No reason to not practice…
I was an unlikely yoga student. 19 years old, in college, completely type AAAAA and knowing I was not where I wanted to be mentally, I signed up for a yoga class series. I went to only one out of 8 classes. I found it horrible to be learning different types of nostril breathing and it just was not a good start. I may also not have been ready and willing to accept the practice that it would take to change some of my patterns. It was a huge deal that I PAID for a class that I did not continue with. I do not do that type of thing.
THANKFULLY!!!, 25 years later, and 18 years of practicing yoga, I can positively say that yoga has changed my life. I don’t say this to mean that I have reached zen or nirvana (have you SEEN me lately!!!), but I am firmly within the work I need to be doing. That means I am practicing. I am not a perfect yogi, physically or mentally. I get injured, and I still and will always be a work in progress of clearing my mind, being okay with what is, and being patient with myself and others. But I am in the middle of this work, fully immersed, bringing my practice into my days.
Why am I writing about this? Because I simply see so clearly and completely how much it could improve others’ lives, but not everyone is willing to take the step. To step in and practice without being perfect. The step to begin. To begin, even in a horrible place with one’s mind reeling over past or current struggles. It pains me when I see people putting off something that could help them. Maybe not today, this week, this month, but over the course of practice, nothing will improve without beginning. I sometimes try to share that sentiment, but I also can get a general feeling of when someone is not open to suggestions, when their mind is already made up that they are too far off balance to even be helped (in their opinion).
I work with people struggling physically with injuries, chronic tightness and physical ailments that could be completely improved (I’m not saying completely FIXED/ never to return)… but yes, improved and the severity of daily pain lessened with even a 1-2x/week practice. Tight hips lead to knee and foot problems, back problems and more. Tight hamstrings lead to ineffective and painful running over time. Tight muscles make it painful to go from stand to sit in our daily lives, to turn in our cars to look backwards when going in reverse. Tight hips lead to neck and shoulder tightness which hurts, is distracting, always on your mind that you just don’t FEEL GREAT. It is so frustrating to me when I suggest something that has only the potential to help, and people will reject the idea of trying…. “because they aren’t flexible.” Duh. I know…. That is why I am suggesting it.
And furthermore…. We are adults. So what if you are not flexible and cannot balance? That is fine! We have modifications obviously, and a wall to hold onto for balance! We are not trying to be perfect, this is talking about a once/week yoga class, not registering for the Olympic trials. Do we need to be good at things to begin? Is this what we ask of our kids- no- so why would we consider asking ourselves to only do things that we already excel in. It drives me bananas. (and see…… I need to “let this go”- let go of my desire to control and make things happen and just LET them happen…. And it is good of me to recognize this as the ideal, but I still feel frustration….. again…. I am not buddha, I am me, in my practice, evolving and learning).
I know many who struggle with anxiety, depression and more….. as do I. I know the seriousness and implications of mental health, and you could even say it is a major reason why I got into fitness in the first place. I often hear some people say that they cannot do yoga because they cannot quiet their mind. They would be sitting there with their thoughts racing, etc. But, how would you learn to quiet your mind without practicing the skill? The only way to BEGIN noticing your patterns of thoughts, to begin to slow the mind, is to work to slow it for one moment. And then maybe a few breaths. And then this goes through your days and you notice yourself more. You notice being centered and you notice when you are not. You learn to control your reactions, to let things be, to release expectations, of others and yourself. Obviously, this is not in a week. Quite frankly, we are never done with this lesson, which is why we continue the practice. There is no perfect in yoga, as there is no perfect in life. But we can work on things that we want to work on!
In so many ways, yoga has fundamentally changed my life.
*I continue to be amazed how within the first 30-60 seconds of sitting and breathing on my mat, I feel the change within: I feel the change within, the streaming of softness through my bloodstream and the change of everything flowing within. I realize I am ok, ok in so many ways.
*Yoga is my first experience in not sucking in my stomach. I sucked in my stomach from age 7 until probably 25!! I learned to let my belly be soft and move with breath, thus calming my nervous system. What a life change! It amazes me daily the power of inhaling and being okay with my stomach rising. To me, that is finally acceptance of myself.
*Yoga isn’t always full effort. It is okay to find ease. It is more than okay. It is the path that we seek to listen inwards to what we need and how our body speaks to us. Some days are days for challenge and some days, we are better off doing a less challenging practice.
*Yoga on the other hand, is finding ease in challenge. I love applying this to performance in endurance sports. In coaching others and myself, it is profound to be able to push our bodies so intensely, but at the same time, learn how to be okay with that. To relax the things that you can relax. To only focus on the immediate now and breath.
*Yoga is acceptance of just now. Not waiting, not reaching, just simply breathing. How nourishing.