So I could write about 10 fabulous benefits of yoga and why you should be doing it. But since yoga is such a craze now, you’ve probably heard something similar already, perhaps many times over, and if I’m going to be truly honest I can’t say for sure what benefits you or any other given person may derive from engaging in a regular yoga practice. For me yoga was, and is an incredibly personal journey that unfolded seamlessly, restoring my lupus-ravaged body to health, and expanding my consciousness into realms of peace. I have no doubt that it literally saved my life, and continues to do so everyday.
So if you haven’t stopped reading this to run for the hills, perhaps you are curious as to how yoga did, and does the miraculous in my life. I’ll start with the semi-obvious fact that yoga is so much more than stretching exercises interspersed with the occasional OM. There are classes out there that basically seem to be just that, however, the poses that one holds or flows through in yoga release an incredible power in the body and the mind, and these poses represent just a tiny fraction of the whole of this magnificent mind-body-spirit science.
According to one of the most currently revered yogic ancient texts, The Yoga Sutra by Patanjali the poses are only one step on the yogic eight fold path. When Yogis from the Hindu and Buddhist cultures of the Himalayas deemed it time to share the ancient teachings of yoga with Western culture they perceived that it was through the physical poses that yoga would be able to be taught, understood and spread throughout the West, and they were not wrong.
I started yoga on my own in Junior High School without knowing that I was doing it.
I devised for myself a routine of breathing and stretching that I practiced every night before I got into bed. I called this stretching out, but it went much deeper. I’d hold certain poses for many minutes and focus on my breath, totally enthralled with the deep meditative state this brought me into.
When I was older and living in a rural setting, every other week I’d take my children to the bookmobile outside the tiny local postoffice. There I discovered a yoga video by Eric Shiffman that I’m sure spent more time in my house than any other in the county, as I was constantly checking it out and/or renewing it. I didn’t do the video everyday. Sometimes I was lucky if I did it once a week between teaching and laundry and three active kids, etc. I still had never been to a live yoga class, but the video not only made me feel challenged and good physically, it brought me joy and serenity which was saying a lot as my health and marriage were deteriorating rapidly.
At one point during this time I had been sent home from the hospital weighing seventy-nine pounds. My liver was under autoimmune attack and my body was in a cachexic state where all my fat and muscles were being consumed even though I was eating like crazy. I couldn’t get my right heel to the floor when I walked because my calf muscle was so obliterated. A good doctor friend of mine, who had the habit of saying out loud everything he thought, told me that if I managed to make it through this bout of illness my legs were never coming back to normal strength and function.
I had a bed set up in the living room as getting up and down stairs was not an option, and it was there in that bed that my yoga practice began in earnest. An Indian friend of ours named Lolli was one of the many natural health practitioners who showed up to be on my healing team, and he gave me a long mantra to say eleven times every day after I had bathed and put on clean white clothes. I had no idea what mantra was, or that it was a yogic practice, or how to say the words, but Lolli patiently taught me and assured me it would bring me energy and restore my life. I sat on my bed and did it faithfully. I felt incredible energy from the practice, and on mornings that for some reason I didn’t do the mantra my energy and strength waned. I often would meditate afterwords and do some simple seated yoga poses, and against all odds I not only survived, I thrived.
My body is stronger and healthier now than perhaps it’s ever been, and I know it is mostly due to the daily yoga I’ve incorporated into my life.
Now I am learning and teaching yoga on a daily basis, because yoga is and yoga does. It never stops. I am so grateful it has unlocked my passion for teaching health, wellness, ayurveda and yoga.
The wisdom of yoga is infinite, cutting across layers upon layers of built up excuses, fantasies about who we’re “supposed to be” and feelings of inadequacy or superiority. It is a total mind- body-soul exploration.
It opens doors one barely dares to dream of.
It gives one super powers such as allowing one to, as Antoine de St. Exupery puts it, see clearly, to see rightly, to see what is essential, which is invisible to the eye.
And the great thing is, Yoga is compatible with any ideology, religion or faith, giving one tools to deepen one’s spiritual tradition, or non-tradition. Yoga opens the door to one’s true Self, that which one is created to be. It is a personal journey. I encourage you to start or continue that journey. Find a teacher you like, take some classes, find a video, read some yogic texts, join an on line group, take an in depth training.
Once you allow yoga to open the door to your true Self enough to give you a glimpse of your vastness there is no turning back. Every aspect of your life will improve.