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Guest Feature: Erik Systad

August 29th, 2018

My whole life I’ve been athletic. 

Sports just came naturally to me. I could throw further, lift more, and run faster than many I came across. And then it was all taken away.

When I was told I have an immune disorder and that my life would likely never be the same, I lost more than my mobility, I lost myself.

Wrestling with my own thoughts is the hardest thing I've had to endure. After almost 2 years of chronic pain and mental suffering I decided enough was enough and I began to shift my mentality to start living by my choices rather than a victim of my circumstance. Choosing to be in control and accepting that which I could, and choosing to let go of the things brought a sense of peace to my life. 

When things turned a corner physically, I made myself a promise: I would respect every movement I could make going forward. Coming back to yoga just made sense after that. 

It wasn't easy.

I was embarrassed to come back, it had been years. I was overweight, weak, and not at all flexible, but that didn't seem to matter when I walked back into the studio. I was greeted with smiles and enthusiasm, I remembered this was a place without judgement, this was a place I could grow back into the self I was before.  

Yoga began to dominate my schedule - I couldn't get enough. I thought I was getting my old self back when in reality I had started a path towards a new me. With a commitment to my practice, a focus on what I was eating, and an enthusiasm for any physical activity possible I dropped 40 pounds in six weeks! My yoga practice has been a cornerstone in my transformation and an integral part of my positivity. 

What I learned. 

Flexibility and strength are not just earned by the body, they are also earned by the mind. I’ve become more accepting of practice while at the same time I’ve begun to challenge myself to try more and let go of self imposed limitations and really learn from my failings.

I always found team sports fascinating. People working together to achieve a common goal. Then I think about the power of individual competition. Like Mad Max in the Thunderdome, "two men enter, one man leaves!" how crazy is that?! Why I love yoga is that it's me versus myself. My body and my mind are fighting against me, just like when I had the immune disorder, only now I'm in control and I'm telling my body what to do and telling my mind what's possible. Now, I may not always be in control of this but I always learn. Sink a little deeper, push a little further, find a new space beyond what I know to be true. Accept that it hurts but that it won't last forever. 

One of my favourite things I've learned from my practice is that in pain there is growth, and that little bit further that didn't seem possible at the time isn't anywhere close to as far as I can go. 

That's yoga is for me. 

Eric Bio

- Erik Systad, YYOGA Guest 

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