By Michelle Talsma Everson, College Times
Sometimes, your life can change for the better when you least expect it.
In December 2012, Elisha Thompson—an ASU undergraduate coordinator and master’s degree student—began taking yoga classes when a friend needed a test subject to teach as she worked in a yoga teaching training program.
“I immediately fell in love with the practice,” Thompson recalls. “Within a few days, I purchased an unlimited class package from a studio near my home and began taking one, sometimes two classes a day, every day. No other physical activity had ever made me feel so good. I looked forward to my next yoga class as soon as one ended.”
Fast-forward to today, yoga became an integral part in Thompson’s life.
“Since starting, I have continued to practice nearly every day. I attend classes at a studio at a minimum of three to four days a week and practice at home other days,” she says.
“Yoga has helped me to manage my anxiety and depression, grow mentally and physically stronger, become more confident, get to know myself, and develop a much-needed connection to myself. I would not be the person that I am today if I had not found yoga.”
To help others potentially find themselves with this ancient practice, Thompson now teaches classes. One such new yoga class is Yoga for Body Positivity, which she teaches on Sundays at Yoga Nirvana in Tempe. The class is open to all body types and levels of experience.
“The unique thing about Yoga for Body Positivity isn’t in the poses that I offer or the sequence of the class. Instead, it is in the focus on body acceptance and gratitude,” Thompson says. “I was overweight for most of my life until I had a gastric bypass at age 30. I hated who I was prior to my surgery and was convinced that once I was able to become thin that everything would change and I would suddenly be happy forever. I lost over 100 pounds after the surgery but happiness did not follow. I was lost at that point and hit rock bottom emotionally. I had no idea how to be happy now that I was thin and unhappy. When I found yoga I finally saw a spark of light, a possibility of happiness.
“With the love and encouragement of my partner, I began a long and sometimes painful journey of personal growth,” she continues. “It took a lot of hard work, but I am incredibly happy these days. My yoga practice and the study of yoga philosophy is a huge factor in my happiness.
“Now I want to give back to the yoga community that did so much for me. It is my hope that Yoga for Body Positivity will help inspire others to acknowledge and accept that they are beautiful and perfect just as they are. Yoga is accessible for all bodies, no matter their shape, size and level of flexibility. I want to share yoga with anyone willing to try it.”
Not only does Thompson practice and teach yoga—she has completed 400 hours of yoga teacher training—she also is incorporating the study of yoga into her master’s program. Next May, she will graduate with her second master’s degree, which focuses on the benefits of mindfulness practices, including yoga.
Added to that, she will release a book next spring that might surprise some of the students she works with—“Yoga for Kink.”
“‘Yoga for Kink’ is something I’m both excited about and proud of,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed doing fun and kinky things with my partner. One evening, I wanted him to tie my hands behind my back for fun. A few short minutes later, my shoulders were sore and irritated, which killed the fun part of it.
“This experience, along with others, pushed me to write this book. I spent about a year researching the best yoga poses to help with certain types of kink play. I’m excited to say it should be released in February or March of 2020.”
To learn more about Yoga for Body Positivity, visit yoganirvanastudio.com. To follow Thompson’s yoga adventures, follow her on Instagram @redheadedyogi.