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Viviane Vallance : Practicing healthy living through the decades

In yoga, we always talk about how our mats become our own universe.

No two yoga practices are the same, so why try to compare your practice to the person on the mat next to you? That practice should ring true off the mat as well.

In our daily lives, we constantly compare ourselves to everyone else. More often than not, we even compare ourselves to the person we once were.

I’ll be 41 this summer and I often think about how much more endurance I use to have or how much stronger I was in my late twenties or early thirties.

The thought of what I “used to be” drove me to the point where I felt like I couldn’t accomplish anything more than I had in my past. Through meditation and my yoga practice, I’ve come to understand that I’m no less than I was in decades before. Actually, I am more because my life experiences have allowed me to shift my perspective on healthy living.

In my early twenties, the thought of being healthy was almost nonexistent. I was naturally skinny and could eat just about anything I wanted. I didn’t start lifting and running until I was 24, when the carefree life caught up with me and I gained 30 pounds in one year. At that age, being healthy meant learning how to be strong and how to run without collapsing.

Also, to be honest, I just wanted to look good, too. It was all about the physical. I wasn’t happy with how I looked. Mentally, I struggled but I hadn’t made the mind-body connection yet. I practiced yoga everyday, but, unfortunately, that too was only a physical practice.

When I reached my thirties, I made a major transformation by losing several pounds, running at least 30 miles a week, lifting my heaviest, and competing in six bodybuilding competitions back to back.
Working out became my therapy, my release of anger and tension. I had no clue where or why I harnessed such negative energy. I just knew it made me push harder and run faster.

Yoga-wise, I actually quit because I told myself it was a waste of time. My perception was that it was too slow and did nothing to help my physique.

I only worked on hand stands and arm balances because after all, those are the hardest yoga poses right? I was so wrong. I looked my best, physically, but I was still struggling internally with depression and anxiety. Who I was on the outside was not a true reflection of who I was on the inside.

My late thirties brought about a major change in my life. Similar to most people, I was pushed into change with divorce, having a child and changing careers. God has this way of knocking you down to teach you just how strong you can be mentally.

Age 38 was a major turning point in my life. I finally began to make that mind-body connection and came to understand that strength truly comes from within. I no longer compared myself to who I was in my twenties. Sure, I may have looked my best in my thirties, but I feel my best now in my forties.
I still lift weights when time allows, but it’s more about maintaining strength.

Running is slow, but I just get out to enjoy the weather. I could do an 11-minute mile one day and eight another. No one really cares about your speed. I’m just happy to be out running.

Yoga has become the biggest part of my life. It compliments all aspects of my well-being. Yes, the poses are slow, but they are meditative and heavy on muscle endurance. It’s now more important for me to move with breath into Warrior 3 than it is to hold a handstand for one minute.

I finally get the mind-body connection. I’ve accepted my body not as an aesthetic being, but as a life force of energy.

Being healthy means being mentally powerful. By striving to find mental strength, I’m naturally more mindful and aware of exactly what I need as an individual to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I take care of my body in order to allow my mind to be free from illness.

Meditation is also now a daily practice. I do all of these things now to free my soul from comparison and to live as intended…with love and positive energy.

Where are you in your journey? Do you harbor more negative than positive? Do you care more about how you look than how you feel?

If so, it may be time to change. Stop comparing yourself to who you used to be or who you want to be and JUST BE. Learn from your past. Honor yourself for who you are in the present. Steady yourself for the future.

Namaste.

Viviane Vallance is a personal trainer, health coach and yoga instructor working in Lawrence County.