Updated: Apr 2, 2020
I didn't attend my first yoga class until I was 43 years old. My boys and I were exploring a number of different fitness classes and were enjoying a number of different sports. Our local YMCA was offering a #yoga class that fit our schedule well, so the three of us joined an afternoon class, largely attended by senior citizens who were seeking more gentle stretching. This was during a time of my life where I had committed all my time to #self-care if effort to heal from past traumas and a life completely out of balance.
Yoga Pulled Me Out of My Trauma Back Into My Body
The #mat allowed me to slow down. It was possibly the first time in decades where I had turned inward, giving awareness to my own body. Quickly I became aware of how much I adored fitness as a teen. I had spent every day in the gym, attending various classes and lifting weights. I was a gymnast for most of my childhood, even into high school, and was a member of the dance team. It seemed lifetimes ago, but I had forgotten how much I truly loved movement. I had even forgotten my intent when starting my studies at Purdue University was to own and manage my own gym and become a personal trainer. However, life derailed those plans and the past few decades had become my trying to heal the hurt in others and fixing the injustices of the world.
Yoga Created for Me Much Needed Personal Space
Several months prior to first stepping on the mat, I had endured several traumatic experiences in a very short period of time. I closed my midwifery and #functionalmedicine practice as a result, completely burnt out. I submersed myself in talk therapy and #EMDR with the most amazing therapist. I began watercoloring, devoting hours to #journaling, and dug in the dirt daily whether in my own outside garden or my growing houseplant collection. These times gave me the space I needed to reconnect with myself.
On the mat, I began to really check in with myself and ultimately started to sense a profound peace when I left the mat. It was unlike the peace one gets following a good workout, which is really more about gratefulness to have completed the task and survived the challenge. This was more a sense of #worth. I felt loved when I left my mat. When I practiced yoga, I was showing up for myself. I was treating myself with kindness. I was listening to the needs of my body. I didn't push too hard or work to complete exhaustion. I respected my #boundaries and it was on the yoga mat where, I think, I started to trust myself again.
Yoga Taught Me I Could Be My Own Savior
I had devoted a great deal of time to #toxicrelationships over my lifetime, and had lost any ability to trust my decision making with regards to people and relationships. While I had a strong intuitive sense, I over thought and lost my way. I believe in people. I want to heal those who are hurting and broken. I want people to feel loved and valued so walking away from someone behaving badly was beyond my comprehension. I empathized so greatly, I lacked all #self-compassion.
I had an incredible faith in the Lord, but I believe now, this only intensified a #disembodiment for me. I focused entirely externally and never on my own needs. I didn't feel I was worthy of anything as even my own salvation came only through grace. I didn't deserve it. When I felt overwhelmed, abandoned, and hurt, I would remind myself that I could prioritize myself after this "next thing" was resolved. My needs were always around the next corner, after everyone else's. This included sleep, eating, exercise, and even basic rights such as respect and kindness. My therapist asked me at one point what my rights were, and I literally said, "none." I had completely martyred myself.
While on my mat, I felt productive which allowed my mind to rest a bit. I was somewhat fooled in believing I was devoting this time to strengthening my body, but as I allowed the world to pause as I focused on my asana practice, I gained so much more. My mind found a calmness I am not sure I've ever known previously. It is quite possible that this was the first time since toddlerhood, that my nervous system had rested enough that my #parasympathetic system was actually dominant. I reconnected with my heart.
Recognizing My Own Disembodiment was My Turning Point
It is hard to articulate #disembodiment because you don't really recognize it until you become a bit more embodied. I felt a sense of stability almost entirely because I had a successful career. I didn't feel bitterness about my traumatic pass, and believed my willingness to forgive released me from its burden. I had great compassion towards other people, and trusted that my heart was good, so those intentions gave me a great sense of security when I checked in on myself. I did not recognize my inability to sit in stillness, my inability to protect my #boundaries or even recognize them until they had been trampled upon, or my expanding waist line was all evidence of living in a state of fight-or-flight. Having to be on guard all the time, to protect myself and others, meant it wasn't safe to go inside and connect with my heart and body. My sympathetic nervous system was completely taxed.
Yoga is a Full-Spectrum Wellness Tool
Yoga nourished my body, mind, and spirit. Physically, I saw changes in my body quickly, more-so it freedom of movement off the mat. I had no awareness of how tight I was or even how much I had general aches and pains, but the more I practiced, the more I could really start to move my upper body. I gained a great deal of strength and endurance as well, which I hadn't recognized was lacking. Mentally, my frantic brain began to release anxieties. Not only was meditation important for me, but so was tapping for my newly discovered anxieties. Emotionally, I could recognize my own thoughts and feelings before I was hurt and angry. I could hear my #intuition before my sympathetic nervous system was yelling, "Danger!"
Yoga is Much More Grand Than One Might Imagine
I had somehow stored away a cautionary flag regarding yoga. I always sensed it would probably resonate with me, but somewhere along the way, I picked up a misconception that yoga could border on the occult and contradict my Christian beliefs. I knew I needed to approach it with thoughtfulness, but then as the years progressed, it seemed yoga became so mainstream that the general consensus was that you were safe if you only engaged in the physical side of yoga.
The yoga teacher training course I chose was with a Christian woman, who teaches yoga at a Christian seminary. I felt this might give me a unique perspective into yoga and I was eager to explore this new journey. We did chant. We also burned incense. We even danced together, enjoying #Kundalini yoga. The fundamental teaching of yoga was the breathe, move, and feel. There was no competition, no judgement, and nothing for me to prove. Yoga provided space for me to just be. I was invited to explore a number of yoga values, but that exploration was one I was in control of as the goal again, was self-exploration - becoming my best self, determined exclusively by me. Yoga explored how I cared for myself, my thoughts, my feelings, my devotions, how I approached the world, my traumas, my diet, my sleeping pattern, my relationships - it was a journey into myself.
Yoga Supports Whatever Spiritual Belief You Embrace
There is no contradiction between yoga and Christianity, or even Buddism and Christianity, which was very enlightening for me. The focus of yoga is inward. The focus of Christianity is upward. One must love themself before they can love others, and one must love themself before they can feel loved by their Lord. Yoga simply holds one accountable to their chosen spiritual practice and offers you that moment of self-awareness that many religions don't, as this might divert attention away from worship.
Yoga builds your sense of worth. It fills your cup so when you give, you recognize the scriptural teachings are to give from your overflow. In effort to be of use in this world, one must care for their temple. We must guard and protect our temple. Giving to others is from an overflow. When we lack healthy boundaries and are disembodied, we are not protecting our temple. Practicing yoga, even in its spiritual teachings, allows me to be a better Christian. I read that praying is my speaking to the Lord. Meditation is listening.
Yoga has become My Sacred Companion
It is true, I will probably encourage every client from here forward to try yoga and to try #meditation. I do feel some sense of guilt for not having yoga in my tool belt before now. I also recognize the plethora of health benefits, including how it reaches aspects of our brain that other activities aren't able, including talk therapies. It is right up there with breastmilk and coconut oil, folks! It might just fix everything. Yoga is truly accessible to everyone. It is about so much more than flexibility and even physical health. I'll share more of that into the future.
Yoga has provided me a safe place. Even when my world is in turmoil, I can come to my mat and connect, #grounding myself. Yoga reminds me that I am loved, worthy, and that I too, have rights. As I have come to recognize all that it has offered me (after lengthy and intense therapy from my most amazing therapist), I have become rather passionate about sharing this wonderful practice with others. Now I am a certified yoga teacher. Not sharing the gems I've collected along the way would only be selfish. Let the nourishing begin.