“You won’t want to get better, not for a long time. You’ll think you’ll want to get better, and then get scared and won’t. You’ll try again, and again, and again. You’ll slip up, you’ll relapse, you’ll feel like a failure.
“But somewhere along the line, you find something, just one little thing, that makes getting back up again feel worth it. For me, it’s that little flutter my heart makes when I look around a room, either as a student or a teacher, and just feel like I could float on air from the energy in the room. That moment when you feel like you’re dancing on your mat. That moment where everything seems to fall into place.
“That’s why I’m here. That’s why I was jolted back into reality. Because I found who I am and who I want to be. I found the thing I want to stick around and be strong for. I found why everyone was so desperate to keep me alive.
“Because I’m meant to teach. And take. And balance. And fall down. And breathe. And sweat. And rest. And stretch. And melt. Because I’m meant to live — and I finally know what that means.”
“Something clicked. I was able to make the connection between what was going on in my head and my body,” says Degener. “It was as though they were two separate beings. My breath was the linking component to come in to one cohesive being.“Yoga gave me more awareness. It brings you back to natural signals and wanting to nourish and get stronger.”
Degener gradually upped her yoga practice from once or twice weekly to daily, enjoying the freedom and philosophy it provided her.
“I’d never felt graceful, but Vinyasa yoga is particularly flowy and I loved the grace my teacher gave her class. A book on the Yamas and Niyamas (morals and ethics) also resonated with me, particularly the subject of non-violence to yourself and others,” says Degener.
Gaining physical and mental strength through yoga grew so fulfilling and fueling, Degener later decided she wanted to teach it.
Now 16, Degener is a happy teen approaching her 17th birthday and preparing to go to university.
All of which she says she owes to yoga.
“My mind was sick, but I knew that the only thing that would keep me out of a wheelchair was getting my body stable and bringing it back from the brink,” Degener told CNN.
“And then I found Just Be,” a yoga school in Walnut Creek, California. “And I slowly fell in love with my cells again. I fell in love with the way movement felt in my body, the contraction of musculature, the breath circulating through my veins.
“I suddenly wanted nothing more than to feel what feeling alive felt like — to see if I could find that person I thought had died inside of me long before I got to know her.”
Many of us have stories of how yoga heals, myself included. CNN writer Ashley Strickland shares the story of how yoga helped 16-year-old Maris Degener overcome an eating disorder (a topic near and dear to my heart and own healing). No matter the shape of your pain or if it comes with a diagnosis or not, I believe we can all relate to Maris’ words: “Somewhere along the line, you find something, just one little thing, that makes getting back up again feel worth it. For me, it’s that little flutter my heart makes when I look around a room, either as a student or a teacher, and just feel like I could float on air from the energy in the room. That moment when you feel like you’re dancing on your mat. That moment where everything seems to fall into place.” Read about Maris’ journey and check out her personal blog for more about her continued healing.