At the time I was 21 years old, and I had been in the United States Marine Corps for just under two years.
Being an exercise enthusiast I was convinced that I knew how to take the best possible care of myself, but all it took was one yoga pose to prove me wrong.
One morning after a particularly vigorous run, my platoon sergeant instructed me and my fellow Marines to try a yoga position called Seated Forward Bend.
I reached my hands towards my feet. The very tips of my fingers stopped about mid-shin, not even close.
As I looked around I was surprised to discover that I was by far the most uncomfortable person attempting the posture.
Every other Marine could go significantly deeper and with far greater ease.
My back was rounded. My abs were contracted. I was barely breathing.
I was taking every liberty to move my fingers just one inch closer to my feet, and nothing was happening.
At that moment I distinctly remember having the sudden, startling realization that something about this was wrong.
I ate right and exercised obsessively. But that didn't seem to matter. Everyone was much more flexible than me.
Something didn’t add up.
I would typically train between ten and twelve clients a day, and I was still using the same body-punishing techniques I was doing before.
My clients would lift weights, do pull-ups and push-ups, use the stair master, and run, and I would push them just as mercilessly as the drill sergeants of my Marine Corps boot camp used to push me.
Then one day a client brought in a yoga video for me to review. I put the tape in my VCR (it was the mid 90’s) and I watched carefully as a very fit woman moved through a variation of Sun Salutation B, a traditional warm-up sequence frequently used in modern yoga classes.
I thought I’d give it a try.
From Downward Facing Dog I tried to step my foot between my hands and I had to grab my ankle and drag my foot forward.
As I rose up for Warrior pose, I teetered side to side, uncomfortable and completely off-balance.
When it came to back bending, I tried to push my chest up off the floor into Cobra and nothing happened. I barely budged.
I found out that day, once again, just as I had during my Marine Corps experience, that I was absolutely terrible at yoga.
This time however, something clicked. I got it.
If I wasn't even remotely good at yoga, then . . .
And slowly my body and my life began to change.
To this day my greatest teachers are the lessons I have learned by healing my own body through the practice of yoga and the experience of radical transformation I have been witness to as a result of sharing this practice with anyone and everyone who would listen.
Over the years I have studied with all of the top industry experts, apprenticed under esoteric yoga masters, and read almost every book written on the subject twice, but I never learned one thing that I didn't confirm in my own personal practice.
I feel that I have been given this incredible gift, the perfect laboratory - this somewhat resistant, incredibly resilient, stubborn and stiff, physical body.
If I hadn't reacted positively to the challenge of attempting that first full Sun Salutation years ago I'm not sure who I would be today.
I don't believe I would be a very happy person.
I know I wouldn't be a very healthy person.
Even though I didn’t know it at the time, by the age of 24 I had already turned my body into a cage of tense muscles.
Worse yet… I was trapped inside and I was miserable.
It was yoga that helped me to discover something I was doing wasn't working.
Yoga isn't just an eastern alternative form of exercise, at least not to me. It's a way of healing yourself, a method for softening the scars of past experiences, and an opportunity to become not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.
I know this to be true because this is exactly what it did for me, and spreading this message has become my life's work