Yoga, I wish I had met you sooner.
I spent a lot of years pushing my body to the limits, and if I had known yoga, I think I would be in much better shape now. For around 20 years I was birthing and breastfeeding babies. (7 of them!) I ate as healthily as I knew to, and my exercise, besides giving birth, was toting babies and walking with the kids around the neighborhood.
Then in my mid forties, I took up running and participated in quite a few 5k’s and 10k’s and completed three half marathons. Oh, how yoga would have benefited me then! I never really learned how to stretch properly, and now my body is much less flexible than I would like it to be. I am glad I did all the running I did, but I think that I could have done better with proper stretching or yoga. This picture is me doing my last half in December of 2011, when I was 55. That was the only time in my life I had a personal trainer, and set a goal to complete it in less than 3 hours. I made it with 3 minutes to spare! I would have done much better if I hadn’t started having severe pain in my left leg and knee. I was determined to finish, though, and limped my way proudly across the finish line.
I had an inflamed iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the leg from the hip to the shin. Using a foam roller helped me heal from that, and I am convinced that had I been stretching well, or practicing yoga, I might have minimized that issue. Since then, I have participated in a handful of 5k’s, only to have a setback about a year ago with severe back pain that was likely a slipped disc. I have recovered from that, but have residual right hip pain. I’ve made a few attempts to start training again, but haven’t been able to get the mindset to do it.
I first met yoga at a class at the gym I used to belong to, about 3 years ago, and fell in love immediately. I had a great teacher, who said that it is ok that I can’t sit in lotus, or even cross-legged. I am more comfortable sitting in a slight variation of seiza. It is important to find a position of comfort in sitting, and this was a breakthrough for me! Also, sometimes, at the end of the class when we were lying in savasana, I would feel a release of emotions, either laughter or tears. I knew that I loved the gentle yet strong movements that our teacher took us through, and I always felt better after class no matter how I felt before.
Over the last year, as I have sought healing and fitness, I keep coming back to yoga. I have thought about trying to take up running again, but it never works out. I have done some weightlifting and even bought some workout videos, but my body always is happiest with the gentle yoga asanas.
Yoga is much more than exercise, although with time it molds and firms the body. More importantly, yoga clears the obstructions and limitations in our bodies and minds, and increases creative life energy. This is why I feel so peaceful and happy after an hour-long class, even if I have experienced discomfort, been disappointed at my lack of flexibility, and cried at the end. Note: it is important to accept your limitations and not compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone’s body and flexibility are inherently different.
I found a yoga studio just down the street from me, with a wonderful teacher who lives and breathes peaceful yoga energy. I went to my class last night feeling very tired and stressed from the day, just wanting to sleep. But as I moved through the poses, I felt the release of all the tension and exhaustion of the day.
And I had a very good night’s sleep.
Do you have a yoga practice? What do you love about yoga?