I’m the first to admit that, in many ways, I was in pretty bad shape.

And I mean more than the 35 pounds I’d gained.

Despite the assurances of my A-list book agent, my latest book proposal hadn’t sold (I’d had 8 previously published), and a relationship with a business partner went deeply south.

More than that, over 18 months I waded through a sea of loss and death, all involving those closest to me in one way or another:

-My next door neighbor (who had become an unexpected mother-figure) -My best friend from Yale’s partner (I got the call in the middle of the night -My post-college best friend’s soulmate -My best friend of the last few years’ fiancée (I was there when they met and -I ended up co-planning the funeral) and finally … -My own father, all passed away.

It definitely took all the wellness strategies and wisdom (and a steady meditation practice) I’ve accumulated over the years to hold things together and emerge, more or less, reborn.

I self-published Rich with Purpose and it hit #1 for all of New Thought on Amazon. I then repurposed the material in an online course that now has over 30,000 students. Through mediation, a satisfying business solution was eventually reached.

And throughout this dark time, I managed to find pockets of joy––my chocolate lab, the pleasures of teaching yoga at Exhale––that got me through it all.

And yet…those 35 pounds…(sigh)…

Please note that according to my annual physical, I was perfectly healthy.

And, as this photo demonstrates, I enjoyed the peak of yoga flexibility (even with extra belly fat).

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Photo credit: Katya Nicholas

My annual birthday ritual where I perform one dropback for each year of my life, more info HERE.

Nonetheless, I felt (and was) still heavier than I wanted to be.

Previously, I had only “flirted” with Exhale; as an Exhale team player, I took a class or two just to experience the modality (and I was truly surprised by how sore I was afterward). But suddenly, there was a moment where I dove in and committed, somehow instinctively knowing that these Exhale classes would provide the transformation I needed.

I simply made the commitment to attend either Barre or HIIT each and every day and … everything changed.

Call it falling in love (call it an addiction!) but way beyond complimenting my yoga practice, I found far more than I was looking for.

Before starting, I knew the group energy of the class would motivate me.

The “Good Student Gene” that got me into Yale meant I was going to focus with an almost religious fervor.

And, of course, the workouts gave me exactly what I was looking for in terms of strength, calorie burning, and the kind of long, lean muscle I wanted.

Beyond this, though, I developed friendships with the broader Exhale community, but most specifically with the Barre and HIIT instructors (people who were previously in my mind mostly seen as teaching next-door neighbors constantly creating auditory challenges).

I came to more deeply respect the precision and creativity of their instruction, and the discipline behind the barre method.

In a very different but parallel way to how yoga had once grabbed me, I found myself yearning to really understand the right form, the right technique for barre, on a deep level.

And, I also have to admit, it was extraordinarily gratifying when someone I hadn’t seen in a while noticed what was happening for me physically. (As Diana Vreeland once said, “I loathe narcissism but I approve of vanity.”)

My awareness of my body––already keen from years of yoga––also expanded to new levels through these cross-modality challenges.

In the end, I got back the body I wanted, but, more importantly, my barre / HIIT immersion brought back the FEELING I’d missed after such a long dark period: strength mixed with lightness, muscles sculpted with grace.

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Photo credit: Karen Greatti

Edward Vilga is a bestselling author and wellness consultant. He shares his passion for yoga at Exhale locations in New York and throughout the world. To reserve a spot in Edward’s Exhale yoga class, click here.