnosed with infertility. I was 27 years old.
For over a year, we saw doctors and specialists to find the problem, maybe even to fix it. Finally, a Reproductive Endocrinologist diagnosed me with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). HA occurs when the reproductive system shuts down due to stress on the body, making it impossible to conceive a child unless the condition is reversed. He told me that we would never have a baby naturally. And, in that moment I heard a small, but confident voice within say, “He’s wrong.”
Yoga helped me pay attention to that voice. Over the next year, I went on a winding road to reacquaint myself with my body, my mind, my heart.
I started practicing yoga when I was in my early 20’s. I lived in Washington D.C. and had a grueling schedule, as a full time graduate student and full time higher education professional. I became hooked on heated yoga, power yoga, running, anything that would make me sweat profusely or pushed my body to sometimes painful limits. I thought it was the only way to ease the anxiety that crept in as a result of a busy life.
I’m not sure when I went too far, when all the stress spurred physical dis-ease. I had started to read more about yoga philosophy, but it wasn’t until my infertility diagnosis that I realized something needed to shift. I didn’t need to push so hard anymore. I could learn to fully accept who I was (and am) without having to live such an intense life.
For the next year and a half, I practiced meditation everyday, journaling after each session. I incorporated more restorative yoga practices than ever before. I researched nutrition and ayurveda for fertility. I studied ancient forms of restoring reproductive health. I attended an acupuncturist weekly who helped to bring back my cycles. I stopped running. I slept. I read (really read) books like the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras to aid in my healing. I let go of the idea that I needed a baby to find happiness. I could choose happiness now.
This sounds easy. It’s not. It’s the longer road, especially when you’re promised that another drug or procedure could “fix” your condition, could help you conceive. As a result of this work, I experienced my body changing shape, which I’ll admit was hard. But, I also realized that I am not my body. That I am not my mind. That my spirit is so much more beautiful that what can be witnessed on the outside.
And, then...one day I took a pregnancy test and it was positive.
These days, my husband and I chase around an outdoor loving, puppy snuggling toddler boy. I am forever grateful for that inner voice that gave me the courage to heal my body, using yoga as a tool.
Now, I’m studying to be a Yoga Therapist and have completed certifications in Prenatal + Postnatal Yoga and infant/toddler sleep consulting. Through yoga therapy, I seek to develop a thesis that uses yoga and ayurveda to support women moving through fertility struggles, as well as during pregnancy and postpartum.
That’s what being a Yoga Girl is. It’s allowing yourself space to move through pain, holding tight to whichever yogic tools resonate in those moments, and then using the knowledge you’ve gained to support others. Being a Yoga Girl is recognizing that your greatest teacher is YOU. Whenever I hear the “Ong Namo” mantra, which translates to “I bow to the teacher within,” I still find myself close to tears, although lately they are happier ones.