Never have I been a fan of exercise or playing any game that included a ball. There’s too much sweat involved and if
you know me, you know I sweat bunches and when that happens, I get a teensy bit irritable. Okay, maybe more than a teensy. How much is a “teensy” anyway? I’m thinking that’s another blog.
Even though I don’t like sweat, I joined in the Zumba craze when my sister opened her own fitness studio. Yes, I will admit it, she was a good influence on me, but just this once. I enjoyed the workout even though there was sweat involved. The music and dancing helped to pass the time without calling it “exercise.” I had also learned the value of working out in the gym, helping to keep my weight down, push anxieties away, and be healthier. Like it or not, sweat was in the equation.
When my husband, Jeff, passed away, I found myself alone with my grief. One afternoon after fighting tears all day long, I went to the gym to work off the sadness that followed me around. I did my normal workout and readied to leave. A woman I had been talking to, invited me to stay for the upcoming yoga class. I looked at the clock and realized I had no need to hurry home. No one was waiting for me there.
The yoga class was small and the poses intense for this beginner. I decided rather quickly my body would never twist into the pretzel poses, but the instructor was great and showed me how to modify what they were doing. Before I knew it, the hour was up and it was time to leave. When I reached my car, I realized for the first time since Jeff left, my head was clear and my nerves not frazzled. It was as if a switch had been thrown in my head and I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for the next class.
That was almost five years ago.
Not long before I discovered yoga, I was rushing to an appointment. My hands were full and I stepped up onto a curb when one foot got caught in the hem of the other pant leg. Sounds strange, but stick with me. I went down to the ground and injured my shoulder. As a result, I ended up in physical therapy. I quit going to the gym and ignored the rest of my body’s needs. Before long, my right hip locked up with arthritis and the end result was a hip replacement.
The reason I shared the above sidebar is to explain that a few months ago while I was walking my dog, I stepped off a curb and the same thing happened (gotta get rid of those pants!), only this time, I ran forward and was able to keep my balance. There is no doubt my ability to stay upright was directly related to my yoga practice which focuses on balance as well. I vowed never again to silently curse the instructor when he/she had us do balance practice which is included in every class. There’s a “tree” pose for balance and while my tree sometimes sways, it’s much better rooted than ever before.
So, why am I writing this blog? Because I shied away from yoga for many years. My Christian background tended to steer us away from anything that might include someone else’s spirituality. I can only say this, after five years, I have never had any instructor thrust their beliefs on me or even practice them in class. I have found that once I clear my thoughts, I pray to, meditate on, and worship Jesus throughout the hour on my mat. I leave feeling refreshed and energized. Let’s not be afraid of what we may not know or understand. I’ve seen it over and over in life, judgment of what one does not understand does no one any good.
As I write this blog, my yoga mat beckons me from my living room floor. We’re in the midst of the COVID19 lock down and classes are cancelled, so I left it out to use whenever I felt the need. Thank goodness for You Tube beginner yoga videos. Yep, after five years, I’m still a beginner and proud of it. No pretzel twists for this yogi. Just yesterday, I had a conversation on the phone that unnerved me just a bit. I went to the mat and just did a few poses for about fifteen minutes, focusing on prayer, deep breathing, and stretches. I got up leaving the anxiety behind.
I’ve often wished I’d discovered yoga in my youth, but am grateful for it now. After all, there’s very little sweat involved and you get to take a five minute nap at the end. Why did no one ever tell me that before? If you’ve never taken a yoga class, when the stretching is over, you get to lay down on your mat with a blanket, bolster under your knees, whatever feels good. It’s called “shavasana” and the only bad part is when the instructor says it’s time to get up. Note to self: I’ll bet we could take a collection and talk her into giving us an extra five minutes.
I know my friends get tired of hearing me preach the benefits of yoga, but I’ve had many people ask what it is that I’m doing to lose weight and tone up. “Just yoga,” is my answer (’cause I never miss a meal!). That and I let my hair grow out, but I don’t think it had anything to do with yoga or losing weight.
Yoga practice trains one to focus on your breath for many reasons, but the most important one to me is it enables me to clear my mind and remain in the present. Not worrying about the past or future. Just now. It’s a way to keep my thoughts at bay. You know what I mean. The monkey thoughts that refuse to leave when you’re trying to pray or focus on something important…
So, my friends, while I realize that yoga may not be for everyone, I firmly believe it has been a lifesaver for me. My left hip is still intact and so far, no need for a replacement. Some poses actually help me to hear the arthritis “breaking up” in my old hip and I am convinced it has kept it from advancing. I am grateful for this and all my countless blessings. Namaste.
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27