It was in the bay-window apartment on Buchanan & Market St where my very first foray into yoga began. I'd just moved to San Francisco from Atlanta in 1997 and while there were yoga studios popping up around the city, I was reticent to approach them. I was a yoga virgin and rather than diving into public demonstration of downward dog, I chose a more closeted version...with a book from the library, emphatically calling "Let's Do Yoga!". So there I stood in my living room without even a mat, just me and the Indian guy with the wiry afro in crimson briefs guiding me page by page from one contortion to another. "Let's Do Yoga!" felt more like "Let's Play Twister..solo." As I hit Warrior I, the edge of my back foot 'rooted' down so much I ended up spraining my ankle. It was then that I ended my relationship with the one-dimensional guru.
A couple of years went by with my chosen mode of exercise being trail-running, lifting weights and Reebok step classes (the latter I believe gone extinct with Jazzercise). It was a cocktail of high impact which wore on my already lean body resulting in an excruciating lumbar injury of a bulging disc. After walking with a cane for 3 months and doctors telling me to just 'lie in bed for a few weeks', I finally opted for the cortisone shot. The super anti-inflammatory injected directly into my L4 disc. It sucked the jelly donut disc back into shape. Like an idiot I was out hiking 3 miles within two days of the procedure. But as my body healed I realized I needed to be less like the Tin-man and more like the pliable guru..sans afro. And this time I ventured into a class. When we reached Savasana, the instructor came around with lavender-scented eye pillows and that's when I knew I was entering into a long-term relationship.
Many clients ask what they can do to keep the good juju flowing after a Reiki session and I always tell them MOVE! Movement, more than anything else keeps the good vibes going. When I ask clients if they have a yoga practice, they sheepishly say no, reminding me of our daughter when I ask if she brushed her teeth. There's no judgement around not doing yoga, but if you're still a yoga virgin..here are some eye openers as why you might want to try it:
Embodiment: Yoga is less about contorting the body and more about mindfulness & breath. Each posture guides you based on the dance with inhale & exhale. It allows you time to breathe into areas of your body which has become the pack animal, holding all the accumulated tension and emotion of your life. It allows you to build a relationship with the many facets of your body which have remained unattended.
Empowerment: With each exhale another layer of tension releases and the anger you've been harboring at your boss goes with it. Yoga teaches you how to release emotional and physical tension which empowers you in your own wellbeing and saves you money on pain relievers and massage therapists!
Play: The balancing poses in yoga allow us to play! Remember when we were kids at recess? We couldn't wait for the opportunity to get upside-down as quickly as possible. As adults we think falling means failing. Yoga reprograms us with a willingness to play and release our judgements on what falling means.
Full Belly: Yoga also reprograms us how to breathe from our bellies. Society teaches us to suck our stomachs in, inhibiting our breath from a richer place. Yoga encourages breath from that vibrant 2nd chakra and the mula bandha..I won't frighten you with details of what this is, but once you gain access, it's pretty potent!
Loosen up: Yoga loosens the fascia, which is connective tissue surrounding the muscles, blood vessels and nerves. As this occurs it liberates the organs and and improves blood and nerve supply allowing for flexibility and even mental clarity. And it's still a wonderful form of exercise!
I'll end with that, but as you can imagine there are many more reasons to create a relationship with yoga. And with yoga studios as ubiquitous as Starbucks the venture isn't far.
How has yoga changed your life? Tell me about it in the comments below!