More Yogi Inspiration
in 2006, my vehicle was struck by a drunk driver. All I remember is a truck's headlights in my rear view mirror, someone handing me a phone to talk to my fiance, and later him pushing people aside in the hospital to reach me while my mom held my hand. Not quite life flashing before my eyes but a very cinematic memory. Doctors warned the likelihood of a full recovery and ability to walk unassisted were slim due to knee damage. I became so focused upon physical recuperation - every morning I practiced pranayama breathing and seated half moon from my wheelchair. As soon as I regained mobility and permission to return to yoga, I crept up the stairs back to the hot room. Thankfully my amazing teachers had modifications to guide me on a knee that could bear no weight.
As much as I thought my accident taught me to appreciate every moment, it was yoga that made me realize I could push too much. My anxiety about disappointing work, my family, friends, being a victim motivated me to push (and push and push). Although I physically made great strides in mobility, I suffered from constant headaches and memory loss due to a head injury. Knowing how much yoga helped me physically, I was convinced it could help me mentally. After consulting with my doctors again, I made decision to request leave from work to attend "Yoga Camp" (Bikram Yoga College of India) in 2008 - unplug and give my inner self time to heal as I forced my physical self to do years earlier. Thankfully my work allowed this leave. Upon my return, I felt like I left a caterpillar and returned a butterfly - but there was still a lot of fluttering. Yoga became an addiction, I had to have my daily fix and it really stressed me if I couldn't make it to class. Where's the peace in that?
Yoga offers me abundant joy - lessons in empathy, forgiveness, gratitude, and love. My yoga practice is my happy place and my heart sings when my children show me tree pose, remind me to breathe, or sit in stillness (even if I can count that moment on one hand).
Prior to the brain injury, I suffered from chronic low back pain, psoriasis, and canker sores in my mouth. My posture wasn’t great as I tended to shift my wait towards the outside of my feet. You could see how my shoes wore unevenly! A friend introduced me to hot yoga at Bikrams in 2002. I left my first class after warriors pose! However, that wasn’t my last attempt. I continued to dabble with it occasionally, but sadly not on a regular basis.
But now with this health scare I was determined to make a full commitment to yoga. I was a husband and father and I knew I had to improve my health and heal my body. I started to attend classed on a regular basis, attending 3,4 or 5 times weekly and have made it part of my daily routine for the last 10 years.
The benefits of a regular practice are many. Physically, I am so much better. At 56 I am more flexible now than I was at 16. My skin has healed, the psoriasis has disappeared, and I haven’t has a canker sore in years. My lower back pain is virtually non-existent, my hips are more balanced and my shoes wear evenly now! I feel more grounded and more calm since committing to my practice.
Life was grand....country living on a lake with four seasons of recreational activities at hand year round. A wonderful family life with all you could ask for and then disaster hit. A tragic car accident involving my husband changed living from a world of colour to a world of darkness. A journey of care-giving survival took me down a 30 year trek before it ended in a care home facility. Throughout these years I tried to maintain myself as best I could physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually without neglecting the needs of my family. It was a fine line to find enough time to balance out each of these disciplines so that I could maintain all round good health.
In November 2012 I found that true balance all in one package when I agreed to try yoga. Katrina was the pioneer in our family who broke the way for my yoga experience. She invited me to her very first 90 minute Bikram hot yoga class that she taught. At 64 years old I didn’t have any vision whatsoever for myself practising yoga but I attended to support her. By the third class I was hooked telling her “you are not getting rid of me!” I have never looked back. Fast forwarding to today I will be celebrating my 71st birthday on April Fool’s Day with almost 7 years of yoga experience behind me. For me yoga brought everything in one bundle. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health benefits that I was looking for all happened synergistically without even being aware that anything was taking place. To my surprise even at my age the benefits of yoga became evident. Without effort my diet and lifestyle also started to change. I lost pounds without even trying and I noticed I became more aware of myself and how to manage my life without feeling like I was looking through a kaleidoscope. It touched on all aspects of my life:
Physically – balance, strength, flexibility, cardiovascular, weight loss, healthier eating
Mentally – concentration, focus, endurance, resilience, mind-body awareness
Emotionally – acceptance, self awareness, self respect, self-care, forbearance,
Spiritually – awareness, gratitude, patience, commitment, servitude
Yoga is an on-going experience for my personal growth. I am finding the benefits of regular practice show up in all areas of my life. I can’t say enough of how yoga has positively impacted me and the only regret I have is that I wasn’t introduced to it sooner.
Yoga keeps my back pain at bay. It helps me to realign my shoulders and hips. My good posture is dependent on my practice. It also has taught me so much more. The hot room has equipped me with the tools to combat the ups and downs of life; it has left me with patience, gratitude and perseverance. Despite practicing for over 10 years, I am nowhere near perfect. A big part of yoga is putting your ego and expectations aside and truly listening to your body. This lesson reverberates through every part of my being and my yoga journey will continue for the entirety of my life.
About four years ago now, in the very early days of my recovery journey, I was introduced to Yoga. During the second session, I was doing a "Shavasana" - the laying down posedown usually at the end of class; where I felt like I had been touched by God, I had a massive surge & shift of energy and consciousness; the world around me was literally glowing. It was incredibly powerful beyond words. I knew at this instance that what I had experienced was profound. It was an awakening, an opening; realizing that there was more to this Yoga than stretching and hot yoga pants. I began to enjoy and practice Yoga on a regular basis from this moment on. Recovery is a process of ups and downs, success and failures, revelations and releases, boundless joy and overwhelming pain - sometimes all before lunchtime.
Yoga is my entire life. It has inspired every pivotal movement I have made throughout the most shapely years of my 20s. Yes, my body was met with kindness and ease that I loved, that offered relief from tension and balanced the pain, BUT what I found to be most intriguing and rewarding was a language that finally described the inner dialogue of my heart and soul. I felt at peace in my mind for the first time ever. As a woman in her early 20s with no “direction” other than the taboo way of “following her heart”, this practice spoke to a part of me that had never been met by the outside world, a part of me that I hid for fear of being different and unaccepted as who I was [AM].
Longing to know more after that first class, I signed up for a 200 hour teacher training with little intention of actually becoming a teacher--although I did LOVE the idea of working creatively for myself and getting away with wearing sweats as a uniform. My true intention was to learn about myself and discover a sense of purpose or meaning within my life; there had to be more to all of “this” that I was not being told. To my delight, I felt like I had finally found my place in the world.
After taking a few different classes, I quickly noticed the physical benefits of Yoga. To give a better understanding; leading up to this point, I had been plagued with several injuries; including a reoccurring back injury. At times this back injury had left me basically immobilized for days and forced me to book off work. As a result, I was going to the chiropractor, massage therapy and acupuncture, sometimes all three in a week for treatment.
It wasn’t until about nine months of practicing that I noticed my back injury had not flared up and I hadn’t booked a single appointment for either chiro, massage or acupuncture in that time. The physical benefits to yoga became evident very early on in my practice.
Perhaps the greatest gifts I have received from practicing yoga has been the mental and spiritual challenges, rewards and growth that I’ve made over the last two years. Yoga has allowed me to practice patience, surrender, acceptance, and humility to name a few. Yoga is one of only a few places that I’m able to use for meditation. It’s a place where I can get away from all the chaos of the world to quiet my mind.