I love yoga. Every time I leave a yoga class, I feel lighter, more flexible and I become a happier person. (It’s not that I’m a unhappy person but yoga definitely enhances my mood!) I have been practicing for about 7 years and I have watched myself grow physically, emotionally and spiritually through my practice. The more I practice, the more I believe that yoga is an important practice for everyone. (And yes, I mean everyone). I often recommend patients try yoga as a gentle alternative to exercise but it is much more than that. Many people find much more satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment in a yoga class as compared to regular exercise.
First, I want to introduce myself from 10 years ago. I think you should know who I was then because when I talk to people today about yoga (even acupuncture), many people think now the same way I did back then. I was in college, studying science and occasionally going to the gym for exercise. I didn’t believe in all that “energy” silliness and thought people who did were really strange. My mom had just started her journey into yoga at that time and all I knew was that she was singing weird songs in a strange language (Sanskrit) and was able to stand on her head. (I admired that trick but had no interested in achieving it myself) Then I met my husband, who really encouraged me to get into yoga. It was an activity he enjoyed and thought it would be a fun thing for us to do together. Being the beginning of a new relationship, I obliged and learned a few sun salutations. It didn’t do anything for me. I went to a few yoga classes with him now and again, but I wasn’t yet fully committed.
A few years later, I was going to graduate school in Chicago and my mom came to visit. One of our favorite Chicago pastimes was to go shopping at small boutiques around the city. It was at this time that we stumbled into my favorite store, Lululemon Athletica (an athletic clothing store). My mom and I went shopping crazy and somehow, I ended up with a few expensive yoga outfits. When my mom went home, I started feeling horribly guilty about having spent so much money on yoga clothes and not being so consistent with my yoga practice. So I started going to class more often. (I am not proud to admit it, but yes, my love for yoga stemmed from a shopping spree) At first, I went to pay my clothing debt. But after a while, I got into a routine. I found that my yoga practice was becoming less arduous and more joyous. I found that I didn’t have to work so hard to move but rather allowed my body to flow easily. I also learned a lot about breathing. In yoga poses, I was told to breathe into the difficulty, which helped to loosen my muscles and allowed me to hold poses for longer periods of time. I took this idea into my life, and found myself breathing deeply in stressful situations. Over time, I noticed that poses became easier and I saw my progress! Where I once had tight hamstrings, I began to see less soreness after class and I became more flexible!
Most importantly, yoga taught me about surrender, which is a lesson I often share with my patients. (This doesn’t mean giving up. It means doing the best you can at the time and not being wedded to a certain outcome) When I first started practicing, I really wanted to “keep up” with people around me—if they were going to tie themselves up into a pretzel, I wanted to too! I quickly learned that I couldn’t accomplish everything that I wanted to accomplish. So, instead of trying to keep up, I focused on perfecting the poses I could achieve and fine tuning them. I focused on including different muscle groups for simple movements, which completely changed the way I did certain poses. Then one day, I was practicing the preparation for headstand because I knew I couldn’t do it yet. But all of a sudden, I was in headstand! I wasn’t planning on doing it that day and I was in fact a bit scared, but there it was! I was able to surrender to the possibilities rather than just push through, and I was able to excel in my practice. It is lessons like these that I receive through my yoga practice that helps keep me calm and focused in life and I hope to be able to pass this along to my patients.