Yoga saved my life
Yoga saves lives; I believe it saved mine. A bold statement like this ought to backed up by scientific fact: this fabulously compiled list of ten health benefits gives a great foundation for further research.
What I would like to share is more personal, opinion and my own experience. Yoga helped me to sit in the emotional muck without judgement so I could process major life changes; yoga widened my horizon line; yoga made possibility seem grander and my abilities more innate. Committing to 60 minutes of coordinated breath fundamentally altered me.
Five years ago, before rediscovering my worth, beginning my separation or even considering my needs as important, I went back to yoga. One night, after a grueling day at work, an argument at home and a fussy baby, I went and sat in my car and sobbed. At that time, I believed I was a bad mother, a failing wife and a half committed professional.* I wondered if it would just be better if I disappeared.
The thought lasted less than a millisecond.
That millisecond sufficed to jumpstart me back into action. For those who are close to me I hope you can attest that I am a lover of life, a positive person who sees the good side of even hard stuff and committed to being kind. I wasn’t doing that for myself though at that juncture. And, I needed to catalyze myself for my own good.
I hesitated to share this story because I don’t want to appear like I’m not strong. Or, cause concern. Part of the learning in the process showed me that vulnerability IS strength. Honesty and truth. How We handle situations defines our life, not the situation itself. In practice the other morning an intention reminded me, rekindled something, triggered a memory. Yoga saved me. I saved myself through yoga.
Immediately the next day after the shock of the depth of the moment of extreme self-doubt my search began; a search for authenticity, for self-love, for purpose and above all freedom. I didn’t know any of that at the time. What I did know was this: happiness is my responsibility and I was no longer going to live vicitimizing myself. My life, mybheart, my thoughts, my actions and choices, all mine to orient. How though? How to lift the needle off the scratches record of our dark thoughts? Yoga already had been a part of my routine. From crazy old stuff on vhs (man, I just dated myself) to pre-natal and BYOB (bring your own baby) at my favorite place Blooma. The athlete in me felt a pull not met by either. So, I googled hot yoga and found a studio.
My intention wasn’t to become a super yogini, to stand on my head, to lose weight, to be fit, or even to be stronger. My purpose was pretty simple: get 1 hour, 60 minutes, to myself, by myself, for myself, breathing, with no one asking me for anything, no expectation of me other than to breathe. Sounds pretty simple, right? Ironically, motherhood and marriage erased most of my self-awareness by that point...so, this hour felt like the most wild luxury. And, I had to fight for it.
My well intentioned mother said, “shouldn’t you be at home instead of yoga? Your baby needs you since you’ve been at work all day.” My loving spouse said, “it’s selfish to leave your son another hour. I need you. Why don’t you just get a different job so you’re less stressed?” My friends said, “shouldn’t you take care of your work and house first?”. I learned how to apply lessons on assertive communication from my coach to answer them. But, at first it wasn’t easy. At first, there was guilt. In doing so, I got better at doing what was good for me!
Today? No prob. I defend my yoga 60 minutes like a mama bear. Then, not so much. My renaissant self worth constantly tested, I stuck with it. Every time I Entered the hot room to do my poses magic happened. Each time I breathed with intention for one hour, my innate freedom and confidence expanded.
My son often says, “yoga isn’t a sport. You used to be an athlete (aka you used to be cool)”. He’s right. Yoga isn’t a sport. Yoga is a lifestyle, a purpose, a tactic and a philosophy. Yoga helps balance what cannot be balanced.
Five years into my dedicated practice the importance and beauty of the practice continues to grow. Yoga helps me face challenges without stress. Daily practice makes hard stuff easier; something I already excelled at. Yoga also gives me immediate gratification. I sweat. I work hard. Endorphins and serotonin. Happy hormones. The same feelings of love I felt while breastfeeding. Pure joy, pure bliss.
Like anything in life, dedication produces results. There are days where the simple act of showing up represents success. Believing everyday will be zen ecstasy would set yourself up for disappointment. However, overall, daily yoga is like a dose of the best drug you could imagine. Daily yoga keeps my heart open.
Yoga cultivates awareness. This awareness translated into my capacity to relearn my worth; to begin a very difficult and necessary separation from the man I adored; to begin to find myself again through all the opacity of motherhood. Yoga helped to give me back my gratitude, my kindness, my generosity and my self preservation.
Instead of plunging into self-depreciation and blaming others (victimization) yoga practice gave me openness, joyfulness, forgiveness and the ability to love despite it all. To Love because of it all.
“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.” B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life
Yoga reminds me that practice makes practice practicable. Life and loving are just practice. I’m forever grateful. Yoga reminds me to live in the present, which is the only thing we have.
At a moment where multiple paths lay before me, my choice ultimately made the difference. Choosing yoga gave me the tool to open within myself the self acceptance required to not just survive but to thrive. Thrive.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu
Today, as I wrote about this past, it’s just that: past. Today, I’m making quiche and beef stew smiling about the beauty of my life. If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll remember the journey isn’t easy, but hard doesn’t mean “bad”. I love this yoga life. #yogaeverydamnday for real. Oh, and somewhere along the way the hot room gave me my abs back just like I never had a baby.
“You must purge yourself before finding faults in others. When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake. This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement. Do not look at others' bodies with envy or with superiority. All people are born with different constitutions. Never compare with others. Each one's capacities are a function of his or her internal strength. Know your capacities and continually improve upon them.”
B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life
Through the yoking of mind, body and soul through breath (yoga) my life was saved. My life transformed and continues to transform. Abundant gratitude and grace. If you see me smiling for no reason, this light and joy is the weightlessness in spite of and because of the obstacles in life.
What my teacher, Drew, said to spark these reflections - Asana acts as a mirror, revealing to us or relationship with yourself. This relationship we take to the world and defines how we experience life. The postures can be one the tactical practices to achieving unconditional Love. Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
*(I was #2 in the company that year and over 200% to plan. My son was happily breastfed and healthy, my ex-husband I cannot speak for)