When someone develops a regular yoga practice, even one as simple as mindful breathing, miracles can happen. For me yoga has been an incredibly personal journey, unfolding seamlessly, restoring my lupus-ravaged body to health, and expanding my consciousness into realms of peace. I have no doubt that it has literally saved my life, and continues to do so everyday.
If you are curious as to how yoga did, and does the miraculous in my life, I’d like to share my story.
Let’s start with a reminder that yoga is so much more than stretching exercises interspersed with the occasional “OM. “ Even in what might be considered more superficial, “fitness yoga” classes, the poses that one holds or flows through in yoga release an incredible power in the body and the mind. 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 focussed 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 mobile library 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 school, doing laundry and momming three active kids. Plus, I felt lousy , and that made it tough to stick with anything. I 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. That meant a lot since my health and marriage were deteriorating rapidly.
At one point during this time I had came 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 contracted. 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 might never return to normal strength and function.
During this time, I had a bed set up in my living room, as getting up and down stairs was not an option. It was there, in that bed, that my yoga practice began in earnest. An Indian friend of mine 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 the mantra meant, 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 if I skipped the morning mantra routine I felt my energy and strength wane. I often would meditate afterwords and do some simple seated yoga poses.
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. After 500 hours of certified training, yoga has become part of me.
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.”
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 online 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.
Kerry Smith is a Yoga Alliance Certified Instructor. She is the founder of Healing Earth Studio and Tulsi Thyme Yoga School. Join her FREE webinar, Finding Peace Within, Wednesday September 11, 7PM EST.
Are you caught up in the intense high paced society of today? Do you sometimes feel like you are pulled in seven different directions all at the same time? When there happens to be a quiet moment does your mind assault you with worries or circular thinking? Does it tell you all the things you haven’t done, but should, or all the ways you are not enough? Does it keep you continually regurgitating a comment someone said to you, or keep you rethinking what you should have said or done? Do your thoughts spark feelings of anxiety, irritability, fear, jealousy, inadequacy, regret, or confusion?
If any (or all) of this relates to you, congratulations! You are in the fundamental human state of mind necessary to propel you into true and lasting peace. I know that may be hard to see when you’re in so much mind kerfuffle. That difficulty in seeing where the mind can be beyond the stress is why the majority of human beings stay stuck in mental chaos for a very long time, if not their whole lives. The good news is, you don’t have to stay stuck. There are concrete and easily accessible tools for stopping the mind chatter, the overwhelming emotions, and all that is blocking you from being the radiance you were created to be. These tools aren’t some flash in the pan fad, but tried and true techniques that have been around for thousands of years. If they didn’t work there is no way they would have lasted.So where do these tools come from?
They come out of the tradition and philosophy of yoga.
For some of you the word yoga may trigger a barrage of reactions. People who voice their reactions usually express things like this: Yoga! I can’t do that. I’m not flexible! My body doesn’t bend like that. It’s against my religion. I’m too fat. I don’t have time. I did yoga once and I hurt myself. I hate wearing tights. I’ll never be a peaced out vegetarian, etc…
The thing is, true yoga has nothing to do with being able to do poses, or flexibility, or body shape, or religion, or what you wear. It has everything to do with the mind. The word Yoga when translated from sanskrit means yolk or union. This refers to a union with one’s Higher Power regardless what the Higher Power is called. The definition of yoga taken from the ancient yogic texts is: “Yoga is the stilling of the thoughts waves of the mind.” (Yoga Sutra 1.2)
The philosophy of yoga gives us a whole pallet of tools to calm the frantic mind. In this free webinar, Finding Peace you will learn:
Why all minds tend towards chaos and need calming.
Why this chaos is not only annoying and distracting, but detrimental to your life purpose.
3 basic strategies anyone can do to bring the mind to a still point, and life into focus.