A Struggling Dreamer in Pursuit of Life

Updated: Apr 8, 2018

Sophia from Xplore Yoga SJ

51 years-old | Mother of 3 | Scientist | Runner | Business Owner | Risk Taker | Yogi

Yoga has been a huge part of my fitness and wellness journey, and I couldn't have gotten so far into my practice without a great support system. Not only do I have friends who share the passion with me, but I also have crossed paths with many inspiring yoga instructors along the way. One of my teachers, who continues to challenge and inspire me every single time I'm on the mat, is Sophia from Xplore Yoga in San Jose, CA. She is is also the owner.

People often create stories about why they can't achieve their fitness and wellness goals. I admittedly am guilty of this at times! Life happens. Responsibilities pile up. Your body hurts. You got kids. Not enough time. You're too young or too old. You blame the side effects of medication.

Sophia is the epitome of no excuses.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Sophia about her roller-coaster ride on life. She opened up to me about dealing with Diabetes, depression, excess weight, and a life-shattering injury. Her road to health and wellness is absolutely INCREDIBLE. I have transcribed Sophia's inspiring journey as told in her point of view.

Thing will never be the same. Part 1.

I had severe diabetes and weighed 195 pounds. One one day during lunch, a coworker came looking for me to ask about work. She found me on the ground unconscious. I was taken to the hospital while in a coma, and my blood sugar level was 600. I was so sick that I had to stay in the hospital to be monitored until my sugar levels went down.

People normally came to visit me on the weekends, but there was one weekend no one did. I felt so lonely, and I had a 9-month old son at the time. I was terrified. I cried. I wanted to talk to my doctor about releasing me, but the nurses advised me to wait for him on Monday when he stops by for my routine check. On Monday the doctor said that I couldn't go home, and they especially wouldn't be responsible for my life if something happened outside of the hospital. It was best to stay put, but I said no. I yanked everything off me and went home.

A week later after I left the hospital, my son was sick and didn't go to day care. He had started walking and liked running around. I heard him scream like crazy after falling, but then I saw he had some blood on his face. I was still very heavy and unwell. I felt dizzy, which made me lose balance, and I just didn't have the strength to pick up my own son. I had to call my sister to come over and check on him, and she found that he had a cut on his ear from falling. I realized that since I gained so much weight and wasn't taking care of myself, how could I even take care of my loved ones? After this situation, I had to do something.

One step at a time

I read on Google about the story of a 365-pound man who lost half his body weight from running. He had a lot of excess skin and no muscle tone when he lost the weight, so he then went to the gym to lift weights and did yoga. The man eventually ran the Boston marathon. His story made me very emotional, and I wanted to be like him.

When I was in the hospital, I saw so many doctors about everything. I saw psychiatrists and psychologists for my depression and nutritionists for my weight. They would tell me, "control your diet... control your eating..." but no one really told me HOW to. First thing I did was research what types of diet plans were available. I decided to sign up with Slim Fast's program, because it helped manage your caloric intake through shakes and portioned meals.

I started walking one time a day, not even up to a mile. I was still heavy, felt weak, and everything always hurt. Nothing much happened the first two months. I lost 5 pounds on the third month though, which I was very excited about. Then I walked two times a day—before and after work. Six months into the Slim Fast diet, I lost 30 more pounds. I was so happy that I was losing the weight, and it motivated me to step my nutritional goals further by becoming a vegetarian. I was a vegetarian for 9 years before deciding to become totally vegan.

After 9 months, I had lost 55 pounds by changing my diet and walking only. Then I explored running by first jogging up to 4 miles once a day. A year later, I was jogging twice a day up to 7 miles in total. Even though I lost so much weight, my body was soft and had skin hanging. During one of my runs, I met a woman who was super fit. I expressed to her that she had a great body and asked what she did to achieve it. She invited me to join a gym and offered to teach me how to do weight lifting. After signing up at the gym, I eventually enrolled in a personal training program where I would work out with a trainer 2x's a week for 7 years.

Transforming anxiety to accolades

Three years later, I was 105 pounds. I was still working full time as a scientist in biotech, and I had a second and third baby. It was a stressful time because of balancing work, family, and relationships. I kept on running though, because it was the only thing I knew and was passionate about. Plus I was terrified of gaining the weight again. But because I ran so much, my body was too hyperactive. When my body wasn't running, my mind was. I became even more depressed, because I couldn't sleep! I maybe had an average of 2 hours sleep a night.

One day at the gym, I met a yoga instructor who encouraged me to take yoga. He claimed that yoga would help calm my mind, let my body recover, and allow myself to be authentic. I didn't listen to him right away. I already ran so I didn't need another exercise. I also had never done yoga in my life at this point. Every time I saw him at the gym he checked in with me to see if I've taken a class yet, but I would keep saying, "Not yet. Next time." Finally I asked him why he loved yoga so much, to which he explained that it help him recover through a bitter divorce. When I looked into his eyes, I not only saw his passion but also saw this inner peace within him.

