Dana Falsetti, a popular yogi with over 129,000 followers on Instagram, is all about owning your body and finding solace through yoga. But before she became an advocate of the practice and self-love, the 22-year-old Pennsylvania native had to overcome a few obstacles of her own.
It all started when Dana was 10 years old. She remembers sneaking downstairs at night and eating everything in the fridge, even when she was full. Despite her many efforts to lose weight-Weight Watchers, weight-loss retreats, and trendy diets-she always seemed to fall back into the same pattern of indulging until she felt sick. But everything changed when she found yoga, which transformed her desire for a better body into something much more important.
Looking back on her teenage and college years, Dana recognizes that her unhealthy relationship with food was due to an undiagnosed binge-eating disorder.
"I kept eating and then when I got to college as a freshman I was 300 pounds and at my heaviest. It wasn't until then that I realized that most of the food I ate was a result of binge-eating."
Unhappy with her appearance, Dana began to lift weights and do cardio with her roommate a few times per week. Yet even as the weight started to come off, she still felt the same. She eventually lost around 70 pounds over the course of a year and a half, but still wasn't satisfied with what the mirror reflected.
"I was trapped in the mindset that it was my body that needed to change. I thought having a smaller body was going to be the end-all solution, but it wasn't," Dana explains. "I didn't need to be smaller. My transformation had to be more than just physical."
I didn't need to be smaller. My transformation had to be more than just physical.
Bored with the gym her junior year, Dana stumbled upon a student discount for a yoga class. At first, she started off with Anusara yoga classes so that she could work on mastering the foundational poses, such as downward dog, child's pose, and warrior one.
"The pace was slower [than Vinyasa yoga], breath counts were longer, and there was more time for adjusting your alignment," she remembers.
Though she grew to love it, Dana can recall plenty of times in the beginning when her frustration and eagerness to see results right away got the best of her.
"I remember I was in the basement at my mom's house and I wanted so badly to do 'the crow' pose, and I tried, and tried, and face-planted every time. I kept face-planting until I finally broke down and cried. I wanted so badly to do it, but my body just wasn't ready yet."
But as early as her 10th class, Dana noticed herself easing into more poses. Feeling her body becoming stronger and more flexible-not necessarily leaner-is what ultimately kept her going. Months of practice later, Dana was able to do "the crow" and so much more.
"With yoga, I loved the idea of limits. I felt like my body was limiting me-my stomach was too big to bend, my thighs were too heavy. But the amazing thing was that I kept surpassing the limits. As I realized this, I saw how that translated to my life beyond yoga, too. I told myself I'd never be able to do a headstand, and there I was able to do one."
As Dana got stronger and more advanced, she started to see that yoga offered her time to herself to meditate and reflect, which, to her, was so much more than running on the treadmill ever could. More importantly, she saw that her weight-loss journey had really nothing to do with what the scale said at all. To her, yoga was the thing that taught her to care about herself and showed her that her body was worth investing in-a lesson that she says saved her life.
"My practice asked me to wake up," she says. "We can all easily be the darkest versions of ourselves...But for me [yoga showed me how] to be aware of who I am, and actively choose to be the light, instead."
"I don't like to think in terms of losing-weight goals or any goals, really; that mindset isn't for me. The changes that happen to my body and my physical appearance from yoga are a nice byproduct, but not the focus. I continue to practice because yoga is what taught me to love myself again."
I continue to practice because yoga is what taught me to love myself again.
"Before, whenever I felt stressed, angry, or upset, I would eat. Now, I eat what will make me feel good and do yoga instead...There are no restrictions or strict guidelines in my diet. The practice showed me that I am worthy to feel good, eat well, and be completely at peace with myself."
"There are no cheat codes or guarantees. There's no one to help you accept your body. That discipline and the idea of yoga giving you the tools to find your self-worth is what makes it so beautiful."