This woman's daily yoga practice inspired her to move cross-country and completely reinvent her life.
Melissa Eckman (a.k.a. @melisfit_) is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher who found yoga when her life needed a total reset. Read about her journey here, and take a virtual class with her on Manduka's live-streaming yoga platform Yogaia.
I never thought of myself as athletic. As a kid, I couldn't advance to the next level of gymnastics because I couldn't do a chin-up; in high school, I never made the varsity level of any sports. Then moved from Massachusetts to South Florida for college, and, suddenly, I was surrounded by beautiful people in bikinis all the time. So, I decided to try to get in shape.
I didn't go about it the healthiest way. I went through some periods where I was obsessive; I had to be run 3 miles a day to feel like I was doing something, and I wouldn't eat any carbs. Then I'd give up and gain the weight back. I couldn't find my groove or what would make me feel healthy and confident in my body. (Here's the number one thing to do before setting and tackling weight loss goals.) Instead, I immersed myself in school and got my accounting degree.
When I started working full-time in corporate accounting, I noticed a lot of changes in my body and in my life. I didn't have a lot of energy, I couldn't make time to work out, and I was just feeling really down about myself. So I took matters into my own hands and tried to eat a little healthier during the day to see if it gave me more energy. Then I started going to Pure Barre, and I loved it so much that I was going every single day, and started to feel a lot better about myself. Eventually, I was approached by the manager of the studio and she asked if I wanted to teach barre. I was working 60+ hours a week and thought I didn't have time, but she said I could teach before work at 6 am, and I decided to give it a try.
I went to training that weekend, and saw an instant shift. I never thought of myself as a creative, excited, or passionate person, but for the first time in my life, I was so inspired! I started teaching as often as I could—three days before work, both days on the weekend, and if I had any days off work I would cover all the classes.
One of my friends at the barre studio was super into yoga and I had never done it before. I wasn't really interested. I had all the same notions that most people have before trying it: that it's super spiritual, that you need to be flexible, and that if I only have an hour in the day to work out, I don't want to spend it stretching. I also didn't feel comfortable, because I was insecure about my abilities and thought a yoga studio wouldn't be a welcoming environment. But she finally convinced me to go to a class—and from that moment on, I was in love.
Just a few weeks after that first class I was doing yoga every day. Since I was in Florida, I lived a mile and a half from the beach. I'd go there every morning with my yoga mat and do a self-practice. (And doing yoga outside has even more benefits, BTW.) I recorded my flows so I could see my form, got really into meditating, and it became my routine every day. So I would record my flow and post the video or a screenshot to my @melisfit_ Instagram page with an inspirational quote that I personally needed at the time.
It was amazing how a regular yoga practice made me feel so much healthier overall. A lot of people avoid yoga because they have limited time and think they won't get a tough enough workout—but I built a ton of core strength, finally felt confident in my midsection, and developed really strong arms. I felt like I could finally maintain a healthier physique that I felt confident about. I felt flexible and strong too—and when you feel strong, it's almost impossible not to feel good about yourself. (Just look at this Crossfitter who committed to a month of yoga to make her a better athlete.)
Yoga helped me even more on a mental level. I was going through a tough time where I didn't really know if I was happy in life. I was in a career I didn't really know if I was happy in, I was in a relationship I wasn't really happy in, and I just felt kind of stuck. Yoga was a kind of therapy for me. As I started doing it every day, I noticed so many other areas of my life changing. I had so much more confidence—and not necessarily from a physical standpoint, but more the feeling of knowing who I am as a person. It helped me organize myself internally. I became more patient with myself and started to put my life into perspective. (Snowboarder Elena Hight also swears by yoga to help her stay mentally balanced.)
Each day I did yoga I built up more confidence, happiness, and security within myself to take my life with the next level, take things into my own hands, and create a better life for myself.
For two years, I had been waking up and teaching barre at 6 am, driving to the beach to do yoga, then working full-time, and also blogging and doing some modeling. I'd always felt like I should live in Los Angeles, so I finally quit my job, sold my house, sold my furniture, sold everything, and my dog and I moved to LA. I did my yoga teacher training, and I've never looked back.
I still do other workouts, but yoga is my core. It's very personal to me, so I practice as often as I can. I didn't know it when I first started, but when you get back to the root of yoga, the physical aspect is just one small part of all of yoga. It's really about connecting your mind, body, and soul. When you're focusing on connecting your breath to your movement and trying to be present on your mat, it makes your whole body relax but forces you to hone your focus. I think that's why it's made such a big difference in my life.
If you're apprehensive because you think you'll fail at it, know this: you can't be good at yoga—there's no such thing. It's all about your individual journey. There's no good or bad—just different. (And with this 20-minute at-home yoga flow, you don't even need to make time for a full class.)