It can help you too!
I took my first yoga class when I was 43-years-old. That’s considered old for someone who would try bending into a pretzel and standing on her hands. But I had worked out my whole life and was really interested in trying something new and different.
In all the other workout modalities, I was fairly inconsistent in terms of sticking with something every week. You know…one month on, two months off…can you relate? After my first yoga class I thought, "Wow! I feel amazing. I’m coming back." And I kept going back, week after week and in almost 10 years, I haven’t taken a break for more than a week.
While I teach yoga to many vacationers at a local resort, I do just the opposite when I’m on vacation. I like to rest. But when I’m home, I am consistently practicing yoga – sometimes more aggressively than others, but almost always. I’m now smack dab in the middle of life and still enjoying my yoga.
Yoga has helped me live life in such a way that I am in a perpetual state of joy and peace. It’s a discipline though, so I don’t want to say it’s a piece of cake, but the benefits of practice far outweigh the effort to engage my mind and body religiously.
More specifically, yoga has:
-deepened my awareness of my true nature. In yoga class, I was always encouraged to connect with my heart’s longings, my most creative self. This has led me to teaching yoga but more importantly, to appreciate my own gifts, talents and desires. I am able to freely express all of these with confidence because I understand how unique and special I really am.
-kept me physically strong and flexible. In hatha yoga, we use muscular energy, engaging and sometimes fatiguing the muscles which adds to our strength. This is good for the bones and keeps our bodies toned. We use organic energy to expand which increases flexibility and gives us more freedom to move with ease. Having a combination of both provides balance to the muscular-skeletal system and releases energetic pathways necessary for proper circulation and cell function. This is important for enjoying a healthy midlife.
-provided emotional stability. The practice of exercise is good for the seratonin levels which regulate mood. But I am also more aware of my mood. Practicing awareness of your given state of mind is so helpful because at least when you know how you’re feeling, you can choose to make adjustments to your thoughts or situation and make positive changes. We really have more control over our own situations than we realize.
-made me kinder. In hatha yoga, we take the harshness out of the body by softening with the breath. While it’s great to expend energy, we can lose control if we don’t balance that with this idea of softness. Same thing in life. Too often people are harsh with their words and reactions which ultimately lead to relationship trouble. I want to treat people the way I want to be treated – with respect and kindness – not harsh or defensive words.
-taught me to be more responsive than reactive. In yoga we pause in postures and reflect. We analyze and formulate positive change in our expressions. Off the mat that translates into thinking before you speak. Or connecting with reality before making judgments. This has helped tremendously with my family relationships. The people we are closest to are the ones in which we tend to lose our control. But these are the very people with whom we want to stay close and enjoy. My husband and children feel safe around me because they know I’m not going to lash out or be defensive.
-encouraged me to eat better. Gaining a bigger awareness and better appreciation for your body through hatha yoga requires that you look at how you consume food and beverages. Some food gives you energy, some depletes it. It’s good to know what’s going to bolster your body with good nutrition and what will tear it apart. Today I eat much healthier which helps to keep my weight at a healthy level and my arteries unclogged.
There is a lot more that I could go into regarding how yoga helps me, but I will save that for another essay. In the meantime, I hope this has been an encouragement for anyone who has ever thought to take a yoga class. It’s never too late. I have students in their late 70′s attending my classes because when they leave, they feel refreshed, relaxed and renewed. It’s a healing art and one which can be started anytime. For those of us in mid-life, I can’t think of a better time to gain a new awareness and utilize yoga as a tool for health and wellness.