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November 17, 2017 02:35 PM

As Tarek El Moussa navigates life after his separation from ex-wife Christina, he’s found an outlet in hot yoga.

The star of HGTV’s Flip or Flop picked up the grueling workout about six months ago, and loved the mental and physical challenge.

“I’m going through such a traumatic experience, and you’re always trying to find yourself and find different ways to release stress, and someone had mentioned hot yoga,” El Moussa, 36, tells PEOPLE. “And I just fell in love with it. I found that it was so difficult it would take away all my stress and my negative energy. It was kind of like therapy for me.”

Skyler Dearen/Radiant Hot Yoga
Tarek El Moussa
Skyler Dearen/Radiant Hot Yoga

The dad of two favors Radiant Yoga in Newport Beach, California, which he says is “gnarly” and the “hottest hot yoga ever.”

“It’s just so mentally challenging that it kind of frees your mind,” El Moussa says.

RELATED VIDEO: Tarek El Moussa Opens Up About Illness with Before-and-After Photos

 

When he’s not getting in a sweaty savasana, the house flipping expert loves weight lifting, and typically hits the weight room four days a week. But just a few years ago, El Moussa was told by doctors he likely wouldn’t pick up a weight again thanks to a crippling back injury.

“That was the most horrific experience of my life,” he says. “It was so debilitating that I couldn’t put my shoes on, I could barely walk, I had trouble sleeping. But I really worked hard to overcome that injury.”

Tarek El Moussa
Source: Tarek El Moussa/Instagram

And hearing the doctors tell him he likely couldn’t lift weights again made El Moussa more determined than ever.

“I’m the type of guy where if I’m told I can’t do something, I want to prove that I can do it, so when they told me that the first thing I thought is, well, I’m going to prove you wrong,” he says. “I think the mind is more powerful than the body.”

“Today I am lifting weights, I am doing yoga, I am snowboarding, I am wake surfing. So I’m at the point where I feel like my back is 99 percent to where it used to be, and I’ve gotten there with a lot of hard work, with yoga and stretching and building my core, and making sure a lot of my exercises are focused on supporting my back.”

His incredible progress is part of why El Moussa decided to share shirtless photos of himself in March.

Tarek El Moussa
Pye Jirsa Photography

“I went through cancer twice, and I hurt my back, and I worked so hard to get back, and I thought, you know what, let’s just inspire people,” he says. “It was an interesting reaction. People have watched me on TV for many years, and each season I look different. One season I’m 230 lbs., and then one season I’m 169 lbs., and in one I’m ghost white with black eyes from back pain. The last few years have just been the most challenging of my life, both mentally and physically. I’m glad I posted them.”

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