The first yoga class I went to was a Power Yoga class. It was so intense! The class was packed and nearly felt like 100 degrees. I was so impressed by everyone in the class. People were jumping back into Chaturangas and doing handstands no problem. I was so insecure, because I couldn't do any of it even though I was very athletic now. I asked the girl next to me, who is now one of my friends, "Are you a gymnast?" And she said, "No, I'm a yogi!"

I noticed something change inside of me. I actually slept that night. I forgot when was the last time in my life I had that long of interrupted sleep. It had been years. I woke up in the morning and had a real, magical feeling that I haven't felt since I was a teenager. There was nothing I did differently—I ate the same food and was around the same people—except do yoga that day. I went back to the yoga studio to sign up for a membership. The owner suggested that I should buy the $30 for 30-day promotion to try other classes and teachers, but I said no. I wanted to commit to a yearly membership, and I knew that I would truly make an effort to do so because I felt the change.

Because of yoga, my running was amazing. Yoga helped me become more flexible, build strength, and gain muscle tone. I started running marathons in 2012, but I was running marathons back to back between 2013-2015. I ran 126 races (98% of my total races) in this span of 3 years. In fact, I realized that I was actually a gifted runner. There have been races where I began at the starting line and finish in first place. I achieved everything I wanted to do in running:

  • Double ultra in 2 days

  • 100 miles

  • 200 miles

  • 10 marathons in 10 days in 10 different states

  • 6 marathons in 6 days in 6 different states

  • 50 miles on Saturday and a marathon the next day

  • Run a marathon in every state and in every continent

Things will never be the same. Part 2.

One day when I was walking in a parking lot, I tripped and stepped on a curve. I fell down and tore a ligament in my knee. The doctor said I had to do surgery, but I didn't want to. Ten days later I ran the Boston Marathon with my messed up knee. By the time I crossed the finish line, my knee was broken completely. I hopped all the way to the end with my broken leg bouncing up and down. Immediately after I finished the Boston Marathon, I was in a wheelchair and stayed in a wheelchair for 2 months. I lost the entire mobility and sensations in my right leg from my foot all the way to the hip. I was embarrassed for not listening to my doctor but more so because I had ran myself to the point of potentially losing my leg. Six MRIs later, I found that I tore ligaments, yanked tendons, cracked my knee cap, and disconnected my calf muscles, hamstrings and other connective tissue behind my knee. My orthopedic doctor said I had to do 3 surgeries:

  1. Rebuild all the ligaments where he would cut the ligaments shorter and reconnect them to the bones. This is a 6-8 week recovery.

  2. Cut the knee cap and replace it with a metal plate by which the metal plate had to be replaced every so often because of wear and tear.

  3. Cut the muscle behind the knee cap and reconnect them if I still didn't have mobility after surgeries 1 and 2. This would require a year of physical therapy.

Despite all these surgeries, my doctor couldn't guarantee to me that they would work. There was a chance that I wouldn't be able to walk anymore.

Mind-Body Connection

I figured that I couldn't do yoga either. How could you hold poses with one leg? My friend, however, said that I should go to yoga anyway and just lay on my mat. And that's what I did. I went to class and meditated. Allowed myself to calm my mind and be connected with my body.

There was one class that resonated with me. The teacher said during Savasana, "Accept who you are and be happy. You have to create happiness because no one will give you happiness. If you sit there and wait for someone to give you happiness, it won't come." I've read before that the two most important days are the day we were born and the day we figure out why. I cried on the mat, because I truly figured out why. I figured out my purpose for living. I already loved yoga, but at that moment I fell more deeply in love with it. There was no turning back now. While I was on the mat that day, these were the lessons my broken leg taught me:

  • I had to accept that I did the wrong thing by not listening to my doctor at first.

  • I was reminded again to take care of myself.

  • I understood that my mind and body have to be connected.

  • I had to accept that I am paralyzed right now. Therefore, what should I do? How do I work on this? What can I change in my life?

  • I had to move on and be the best person that I ever have been.

When I felt up to it, I would try poses and stretches with my good leg. Eventually I was able to stand up. Two years later, I was walking like normal and doing full splits and hand stands. I walked away from the doctors with NO SURGERY. The doctor was so shocked when I told him that I could walk normal again because of yoga. Yoga is a lot like physical therapy anyway with the movement, alignment, and stretching. It did take a long time to recover, but that was part of my journey. I have tried to run a couple of times, but it doesn't work for me anymore. Running causes my knee to swell and hurt. There's no point being in pain.

Today I feel absolutely amazing. I'm more calm, mindful, and aware of how I feel. I haven't gained weight by being vegan and doing yoga everyday straight for the past 3.5 years. I have muscle tone and normal body mass. I no longer have Diabetes. I feel fit and strong. My upper and lower body are even. My mind is now well-balanced, and I feel grounded. I'm content, focused, and emotionally stable. This is how I want to be the rest of the life, and I'm teaching my children about how important it is to bring awareness to their own bodies.

Xplore Yoga SJ

Class schedule



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