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How I Nearly Destroyed My Body Doing Yoga

A few years ago, I was a full-time yoga teacher. I was teaching 22 classes, 7 days a week (not counting private clients), and not eating well at all. My schedule kind of cornered me into eating once or twice a day and I was totally dehydrated because all the classes I taught were “hot.” I’m talking 105*F-110*F and this is in Florida. My meals were usually a giant bowl of pasta or a salad or protein powder in water. I was completely out of balance but I didn’t think it was a big deal.

My knees would swell after any amount of physical activity, my skin was SO DRY all the time, and I didn’t have the muscular integrity for a Handstand to save my life. I had daily cluster headaches behind my eye and could barely even crank out a few pushups, but hey– I could practically wear my legs as a scarf so I thought, “meh whatever! I’m fine!” I actually remember getting sick about half a dozen times that year.

I went in to the doctor for a routine check-up and found that a lot of my blood work was out of whack. My cholesterol was on the high side of normal (what?!), my blood pressure was elevated, my thyroid was hypoactive, and I was underweight. What was going on?!

Literally 4 days after this appointment I had to be on a plane to Berlin and would be in Europe for 3 months. So I put it all out of my mind and decided to take care of this when I got back. After all, there was a TON of work ahead of me…

My time in Europe was a dream. I’d obviously left my old schedule behind and was only filming for a few hours a day 5 days a week in Berlin… in a normal & temperate room! In contrast this was a breeze! After a month there we came to France, and the entire stay in both countries I ate everything I wanted without any restriction. I ate deer, beef, pork, pastries with butter, full-fat lattes, ice cream, chocolate truffles, pretzel croissants (yes, you read that right– life changing), pizza, and seafood. I drank beer, wine, limoncello– you name it!

After I wrapped filming, the only yoga I did was super restorative and I did zero exercise except tons of walking. I gained 10 lbs in those 3 months, but honestly felt amazing. I remember looking at my legs before coming back home and saying, “OH MY GOSH I HAVE CALF MUSCLES!”

When I came home after that I went straight back to my doctor to get a full blood panel again, wanting to get a good baseline before I jumped into any changes.

Days passed and no phone calls came in to deliver my results. So I called the office to get some answers and the nurse read each result to me, one by one. Every single number was well within a healthy, normal range. Not a single measurement was “off.” Not even close.

In retrospect, I know I’d run my body into the ground with my old schedule. I used and abused it without considering what it needed for fuel and longevity. After such a long period of time in such poor treatment, I think my body relished getting everything it wanted and more! I really feel that everything I ate and did during that 3 month period was healing in every way.

Fast forward to today and I strength train 4x a week and yoga the remaining days. My yoga practices are highly functional, stabilizing, and restorative. I feel stronger than I ever have in my entire yoga career, but please don’t ask me to do a flipped-grip Dancer pose! 😉

I eat a ton of green stuff but I also can’t say no to a juicy piece of melon wrapped in prosciutto.

Life is about finding balance, and “balance” will mean different things at different times. I wish I could go back to my Self of 5 years ago and tell her to eat a burger and take a week off. At least I think I’ve got the hang of what balance means to me now though 🙂

Over to you! What lessons have you learned about your body? What would you go back and tell your Self of 5 years ago when it comes to your health/body image?

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12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Eleonora Cosner

    March 17, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Oh my goodness, Erin. This is just what I’m trying to figure out right now: what is balance to me. I am you in Feb 2013 at the moment and trying to come out of this place but I feel stuck. I don’t teach as much as you do but I drive a lot and work too much or in a way which is not healthy to me, but it seems that I’m still not making enough money for a living, so I don’t know how to get out of this place 🙁

  2. Avatar

    Jane Allen-Morin

    March 17, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    This is so true Erin: “Life is about finding balance, and “balance” will mean different things at different times.”
    As we move through each decade of life our bodies are evolving and changing. “Things” we could do in our 20’s are not possible (or advisable) in our 60’s. Learning to adapt to the different stages in our lives is one of the keys to balance! Moderation is another key. Treating our bodies with care, understanding & compassion will serve us well.

  3. Avatar

    Rebecca Johnson

    March 17, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    Awww. I don’t think yoga nearly wrecked your body. A crazy schedule nearly did. Glad you are doing better and found balance!

