Sunday, April 12, 2015

Yoga saved my life

Those of you who know me well, know that nutrition and holistic living are what I am most passionate about.  You also know that going to the gym is not my cup of tea and that I prefer a quiet conversation over a cardio butt kicking.  Keeping up with my 7 year old son keeps me moving, but it is just not enough to maintain health with the level of stress that I encounter as a single mother with a professional career. 

I'd always enjoyed doing a yoga class here and there, and loved the times that I was able to make time and money available to learn more Tai Chi, but it wasn't until I found myself suffering daily with pain and overwhelmed with my life that I turned to a daily yoga practice.  You can read more about the struggle I went through over the last few years here, if you are interested. 

I began hesitantly, not sure that I was going to be doing the postures correctly (a common concern among people interested in Yoga) and used a beginners guide with lots of pictures to get me started.  I work with Solar Salutations mostly, but also learned the Warrior pose, Tall Warrior, Tree, Crocodile and Boat poses. 

You can watch a brief video on how to do a Solar Salutation here.

Doing the postures themselves turned out to be less of a challenge than working time into my routine for doing yoga.  I decided to wake up 20-30 minutes earlier than usual, and was surprised to find that most days this wasn't a burden and I actually felt better upon rising earlier than I had when I would sleep until the last possible second. 

My routine goes something like this most days:
I take 5 minutes as soon as I rise to sit for a brief mediation.  I find that the first moments of waking offer a unique opportunity to have a quiet mind without struggling to manage the thoughts of the day.  It is naturally a time of reflection and inward focus, so I take advantage of that time by breathing deeply and allowing myself to feel quiet and serene.  Once I get out of bed, I do 2-4 Solar Salutations (which in reality is doing the series of postures 4-8 times, as a traditional Solar Salutation is moving through the postures twice) during which I breathe in each pose for 4 breaths the first round, and then reduce the number of breaths in half to 2 breaths per pose in the second round, and if I have time to do more I move to one breath for each pose, offering an invigorating way to get started in the morning.  After my Solar Salutations, I take between 5-10 minutes to do the "corpse pose" otherwise known as Savasana.  This is the pose I consider the most important, so I always make sure to make time for this even if it means only doing one Solar Salutation, or sometimes none at all if I sleep late or have an unexpectedly rushed morning.  Traditional yoga practice recommends 20-30 minutes in Savasana, but I've honestly never had the time to do that intense of a practice and do find relief from my pain and tension in less time.  Ideally, when I feel inclined and have a couple of extra minutes, I will sit for another brief meditation and breath awareness practice, sometimes as little as 2 minutes, just to really set my mind in focus for the day ahead. 

I've found that by adding these practices to my daily routine I have improved so many things about my life and health, in just 20-30 extra minutes.  I no longer suffer from daily pain, I feel more grounded and balanced, and my body has maintained its feminine shape and strong muscles, despite not ever doing a rigorous "workout" program.  I seriously can't say enough about how much Yoga has improved my life.  The pain and stress I felt daily before I added this practice were debilitating and made me depressed and overwhelmed, which affected my performance at work, at home and as a mother.  Now that I am free from pain, my mind is more clear and I feel like I am back on top of my game.  I've begun to pursue my interests and passions again, which is something that I haven't done in years and thought at one point I may never have time or energy for again.  Even my parenting has improved since I began doing Yoga daily, as I am now spending more quality time with my son and have been able to teach him some basic principles of breath awareness and yoga that he can use if he feels overexcited or upset. 

It may sound a bit over the top, but I truly feel that yoga has saved my life.  It has brought me closer to myself and my path than any other single change that I have made in my life.  I highly recommend that anyone who feels they could use more balance, peace and vitality in their life to explore yoga and meditation, whether it is in the home or under the supervision of a knowledgeable teacher. 

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