Back when I didn’t know a thing about yoga, just the word itself would conjure up images in my mind. Mostly of New Age-y people wearing chakra jewelry and chanting Om while twisting themselves into pretzels.
I was intrigued by yoga and knew it was an ancient practice that undoubtedly had some sound health benefits. And everyone from Madonna to Sting to my son’s second grade teacher gushed on and on about how it’s changed their life. Still, I was skeptical.
I could never imagine myself in all my klutzy glory even attempting a single pose, let alone practicing regularly. And now a mere couple of Downward Dog years later, I have become one of those wackadoodle people telling everyone I know that yoga is life-changing.
How can some simple poses and stretches do that? First, I’ll introduce you to the old pre-yoga “can barely bend over to tie her shoes lest her back snap like a twig” Darla. I’ll take you back to that first day my husband dusted off an old Yoga DVD he bought me (and I failed to hide adequately). He dared (okay, begged) me to try it while I was 4 months pregnant with my second child.
On a typical day, I am a nervous, high-strung, OCD-ish, dangerously bordering on neurotic person. Being pregnant only magnified these lovely traits. I was in a state of constant emotional flux, with my heart and mind racing into a million different directions at once.
I was 36, I knew this would be my last baby and I wanted to savor being pregnant and truly enjoy it this time around. I needed to chill. I wanted to chill. Could stretching a little and some deep breathing do that for me?
It was time to try.
After I glanced around to make sure no one was watching and drew the drapes, I popped the DVD in, rolled out my yoga mat and prepared myself for a painful and uncomfortable experience.
A breathy, much too calm voice filled the room. I heard the words “asana” and “namaste” and giggled. I breathed in and raised my arms. I breathed out and my arms came down. This isn’t so bad, I thought. Breathing? Easy! Innn and ouuuuut. Stretching? Piece of cake!
Then the first pose: Mountain pose. Okay, I thought, I can do that. It’s basically just standing. Oh yeah, I am so good at standing. I nailed it.
Feeling confident, the next day I decided to do some cat-rolling. After all, I was a mountain yesterday, how hard can this be? After much eye-rolling at the yoga DVD’s command to “tuck my tail” I felt something. No, not my back popping, but something else: Release. My mind was clear, my body, light. How strange, this new sensation. It felt, well, damn good. I breathed in and let the peace enter. I arched, I tucked.
And I kept at it, getting into a routine. Breathe deep, stretch and reach, let peace come.
After several months, I noticed that I was getting quite good at the poses which were so hard in the beginning. Look at me! I can do upward dog! And I’m not in agony! And hey, it actually feels good! My body is stretching, my spine is aligning or lengthening or whatever spines are supposed to do! I can do this!
After many months of practice, I noticed huge changes. I was calmer. My mind was quieter. I was more patient with my kids (even my husband). I slept more soundly. I ate healthier. I wasn’t constantly sick and run-down with a cold. I enjoyed the moment more. I felt good in my body. This klutzy old achy body had become something I could now admire and treasure.
What did yoga do for me? It changed my life.
When I first began, it wasn’t a big constant in my life, but I knew I enjoyed it. So I made sure to sneak the time in here and there. I continued to do yoga all through my pregnancy. Granted, I never tried any “you’ve got to be freaking kidding me” poses and I did them at my own slow pace. But I grew to love yoga. I even (gasp) started looking forward to doing yoga each day. It became a vital, relaxing and happy part of my day. This from someone who normally starts then ditches an exercise routine after a few months.
Today, I practice almost every single day for a half hour. I yell to the kids and the hubby, “it’s yoga time!” and I roll out my mat. It’s really “Me” time. It’s the time to center myself and feel the spirit inside my body at peace. Get into that groove.
I am constantly amazed at the poses I can do now that I never thought were possible. Just an inch or two here, reaching just ever so slightly more each time…eventually I get there. I keep trying and trying. Sometimes I feel myself wobble. I might even tip over and fall. I try again. Next time it might be easier. With this practice I notice that I am gentler with myself and much more forgiving.
My confidence level from doing difficult poses has soared and this has spilled over into all aspects of my life. I feel this strange calmness inside of me, that little voice that used to be so negative now whispers that I can do anything if I simply keep trying.
Who knows? Maybe one day I will be able to do the elusive crane pose (I tried it once and ended up face-planting) but for now I’m happy with up/down dog, triangle, plank, warrior, child’s pose…add a namaste and a bow and I’m good to go.
I read a quote somewhere that said after a few years of practicing yoga, one of two things can happen; either you’ll have given it up or your life will be changed.
Well, I haven’t given up yet.