Why I practice Yoga
I came to yoga at a time of great personal pain and struggle. I was newly sober and just digging into emotional healing from childhood trauma. My m.o. was to dissociate and anesthetize my emotions, my trauma, and, really, any struggle I was presented with. I had never learned to be safely in my body. I had never learned to take care of my body. I had never learned to love my body. In fact, my internal dialog was largely one of self-shaming and blaming my body for my problems: “If only I was thin enough,” “Everything would be okay if I just lost 10 pounds,” “I hate my thighs,” “Suck it in…”
In my attempts to tame and tone my body, I severely hurt my back doing poorly cued sit ups. The chiropractor took images of my spine and discovered I had a condition called spondylolithesis. Basically, my spine was broken at the L4/L5 level (low back) and my spinal cord was starting to shear. I needed to learn how to take better care of myself and move wisely. The chiropractor suggested I try yoga. It was 1990 and I was living in Berkeley. I found a local studio and signed up for a beginner’s yoga class. In that class I found more than a way to help my spine, I found a way to help my whole self and start healing my ptsd and the body dysfunction associated with my addiction.
Yoga taught me how to live in my skin. Yoga taught me to feel and to tolerate, even enjoy, the feelings of my body. Yoga helped me make friends with my flesh. Eventually, I learned to love this body of mine.
When I practice yoga I move with awareness. I notice my breath. I notice how my feet feel when they touch the earth. I notice how my shoulders feel when I reach overhead. I notice how my ribs feel when I breathe. I notice how my stomach feels when I eat. I don’t try to escape my body. I don’t put on headphones. I don’t distract myself with television or youtube. I tune in rather than tune out.
And if I tune in, anything can be yoga: sitting still, walking, gardening, even driving my car. Yoga is the quality of awareness we bring to any activity.
And, yoga is also a classroom of people who gather to practice moving and being aware. Some of the ways we move look like the familiar images you have seen of yoga in the media. But yoga isn’t about looking fancy and it is not about touching your toes. My favorite classes to teach are gentle yoga and chair yoga. We practice moving with awareness and befriending our bodies. It makes all the difference in the world. I actually like this body I live in now. How sweet is that?