How Yoga Transformed My Life
By Matt Vidler
My transformation from a 283lb bipolar-sufferer in 2009 into a presently 167lb healthy, fit, and balanced person, was achieved through a committed, consistent, and disciplined Asana practice. It was a steady, incremental process – a breath-by-breath, movement-by-movement, practice-by-practice approach.
To give you some background, the practice of yoga is an 8-limbed path. This path, as defined by Patanjali is written as Yamas (Restraints) and Niyamas (Observances), Asana (Body postures or forms practice), Pranayama (Life force breathing), Pratyahara (control of the senses), Dharana (Concentration and cultivating inner awareness), Dhyana (Absorption or meditation on the divine), and Samadhi (union with the divine, self-realization, enlightenment). In my personal yoga practice, nothing has been more effective than Asana for incorporating the 8-limbed path into my life ritual.
What’s interesting to me is that the strength, balance, and flexibility I continue to experience is directly related to a deeper spiritual understanding of Self, and a clarification and focusing of my mental and spiritual energies. While on one level I was aligning my physical sheath, a much more nuanced and sophisticated alignment was occurring on a meta-physical level:
- The purging of held negative emotions, traumas, and self-beliefs
- The experience and awareness of the present moment as both passing and eternal
- A fostering of compassionate self-perception and self-respect
- An understanding of persona and ego as functions of identity rather than as fixed entities
- A revelation and recognition of internal truth and wisdom from deep within the reservoirs of my spirit, leading to positive changes in diet, habits, speech, thought, and interaction patterns with others.
As BKS Iyengar says in his great book “Light on Life”, the body is the bow, the asana is the arrow, and the soul is the target. Asana is a vehicle for deepening understanding of self, developing body-mind awareness, creating mindful breathing and nourishing the physical sheath, diminishing scattered thinking, focusing attention, opening and strengthening pathways for energetic, cardio-vascular, lymphatic, neurological, and muscular-skeletal systems for optimal organic health, and honouring the temple in which the spirit is housed.
For me, Asana liberated me from the bondage of suffering I had chained around my Self. It deepened my awareness of the multi-dimensional nature of being, revealed a path for me to walk lightly upon, fostered a sense of empathy and respect for the entirety of creation, and encouraged a deep joyfulness in the recognition that life is a wonderful and mysterious journey, not a destination.
The body is the only true home for your soul. It is a manifestation of self-understanding, love, awareness, and spiritual expansion. Through Asana practice on the mat, the 8-limbed path is both revealed and integrated into a yoga that is practiced beyond the mat.
Matt Vidler is a Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Zen Yoga Instructor, Certified 200 hour Master’s Path Medical Qigong Instructor, Paddle Canada Certified Flat Water SUP Paddling Instructor and SUP Yoga Instructor. He teaches yoga and Qigong to both adults and children, in studios, in schools and on water.