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My Downward Lifestyle: Week 1

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Hello, and welcome to My Downward Lifestyle -- a journey from lost to found, if you will... or at least from physically-incapable to bendable yogi.

First, a little bit about my history with health and fitness. When I started college in 2005, I fell into habits of the average college freshman. I lived off Hot Cheetos and Vitamin Water from the on-campus convenience store, stayed up until 4 a.m. Facebook stalking people I didn't know and only moved if I felt like braving an afternoon class. I drank a lot of Smirnoff Ice (it was cool back then) and thought of my college's gym and running paths as evil places with nothing to offer but shortness of breath and a lot of sweat.

Determined to turn over a new leaf sophomore year, I pulled on a pair of pajama pants and headed to the gym. I probably wasn't the laughing stock of the place, but it sure felt like it -- especially when I almost passed out after 10 minutes on a stationary bike.

Embarrassing as it was, I kind of liked it. I've always been a sucker for a good challenge, and regular exercise was anything but easy for me. As the months wore on, I started feel a new kind of happiness creep into my life that I couldn't get from late night pizza or three hours of Desperate Housewives. Without my realizing it, endorphins had become a daily necessity.

Three years and two running injuries later, I wandered into a yoga studio because a friend promised it would loosen up my muscles and make me less injury-prone. I wasn't sure how I felt about chanting and pretending to be a tree, but I figured I would go a couple of times just to say I'd done it.

Instead, it changed my life.

I dove headfirst into Hatha, Vinyasa and Bikram. One teacher impatiently yanked me into a correct triangle pose week after week, and another clapped gleefully when I finally dropped my tense shoulders for an entire class.

When I moved to New York in 2010, I typed "10 dollar yoga" into Google and found Strala, a sunny studio on Broadway. Because Strala subscribes to the idea that a person knows their own body better than a guide ever will, no one forced me into poses or clucked disapprovingly when I lowered myself too quickly from a plank pose to my mat. Eventually, my arms started resembling Michelle Obama's -- or at least that's what I tell myself -- and I found myself standing on my hands and mastering tree and pigeon poses.

But strength and flexibility weren't the only changes I was seeing. I started eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains because I enjoyed them. I was approaching difficult situations with more ease and patience, and I began to view life less as a toned-down version of The Hunger Games and more as a thrilling ride with a few bumps along the way.

Because yoga has had such a positive impact on my life, I recently started a teacher certification program with Strala in hopes of sharing my positive experience with others. I expected to learn the essentials of being a yoga guide, but I didn't realize how much it would deepen my own practice and aid in my never-ending quest for the healthiest possible lifestyle.

From relationships, stress and sleep to tapping into my deepest fears, for the next six weeks I will detail how different poses, meditation styles and breathing exercises are impacting essential parts of my life, for better or worse.

I hope you'll tune in. Namaste!

For more by Leigh Weingus, click here.

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