I fully intended to write a blog post about the benefits of yoga for the slightly older body. And more specifically, I wanted to write about how yoga can help alleviate every day aches and pains. And I wanted to share how it helps eliminate much of the stiffness we feel as our bodies age. But when I sat down at my laptop to begin my writing, my brain had some other plan. Instead, it wanted to tell a simpler story. My brain wanted to tell a story of discovering yoga and how it can change our lives for the better.
I discovered yoga in 1997. Or did it discover me?
My fitness club offered yoga classes, and I could see the class in session from my vantage point on the fitness floor. I was immediately drawn to the movement and found myself signing up for the classes before I gave it a second thought. I am not even sure I really even knew what yoga was at that time. But I knew I wanted to move my body in the way the class was moving. I was right. I was hooked within the first ten minutes of my first session.
In my very first yoga session, my eyes were opened to the wisdom of my body
On my very first Warrior II pose, I had my first yoga insight. A yoga insight (my term) is when a spontaneous, insightful (and helpful) thought or idea pops into your mind in the midst of your yoga practice.
You may laugh when I tell you that my insight was that I never wanted to eat another fast food burger in my life. There was no context for this thought. I hadn’t been thinking about fast food burgers, nor were they even a favorite of mine. I wasn’t even hungry. But intuitively I knew my body was telling me that it was time to lose weight and take better care of it.
In fact as I look back, I know this was the time I was beginning to get a sense that how I was living my life was not serving me (or my body) well.
Two more intriguing yoga moments happened in quick succession after this first “burger” insight. First, I went on a ski trip about six weeks after I started practicing yoga. And for the first time ever, my calves did not hurt after a day of skiing. In fact, I did not get tight calves that whole trip. For those familiar with skiing know that tight calves are often a consequence of skiing with poor form and technique. When I shared my experience with my yoga instructor, she just smiled. She knew that yoga helps with balance, alignment, and body awareness. Without knowing it (and without any ski lesson), I had learned to balance my body properly over my skis and not use my feet to steer myself down the mountain. At this point, I was smitten with yoga!
Then came a life-changing yoga moment
The second intriguing moment was more life-changing than the first. About 3 months into practicing yoga, I attended a weekend yoga retreat. During a yoga session, a vision of the building where I worked popped into my mind, and my body responded with a shudder. I thought it a curious “event” and knew somehow it meant that my body did not like to be in that building. I only really tuned into the moment when the yoga master walked right across the room and gave me a big hug. As he did so, he whispered, “Trust what just happened.” Yoga really had my attention now!
For several weeks after that moment, my eyes were opened to many signs that I was living my life in a way that was contrary to how I was wired. In other words, I was trying to change who I was in order to fit into the life that I had. The end result was a pretty unhappy individual. That life-changing moment in the yoga retreat gave me more than just the insight. It gave me the internal resolve and confidence to let go of what I had. I began to make positive changes in my life that were more in line with who I was and what I wanted in life. Within 15 months, I had moved to a new city and had started a new career. I felt more like myself than I had in a long, long time. I had yoga to thank for that.
Are you looking to make a change so you too can live the life you want to live? Give Pam a call at 630-653-8152 to find out more about how yoga can positively impact your life!
And then I stopped practicing yoga
For several years after that life-changing yoga moment, I practiced yoga regularly. I was in a class two to three times a week and I felt great. I was swimming at that time and knew yoga helped me swim faster and with better technique, keeping my body in shape. The friends I made in the yoga community were great. And I loved how yoga made me feel calm and peaceful. Then life changed.
I changed careers and moved again. I lost my yoga community. And even though I tried, I just could not find a yoga studio where I felt at home. So I eventually stopped practicing.
Finding a place to call your home is important to your yoga practice
Whether it is a studio where you feel like you belong or carving out a place at home, finding your place to practice yoga is important. I believe this is a significant obstacle for many people and especially for those of us who have “slightly older” bodies. It is a bit intimidating to walk into a studio or fitness class. Many studios and fitness classes sound intense – hot yoga, bootcamp yoga, power yoga. Not to mention that they sound confusing – Vinyasa, Iyengar, Hatha, Restorative. And then everyone looks so young and spry (when did that happen). Sometimes it is easier to walk away than try to sort it all out.
In the past few years, my efforts to get back into a yoga practice fell short. I could not find a session that fit my schedule. Nor could I find a class that fit my need.
I just wanted to experience the essence of yoga in a non-intimidating setting. I wanted to move my body through some gentle movements. Time my movement with my breath. Feel my body and explore where I might be holding resistance.
I wanted my mind and my body to get reacquainted. And I wanted to enjoy the process and the journey. I couldn’t find the place, so I didn’t practice yoga.
It is important to have confidence in your instructor’s ability and style
Finding the right instructor is a key element and tends to be a common obstacle. I hear from many people that they want an instructor who can explain the movements and who can ensure that the class participants don’t get hurt. And they have a hard time finding such an instructor.
One of my close friends told me recently that she loved her yoga instructor because the instructor was very good at cueing the technique and keeping the class simple and straightforward. My friend felt that she could really enjoy the movement rather than be distracted by the complexity of the yoga pose. Then the instructor moved. And my friend stopped practicing yoga.
For a long time, I was working one-on-one with a yoga instructor. And then my instructor moved. I tried to find a new instructor. But once again, my efforts fell short. And I suspended my yoga practice. But this time, I decided to take my future into my own hands. It dawned on me that I was pulled to be a yoga instructor. And I am now yoga certified. I feel confident in putting together my own yoga practice. And I am looking forward to becoming a yoga instructor for others with a slightly older body.
No pretzel moves required!
Another intimidating aspect of yoga in our culture today is the intensity of it. We see pictures of yogis in what look like gravity-defying and death-defying poses. Their bodies are twisted like pretzels. The yoga I know and I love is not like that.
I believe it is important to know that the yoga we see in the marketing of yoga is not what yoga is about.
Yes, yoga poses do twist and stretch your body, but only if that is good for your body. Yoga can have an inspiring and beneficial impact on you and your body without a twist and without an intense stretch. The important aspect of the physical side of yoga is to move your body, mind, and breath in union. That is where we find the magic power of yoga to enhance our health and to explore our lives.
If you are looking for a knowledgeable yoga instructor to help you explore the benefits yoga can have on your mind AND body give Pam a call at 630-653-8152.
Yoga for more mobility and well-being
For most of the people I know who are interested in yoga are interested in the physical practice as a means of enhancing (and sustaining) their balance, flexibility, and mobility now and in the future as they age. They are also intrigued with the breathing as a way to relax and wash away the stress of their busy lives.
Some of my friends and clients tell me of the healing they have experienced by practicing yoga. Migraines are reduced or eliminated. They have been able to stay active and relatively pain-free in spite of injuries to their backs and other joints. And they have seen improvement in their sports performance. They run better, bike better, play basketball better, and golf better.
But most of all, they tell me that when they practice yoga, they
- Move better
- Have fewer aches and pains
- Are stronger
- Have greater peace of mind
- Feel healthier and younger.
Yoga – what a wonderful way to enhance your life!