#BECOMEMYBEST is a series of stories of real yogis and how yoga has set them on the path towards becoming better versions of themselves.
We are bound by the things we’re told we could not do. “No” is too common a word to be heard almost all of the time, from everyone, most especially when you grow up having to say it to yourself. What are the things you’ve had to say “No” to?
We’re kicking off this Become My Best series with Charina Quiroz’s inspiring physical transformation. We met Cha about two years ago. She started yoga because her sister recommended it and she was apprehensive at first (a usual reaction towards the unfamiliar, a potential “no”) but with a little research and after acquiring the necessary clearance from her doctor, she took her first yoga class.
You see, Cha was diagnosed with Scoliosis when she was about two and a half years old and has had to deal with the consequences of the disability for most of her life. Finding it at such an early age, she eventually had to get a rod for her spine at 11 years old, wear a brace to keep her upright and undergo physical therapy for a few months. It was tricky and taxing for her as it stopped her from doing a number of things. Who knew that being exempted from PE classes were suddenly not as great as we’d thought?
Her scoliosis was diagnosed to be progressive and was told that she had a 90 degree angle to begin with. Although getting the operation and wearing the brace decreased it to 45 degrees, her scoliosis still meant that things could still escalate. It felt a little hopeless.
Despite these limitations set on her she was still able to do a few physical activities and she tried going to the gym and go boxing but it just didn’t feel like the right fit for her.
Yoga was a “maybe.”
She took a shot and it felt good taking her first few classes. She stuck to it and found herself taking it twice a week, eventually making it to class about 3-4 times a week. It worked for her and her body felt good after each class so it became something to look forward to for her. Her doctor reassured her she couldn’t break that rod anyway.
Then about two years later, during yoga, while doing happy baby she felt that something was different. She didn’t know what it was exactly but she felt something. A trip to the doctor a few days later explained what it was. The angle of her spine changed from 45 degrees to 28 degrees. And the only thing new in her life was YOGA.
I don’t know about you but a well-deserving, exhilarating “YES” was in order.
A huge weight was lifted and she continued to practice. Eventually finding that in time, the reason for her going to class had carefully evolved into so much more. She was no longer going to consciously keep trying to decrease the angle or to just feel better in her body, it was also so she could deal with the negative thoughts that usually bothered her.
The experience was purely physical at first. “I found myself taking my yoga with me off the mat and into my daily life.” Cha recounts how when she’d be sitting or waiting for the elevator she’d unconsciously start to slouch and then the usual yoga cues (she laughs at this point) start running through her head. “Engage your core. Tailbone down. I even ask my family if I look like I’m upright but they don’t know the work I do underneath it all.”
“I’m upright. That was what stuck in my head. I know I’m upright.” The body awareness involved changed how she dealt with her body and started to automatically correct herself. Her alignment based yoga practice taught her to access muscles in her body that keeps her body upright and feels the difference when she’s just relying on the rod on her back. The posture and core workshops she attended at Urban Ashram Yoga became a platform for her to understand her body more and her awareness of the subtle movements in her body amplified.
“It started being so physical but emotionally I noticed how my thoughts would unravel. I usually feel so open during class, not just physically but emotionally too. And it makes you more open to receive and understand and absorb. And you relate it to how you deal with life. I gained confidence knowing that I can do this. I don’t need to be flexible.”
Cha knew that with enough effort and willingness and setting yourself up with a goal. HELPS. “It starts with something physical like just reaching my toes but after practicing I realize that I can do things! This is the biggest impact on me and I’ve learned to love my body. I’ve been carrying this thing that I’m different and now that I’m loving it, it’s made me love my body more. SO, SO MUCH MORE.”
We are very much aware of how our internal struggles are reflected in our bodies that we sometimes fail to realize that our bodies have so many lessons to teach us too. If we can get ourselves to eventually touch our toes, or get to hold steady in Tree, or simply engage our core then what other aspects in our lives become achievable with focused and consistent work?
Cha’s calculated movements and increased range in motion have given her confidence in many other aspects of her life. That there was no limit anymore. There was caution but there was just so much more possibility. That despite the cards we’re handed in life, there is a lot we can say YES to.
Andi Banez is the resident yoga instructor of a small island East of the Philippines. She’s an avid reader and enjoys meeting and learning about people. Lately, she’s developed a liking to reading tarot cards. Follow her: @andibanez | https://journeysaretwowaystreets.wordpress.com