I’ve often wondered about yoga. For the most part, in my little world at least, it has fallen into the category of exercise, so while I was fascinated by it I wasn’t actually going to do it. The hot yoga or Bikram craze was particularly unsettling. Who in their right mind would want to hold their body in strange positions that make your muscles scream in a room heated to 105 degrees filled with a boatload of groaning people dripping with sweat for 90 minutes at a time? NOT ME.
For the last 6 months the very thought of adding ONE. MORE. THING. to my life was enough to make me want to close the blinds, lock the doors, switch my phone off and hide behind the sofa with at least one cat, possibly two, with my hands over my ears singing “La la la la la la”. Then I was thrown off the merry-go round in a most unladylike fashion and had to take stock.
I needed something to help me relax, stretch my muscles, increase flexibility, and most of all quieten my mind. Once the frenetic pace of my life stopped back in late January I found things about yoga popping up in front of me constantly. Everywhere I looked I saw yoga, and when things start to consistently appear in my life like that I generally sit up and pay attention. Plus, you know, The Bailornator does yoga, and since I hang on his every word – or at least an awful lot of them – I thought I should at minimum take a peek to see if it might benefit me. My therapist beamed when I mentioned to him that I was thinking about yoga. That made 2 out of the 3 most influential people in my life giving yoga the thumbs up. I took it all as a sign. Contrary to my long-bestowed label of ‘exercise’, one of yoga’s primary benefits is the alleviation of stress, and heaven knows I needed some of that. Turns out that practicing yoga helps control your body and your mind. Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines resulting in a peaceful body and mind, stress management, and relaxation. It helps increase flexibility, muscle strength and body tone. It improves respiration, energy, vitality, and sleep. Yes! Please! I could get on-board with all of that.
At first, being the shy, retiring type, I gravitated towards DVDs that I could use at home, alone with only a handful of four-legged friends to snicker at my antics, but as with doing my eccentrics I realized that there is power in putting it out there and committing to joining a class. A class also offers the right environment for yoga – everyone is doing the same thing, lights turned down, soft music playing, and there’s nothing to disrupt the flow. I can only imagine how many seconds I’d be lying on the floor or holding some intricate pose before Mr. McHenry or Dougal felt obligated to wander over to see if I was OK, try and get under the mat, climb on my lap, or swing on my pony tail. Shutting them out of the room would be an option except then I’d have 12 little furry feet poking under the door or frantically pawing at it like the house was on fire. Since the gym where I do my eccentrics offers a restorative yoga class one evening a week at no cost to members, I was all in. Restorative yoga focuses on holding poses and breathing rather than doing anything energetic.
My first class was a revelation. MY BRAIN WAS QUIET FOR 75 MINUTES ! ! ! ! ! ! ! I am certain I am remembering accurately when I say that is the first time that has ever happened, other than when I am on a road-trip – driving solo through the wilds of Montana or Wyoming, Utah, California or some other wondrous landscape; outside of that my brain is always working on something, and it was high time it stopped for a re-boot.
What I’ve found since doing a yoga class every week is that I am able to consciously turn my brain off with more and more ease whenever I feel the need. Shutting my brain off regularly gives me more clarity, more peace, more creativity, and more brainpower when it’s on. It’s like everything else that’s *SANE – quality, not quantity is what gets us the results we’re after. Yoga has enabled me to effectively rest my brain, which has lead to more high-quality thinking and less low-quality thinking.
On the physical side I’ve found my flexibility increasing rapidly, as well as an improvement in muscle tone. Given that I am doing eccentric exercises weekly I can’t tell whether yoga is contributing to my muscle strength or not, but even if it’s not, I’m mighty happy with all the other things it has brought to my life.
Now that I have been to several classes and the poses are not so new to me, on evenings when I feel like I could use a little rejuvenation and relaxation I’ll spend 10 minutes doing some yoga right here at home.
It always helps.
PS. As with anything new involving your body, it’s wise to check with your Dr. before starting yoga as it is not without risks to some people with certain health conditions.