Yoga Saved My Life

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Yoga Saved My Life

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by Demi Langford

Yoga instructor Demi Langford shares her story of adventure, self-destruction, salvation and gratitude.

langfordIn my 20s I was wild. As a flight attendant, based in New York City, I traveled and lived freely. There were few destinations geographically and experientially I did not explore. I had married too young, tasted too little of life and now was in a hurry to make up for lost time. With Utah and my marriage behind me, I was determined to discover life for myself. However, no matter how far or high I flew, I could not escape my demons.

In my 20s I was wild. As a flight attendant, based in New York City, I traveled and lived freely. There were few destinations geographically and experientially I did not explore. I had married too young, tasted too little of life and now was in a hurry to make up for lost time. With Utah and my marriage behind me, I was determined to discover life for myself. However, no matter how far or high I flew, I could not escape my demons.

Living with a secret was not my forte. I had grown up with a brilliant entrepreneur and inventor for a father and a genuine, kind and loving mother. I was so close to my seven brothers and sisters that I felt I could tell them anything… almost anything.

When I was 14 years old, carefree and ecstatically enjoying my transition out of childhood, a damaging series of taunts changed my life forever. Some of my classmates—feeling the pressure of society image of what they should aspire to, I now realize)—made bovine calls of “moooo” at me as I passed them in the halls. I couldn’t believe they were directing that noise at me. I was pretty, wasn’t I? I was loved at home, at church, at school. Didn’t I qualify for that love? I died at those sounds. It broke my heart. At that age, my heart was so open. I was unprepared for such a cruel onslaught.

I decided to feel better by eating and weighing less. I would fight their obscenities by becoming too sleek and too slim to be confused for a cow. It worked. I cut my meals in half and lost weight. Then I cut the abridged meals by half again and became even skinnier.

Then a friend, confounded by the same social blitz attacking me, introduced me to the magic wand embodied by the handle of my own toothbrush.

Bulimia became my new dieting technique. I could have my cake and not eat it, too. I was thin, beautiful and popular with the boys. I had it all. For a price!

It cost me years of struggle and thousands of dollars in treatment to disentangle myself from this disease. Yoga helped pull me out of that skinny, pretty hell.

I remember my first yoga experience like it was yesterday—no, like it was an hour ago. I was at my gym in New York City and on a whim, decided to try a yoga class. The students going into the yoga studio looked svelte and light. They were laughing and seemed happy. I was attracted to that vibe.

The class began. I felt a sense of warmth and ease, stretching into poses. I felt extra alive and strong. This feeling was intoxicating. I knew I was onto something. I craved life and energy; practicing yoga enhanced both. I began to feel so invigorated and happy with myself.

Being a flight attendant took a lot of energy. It was fun and depleting at the same time. In my free-wheeling flight patterns, I began to drink heavily. Alcohol was a social and emotional lubricant that became my new friend. We did everything together. Even though we usually got into trouble, we still had tons of fun.

I needed yoga more than ever now.

You may say, “Give me a break, are you stupid? Didn’t you learn your lesson with bulimia? Do you thrive on self-destruction?”

My answer is yes; I did thrive on self-destructive behaviors, for their benefits. Bulimia made me feel attractive, which is a great way to feel. Alcohol made me feel free and fun, which are qualities we want to have. I was into shortcuts and it made sense at the time. I did not realize then that shortcuts often involve jumping fences where there may be vicious dogs on the other side. The Buddhists call this delayed suffering.

I told myself I was pretty, happy, and free, but it was an illusion. Yoga helped me see that, and sobriety became my goal.

I moved to Los Angeles to put alcohol and alcoholic friends behind me. I practiced yoga with a passion. I tried to stop drinking, but failed for years, keeping my need for intoxication a secret while maintaining a career and even successfully starting a new one.

But when my beloved father died suddenly, unexpectedly, I headed for home. And though I was unaware of it at the time, I was headed for sobriety as well.

Surrounded by the family I love, I felt a need to connect on a deeper level with them and myself. I couldn’t do that drinking. It was all the things I learned on my mat that gave me the willingness and strength to finally surrender and get help overcoming this addiction.

I got myself into treatment, continued my yoga practice and went on to become a yoga instructor. Training with Sufi yoga teacher Matthew Cohen strengthened my practice and changed my life. (Cohen will be teaching and leading a retreat in Salt Lake City this month). Then I studied with D’ana Baptiste. They shared ancient teachings that spoke to my heart. They taught me that it’s not as important to be perfect as it is to be willing to practice being present to whatever is in your experience. They taught me to not be so judgmental and critical of others and myself but to be more curious and more compassionate. They taught me about service and of the joy of passing these teachings on.

I have been teaching yoga in alcohol recovery centers for two years and actively working with Yoga For Recovery to bring yoga to all recovery centers in Salt Lake City. In May I brought “Off The Mat” to Salt Lake City, “Off the Mat, Into the World” is part of the Engage Network, a nonprofit social venture that promotes widespread civic engagement.

We now have a booming Salt Lake City Off The Mat chapter of non-denominational yogis who feel inspired and empowered to take what we have learned on our mats—balance, strength, dedication, compassion and love—to create positive social change and environmental healing locally and globally. When we come together with passion and purpose, we have a stronger voice. And we can have so much more fun doing it this way, too.

Our group has committed to raise $80,000 by December to help build an AIDS birthing center in Uganda. We also seek to make just as much of an impact in our local community, bringing yoga to schools, military, recovery centers, prisons—wherever our services can promote unity, peace and awareness.

Funny how the best gifts are never what are expected. Turns out the doorway to my soul was a 4 X 6 sticky orange mat. I always tell my students and clients to find their “mat,” no matter what it is, and to leave room for the unexpected. You never know what you’ll find when you are willing to open up your heart.

To learn more about Off the Mat or the retreat
with Matthew Cohen: www.demilangford.com, www.offthematintotheworld.org
www.sacredenergyarts.com

 
 
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