  4. Avatar

    Hannah

    March 18, 2017 at 4:19 am

    This article really highlights the pressure we put ourselves under. I’m currently teaching a huge amount of hours but it’s in my own space and I get to decide which classes to keep going or not. I am finding it hard to do my own practice and my diet is everywhere but little by little I’m gaining control. The hardest thing is feeling into a routine and not letting the bad habits (lack of water, no time off, poor diet creep in) saying that I never miss a meal I just rely too much on cake for energy! Haha.

  5. Avatar

    Caroline Hendra

    March 18, 2017 at 8:24 am

    It’s great that you’ve become more self caring, but four classes of strength training a week and 3 classes of yoga still sounds obsessive and not within the realms of an “average” person.

    Maybe dhyana and self acceptance would still be a useful point of concentration.

    1. Avatar

      Brooklyn

      March 18, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      Just a friendly reminder to avoid passing judgment on other people’s lifestyle choices. Erin is clearly a healthy individual, both physically and mentally, so let’s leave her to make choices that work for her. And you, of course, are free to do what works for you! 🙂

  6. Avatar

    Rebecca

    March 18, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    When slowing down isn’t an option: Easy, fast high calorie and affordable nutrient rich stuff for people who don’t have time to eat or cook:

    Seeds and nuts
    avocados
    olive oil (instead of butter on sandwiches and wherever else you use butter)
    spoonfuls of peanut butter (low salt and low sugar better if you can find it)
    tinned fish
    Add honey to that black coffee or tea instead of sugar

    Sometimes I’m just too tired to cook and stuff like this is healthier than chewing on a frozen pizza (don’t ask). I usually skip breakfast but I cram 30 grams of pumpkin seeds into my mouth before I go to work, which is 140 calories, 8g of protein and loads of vitamins and minerals.
    Other people comment if you can think of more! 🙂

    (Anyone who is finding not having time to eat is actually making them put on weight, think nutrients, not calories, and remember that things with a bit of protein help you feel fuller longer, but avoid anything similar to Atkins like the plague )

  7. Avatar

    Rita

    March 18, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Girl. Same. I found out I had over stretched my back body so bad that it had no strength and was actually causing injuries. I’ve pretty much stopped doing yoga cause it doesn’t feel healthy for me anymore and have replaced it with bodyweight exercising. Gaining more power and just maintaining a relatively healthy flexibility. I tried astanga last month but whoa nelly no way. I’m not blaming yoga for my condition though, it’s the lack of knowledge that has brought me to this point. I feel like bendy people shouldn’t be allowed to teach yoga at all, since they have no clue how to stretch a muscle. I didn’t and I hope I didn’t hurt anyone else by teaching.

  8. Avatar

    Laura

    March 18, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story! I tend to run myself into the ground trying to do everything (work and life wise) and then get sick and have a hard time recovering. I’m still working on learning that rest is good and necessary and not a waste of time. I wish I knew that 5 years ago too. I’m learning to fuel my body well for my goals and that I want to get stronger and more flexible and I’m working toward that!
    It’s helpful to hear the struggles and lessons of our teachers because it’s such a good reminder that we’re not alone and others have similar struggles! <3 So thank you again!

  9. Avatar

    liz

    March 18, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Erin thank you for this, the pictures tell so many stories too. I am just coming back to your yoga videos after four months off with a head injury . i had been massively stressing that i would ‘lose it all’ by slowing down and giving myself the time i needed to recuperate. Lucky for me that I felt so bad I didn’t really have the choice. Now I’m getting better and I feel like I’m choosing all the time. Choosing to relax, to be kind to myself, to move my body, to rest my mind. All of it feels great now I’ve taken away the guilt and the expectation. I am literally and figuratively more well rounded fro the experience and thank you again for sharing yours. I’m so looking forward to concentrating on one of your video sessions to the end!

  10. Pála Margrét

    Pála Margrét

    March 29, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Beautiful, similar to what I did when I went on my exchange, eating everything, gaining weight, but finding balance and more strength then I knew I possessed ?

  11. Avatar

    Roger . Dutchie

    April 19, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    5 jaar geleden werdt ik ziek. Door werk werk en stress. iedereen wist het beter.ik heb geleerd naar mijn lichaam te luisteren .En mijn passy is yoga en shirt fine geworden . Mijn probleem was mijn huis gezin die dit maar raar vonden.om dit te kunnen beoefenen moet je lichaam in balans houden door voeding passy en motivatie die ik altijd vindt bij u Erin. Af entoe moet je het ook weer los laten. Ik hoop nog vele jaren van u advies mogen horen. Groetjes dutchie

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