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May 7, 2024

Living Beyond The Mat: A Q&A with Author Nicole Byars

Living Beyond The Mat: A Q&A with Author Nicole Byars

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

Nicole Byars’s (she/her) multi-years of experience as an accomplished trauma-informed yoga specialist and best-selling author has given her the unique tools to help others step into transformative thinking, creating optimum outcomes both professionally and personally. With 500 hours of training as a registered yoga teacher, she is also the visionary behind the well-respected Honest Yoga Studio in Plymouth, Minnesota.

Through overcoming her eating disorder and physical and emotional setbacks, Nicole has discovered the power of recognizing and reframing limiting beliefs and the importance of beginning each day with a grounded and empowering mindset. From tragedy to triumph, Nicole has become a motivational and inspirational guide–helping others align to elevate, taking them to a whole new level in their relationships and business. She is a respected thought leader in her field and educator for those searching for answers to improve their ability to live mindfully, productively, and joyfully. Nicole currently uses mindful movement to help addiction and recovery centers, domestic abuse shelters, and veterans.

For deeper insights, visit www.nicolebyars.com and/or follow Nicole on Instagram @nicbyars. Nicole’s book, Living Yoga Beyond The Mat: 10 Life-Changing Ways to Move From Messy Personal Growth To Living In Heart-Centered Alignment, can be purchased here.

Tell us about Living Yoga Beyond The Mat!

Living Yoga Beyond The Mat: 10 Life-Changing Ways to Move from Messy Personal Growth to Living Heart-Centered Alignment offers a refreshingly honest and down-to-earth journey into the heart of authentic living and the transformative power of embracing the messiness of personal growth.

This isn’t your typical self-help book—it’s a candid story that delves into some of my life’s toughest moments. From grappling with feelings of inadequacy and shame to overcoming moments of abandonment, I lay it all out there. But through my challenges, there’s a silver lining of triumph, resilience, and the sheer courage it took me to keep moving forward.

But hey, this isn’t just about my journey—it’s about yours too. Each chapter is packed with insights and exercises to empower your own personal growth journey. Through breathwork, meditation, affirmations, and journaling prompts, I hope you’ll uncover new layers of resilience and self-discovery.

What insights or lessons did you gain from writing your book?

Writing this book was a journey in itself—a journey that tested me in ways I never imagined. It’s true what they say: writing a book is much harder than it seems. At times, it felt like I was navigating a maze of my doubts and insecurities.

One of the biggest hurdles I faced was confronting my inner critic head-on. That voice of doubt and self-judgment whispered incessantly, threatening to derail my progress. Coupled with long periods of procrastination and fear-based thoughts, it often felt like an uphill battle just to sit down and put pen to paper.

But perhaps the most daunting aspect of writing this book was diving into the darkest corners of my past. Revisiting moments of deep pain and struggle—like fighting an eating disorder, navigating a divorce, and weathering the storm of a failed business venture—was like reopening old wounds. With each word, it felt as though I was reliving those moments, raw and unfiltered.

Yet, among the shadows, there were glimmers of light. Through sharing these deeply personal experiences, I found relief and healing. Each word became a step forward—a testament to resilience, strength, and unwavering courage in the face of adversity.

This book is not just a recounting of hardships; it’s a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to rise above. It’s a journey of transformation and of the power of vulnerability and authenticity in navigating life’s twists and turns. And in sharing my story, I hope to inspire others to find their own path to resilience and inner strength.

Tell us about your journey with yoga.

My journey with yoga started very reluctantly in 2007, inside my eating disorder treatment center. Treatment pushed me into an alternate universe of health and wellness—one that felt like a 180-degree spin from my previous life. Gone were the days of calorie counting and pounding pavement; instead, I found myself seated on a yoga mat. But this was no ordinary yoga.

One day in treatment, I was standing outside during a yoga class. We were instructed to close our eyes and feel the warm sun on our skin and the grass underneath our feet. Instantly, I felt a tingling all over my body and this undeniable love toward myself that I had NEVER felt in my life. Tears began to stream down my face, and this experience lasted for ten whole seconds. As I opened my eyes, I saw a beautiful green evergreen tree in front of me. We practiced yoga here all the time, but I had never noticed that tree before. A presence and a deep feeling of gratitude consumed me in that moment.

This practice was hard as hell at first. Slowing down meant actually feeling the emotions I had numbed for many years. As I reluctantly embraced this new yoga world, something transformed in me. I began to notice changes, not just in my body but in my mind. The mindfulness I practiced on the mat crept into my everyday life. I became very aware of my thoughts and emotions, especially the ones where my inner critic had the loudest voice. Yes, I had a certified “inner bully” directing my life, telling me that my weight defined my happiness, material things defined my success, and perfection was attainable.

As I became more aware and mindful, I started standing up to my inner critic and befriending self-acceptance and compassion. Who knew that yoga could be the catalyst for fostering this mental shift that I so desperately needed?

What affirmations hold the most meaning to you, personally?

‘I am trusting.’ This affirmation is one that emerged when I was in treatment for my eating disorder. Throughout recovery, this affirmation became my guiding light. First and foremost, it involved rebuilding trust in my own body, recognizing its wisdom, and allowing it to guide me toward nourishment and compassion. Recovery encompassed cultivating trust in my choices, and allowing myself the freedom to make decisions that align with my well-being and authentic desires. Ultimately, it spoke to the beautiful act of placing unwavering trust in myself, acknowledging my inherent worth and resilience.

As I repeated the affirmation, ‘I am trusting,’ it served as a powerful reminder of my ongoing journey toward self-acceptance. It anchored me during moments of doubt, offering comfort and motivation to continue embracing a path of healing and personal growth. With each repetition, the affirmation reinforced the empowering notion that rebuilding trust and cultivating a renewed sense of agency and self-assurance is possible.

Can you share an excerpt from your book with us?

“No one enters marriage expecting it to end in divorce, but I had to accept that I was now a single mother, blessed with two amazing boys. To move forward, I had to let go of my preconceived ideas about what a “perfect” life should be and wholeheartedly embrace the imperfect yet perfectly fitting life that was now mine. This marked the beginning of my journey to embrace this beautiful, transformative chapter of my life.

When we cling to images, objects, families, friends, jobs, and situations, we inadvertently invite suffering into our lives. The act of clinging obstructs the natural flow of life, preventing us from fully embracing new experiences and opportunities. It’s important to recognize that attachments aren’t limited to physical possessions or external relationships alone; they can also manifest internally through our deeply ingrained beliefs and self-perceptions.

Attachments to images and beliefs about ourselves and rigid expectations about how life and others should be, create invisible chains that bind us. These attachments act as barriers, blocking our personal growth and capacity to learn from new experiences and challenges. The clutter of these attachments clogs our minds, leaving little space for fresh perspectives and quieting our inner knowing and intuition.

By freeing ourselves from these mental and emotional attachments, we create space for life’s unforeseen gifts. Just as a cluttered room prevents us from welcoming new furniture or rearranging our living space, our attachments occupy valuable mental and emotional real estate. Releasing these attachments liberates us from stagnation and opens us up to life’s endless possibilities and transformations.”

We want to hear your voice of recovery! If you are interested in participating in our Recovery Conversation series, please email blog@emilyprogram.com to learn more.

If you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, help is available. Reach out to The Emily Program today by calling 1-888-364-5977 or completing our online form.



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