I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was sitting in the exam room of my doctor’s office battling the warzone my body had become, searching for answers, and feeling like I was losing my mind. In fact, I think at that particular moment of my life I was on the brink of sinking into darkness. As I explained these raging emotions and thoughts to my doctor, her words surprised me, “I think you should try yoga. I think it would help you heal emotionally and physically.” I tossed her words around in my head and my focus kept resting on the word “heal.” Heal from what you might ask? Well, to be perfectly honest at that moment I did not think I had to “heal emotionally.” Instead, I was on a mission to physically force my body back to what it was before I had surgical menopause at the ripe age of 38. The surgery that took away my physical pain, but left an emotional black hole in my life that was swallowing me alive.
I did not realize at the time of this doctor’s visit how quickly I was sinking and losing the battle on being in control. My thoughts were wild and my emotions raged like an unending storm. Only my husband saw the threads of my life coming unraveled as I tried to compose myself and hold tight to the idea that nothing lasts forever. It was only with him that I could be vulnerable and let my walls crumble letting the emotional and physical hell spill out. You see, when your body lacks hormonal balance your ability to maintain good decision making and judgment wanes. I was fiercely holding on to a lie that “I could force myself to be well. I did not need to heal. I was fine. I did not need medicine. I just need my body to cooperate with me.”
I truly believe nothing and I do mean nothing could have prepared me for the warzone my body was becoming. When you are in pain, you are willing to try anything for relief even if it means forcing a hormonal transition upon your body. For me not only was this transition hormonal, but the drastic hormone fluctuation turned on an autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s Disease, that was lurking in my body. Not only did I find myself swimming in hormonal imbalances, unexplained weight gain, inability to focus, physical exhaustion, mood swings, but thoughts of being worthless also plagued my days. I wanted answers. I wanted to be seen, but modern medicine says treatment is available when you can successfully check each criteria box. I had all the boxes marked, but one. Modern medicine said I had to wait for the last box to be checked to be treated. Then in the deepest part of my despair I found hope. Hope came in the form of an incredible, loving husband, and two medical professionals who were willing to journey with me. All were willing to think outside the box and recognized that my life was meant to be lived in an “optimal” state of being.
So, here comes the part of the story where yoga is introduced. Remember when my doctor said “I think you should try yoga. I think it would help you heal emotionally and physically.” Initially my focus was on physical healing, getting back what I had lost due to the surgery. I was resistive to the notion of needing to heal the contents of my heart. I mean, I am a licensed social worker and do not need my heart healed. I knew what I needed, right? I thought I could achieve the sought after wellness by forcing myself into a state of being physically fit. However, I could not have been more wrong or more out of touch with myself.
I attended one yoga class in my pursuit of healing because the doctor suggested it. She suggested it would complement the modern medicine treatments. I attended the class and LOVED it. I could not explain why, but could only feel it. My heart and my body craved to be on my mat, my transformation zone. That particular craving was so strong that I signed up for the Yoga Teacher Training that was taking place the following month in the studio. I had only done yoga before in the safety of my home and here I was jumping into the great unknown, but this great unknown had answers — I was sure of it. 200 hours later I graduated with a tribe of beautiful people. In the course of those 200 hours, I physically did things I thought for sure would never happen and my heart began to heal. I was no longer numb, but instead my heart and my eyes viewed the world with a different lens.
Yoga saved me in ways that words will never describe. Yoga encouraged me to be authentic, vulnerable, and to find my truth, my voice. Not only did yoga save me physically, but through a dedicated personal practice I found peace; I found myself and continue to find emotional healing on and off the mat. Yoga reminds me that life is truly a beautiful mix of energy, intentions, and actions. You cannot have the highs without the lows, but how you sit with the world will define your focus and peace. I learned to feel my breath; I learned that it was okay to feel deeply and to speak your truth even if no one else agreed.
Yoga gave me my life back when I was being swallowed alive in darkness. As I look back, the past seems surreal. Looking forward I recognize I am a warrior and I have strength that I never knew existed in me. In the present, I reflect on the gifts of today letting my heart shine with gratitude and I find myself sitting with the world letting each breath stir my spirit.
April McMillan is a registered yoga teacher; master’s level, licensed social worker; wife to Jon and mom to Isaac and Gabriel. When she is not working you will find her spending time with family and enjoying nature. Follow April on Instagram @shadesofblueyoga