Usually after a workout hiatus, I am more than ready to hit the gym, get sweaty and return to my normal routine. But this time was different. The harsh realities of life had left me not only weak in body, but also in spirit — and the last thing I wanted to do was bust out a set of squats. I turned toward yoga, not with any physical objective, but to simply regain my piece of mind.
My first few ventures on the mat were half-hearted; I truly didn’t care if I regained my lost muscle or former level of fitness. I performed the posture for the sake of the posture and nothing else. I found that not having a goal was liberating; after weeks of being sedentary, it felt good just to move and breathe.
I started to look forward to the next session, not as a workout, but as a way to stay grounded. My practice became meditative and I tuned in to the minutiae of each pose. Under the tutelage of an instructor, postures that previously baffled me became easier — a lot easier, and my flexibility surprised me.
My body responded immediately. I felt strong, energized and better than I had in years. My neck muscles (which are constantly tight) loosened up, my joints didn’t ache, and my body felt lithe and supple. The muscles in my arms and legs became more defined, my butt started to perk up, I became more aware of my posture and my core got crazy strong.
While the changes to my physical body were fantastic, the changes that took place inside were that much better. The gentle practice of yoga left me feeling emotionally balanced and more confident, compassionate and patient — not only toward others, but also toward myself.
In addition to twice-a-week studio sessions, I practiced at home, but only for 20 or 30 minutes a day. The only other form of exercise I did was to walk my dog.
Yoga is not a cure all for everything. Practicing every day will not make life easier; all the same ups and downs will still be there. What it can do is give you the unshakable certainty that the inner you — the one not encumbered by a physical body — can handle whatever comes your way.
Do you maintain a regular practice? There are eight limbs of yoga, only one of which requires physical postures. Add a little pranayama, dharana or dhyana to your life and see where yoga can take you! —Karen