Love Affair with Yoga

During my recent yoga mat giveaway, I asked you to share what you love about yoga, or why you wanted to start practicing.  Here are a few of your responses.

"Yoga brings me into the moment. I can let go of what has passed and free myself of concern for the future and in doing so find peace and strength."

"Yoga helped me transform from a broken, bitter sufferer to a healthy happy thriver..."

"Yoga helps me be calm and in touch with my authentic self..."

"I float to my car after wall yoga. Never have I been so relaxed and at peace. Each class takes me to a different space in my practice."

After so many of you took the time to share your heartfelt feelings about the practice, I thought it was only fair to share a bit of my story with you, so here it goes.

I started practicing yoga around the year 2000.  At the time, I was a bit of a gym rat, taking classes and lifting weights for 2-3 hours several days a week.  When the gym offered yoga, I decided I might as well check it out.  

At first, I attended out of convenience.  It was something to do between work and kickboxing.  My teacher was warm and encouraging, and I love her.  I felt comfortably challenged, and enjoyed the feeling I got at the end of class.  After class, I stayed with the yoga buzz for about 5 minutes, then we spent the next hour learning to hit each other.  Oh well, not even a little enlightened, but it was a start.

When I gave up the kickboxing for marathon training with the Team in Training, yoga came with me.  I increased my mileage way too quickly, never warmed up or cooled down, but practiced yoga on my off days.  I'm pretty sure yoga is the only reason I came through that 26.2 miles injury free.  I began to notice that I could treat my long slow runs much like the moving meditation that I practiced in yoga class.  I maintained a regular yoga practice since I first stepped on the mat.  

Several years later, I was sitting in a cardiologist's office.  Although my heart appeared "stone cold normal", I had tested positive for the genetic condition, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.  It has killed my father, grandfather, and given my baby sister a defibrillator.  Since I work in the field of cardiac electrophysiology, I knew exactly what I was up against.

Despite my knowledge, as a vegan runner in her 30's, I was not ready to hear the news.  I was less thrilled with the cardiologist's activity restriction "you can do whatever you want, as long as it is at a conversational pace".  Since the condition regularly kills marathon runners, the running clearly had to go.  After much contemplation, I realized a few things.

  1. My beloved yoga practice was always with the breath.  It was within the restrictions.
  2. Yoga gave me similar feelings to a long run.
  3. Yoga may have been the very thing that would keep my heart normal, and reduce the risk of disease progression.

My 2 times a week practice became quite regular.  My husband and family noticed the improvements that I was experiencing, and encouraged me to continue.  When my husband suggested teaching, I couldn't have been happier.  

During teacher training and my ongoing study of yoga, I have made several improvements.

  1. I learned to forgive and have repaired broken relationships.
  2. I learned to love myself.
  3. I learned to express love to others, and feel real joy.
  4. I connected with myself, and experience less reactivity.
  5. I have become more present.
  6. I have discovered the joys and benefits of meditation.
  7. I have reduced pain, increased strength and flexibility.

I may never know to what extent, but one way or another, I love yoga because it has saved my life.  Maybe literally, and maybe just because of all of the benefits that I have experienced due to my practice.  I love my students, my blog, my teachers, and myself.  I love yoga because it is who I am.  It is a part of me that can never be taken away.  I hope that through this blog and my teaching, that I can give these gifts to someone else.  

If you are considering starting or attempting to maintain a regular yoga practice, I encourage you to do whatever it takes to make that happen.  This Valentine's Day, begin your love affair with yoga.  You'll be happy that you did.

Namaste - Beth