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.
- My beloved yoga practice was always with the breath. It was within the restrictions.
- Yoga gave me similar feelings to a long run.
- 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.
- I learned to forgive and have repaired broken relationships.
- I learned to love myself.
- I learned to express love to others, and feel real joy.
- I connected with myself, and experience less reactivity.
- I have become more present.
- I have discovered the joys and benefits of meditation.
- 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