I was inspired by a recent commenter to discuss how yoga connects to the rest of my life. I cover a variety of different topics on this blog, some of which might appear to have anything to do with yoga. They do! Yoga is a lifestyle!
Yoga for Physical Health
First of all, yoga is asanas. Movement. Movement that strengthens your arms and legs. Contortions that stretch those powerful muscles. Inversion poses that circulate your blood through your veins. Twists wring out your organs and stimulate digestion. Back bends unfold every vertebrae along your spine. Movement means exercise, exertion. It means curing your back pains, toning your muscles, taking care of yourself. Yoga poses or asanas can be done at every stage of your life and will support every physical health goal. But movement is only the first step. Yoga is so much more!
Yoga for Mental Health
Just breathe! Simply inhale the word “let” and exhale the word “go” and feel all your troubles melt away. Listen to your breathing, do what the teacher is instructing, and forget to worry about whatever it was that was plaguing you before. Yoga eases anxiety, removes depression, and let’s you be you. Once you’ve made it to the mat, the hardest work is over! Let the teacher take it from here and realize that you are in good hands. There is nothing more for you to do than listen to his voice and take rest whenever needed. Ignore the girl doing push-ups in between chaturangas. Distance yourself from the guy doing Cirque Du Soleil. This moment is for you and you can do whatever you want with it. This is where peace comes from. If you don’t believe that yoga can transcend you mental health, then you haven’t given it a chance. Relax! Yoga can do the impossible and bring you to balance.
People have brought every possible excuse to the door: I have chronic depression, its hereditary, there’s no hope. I’m too deep in my grief. No one can help me! I’ve lived with this pain my whole life, it’s not going anywhere! Yoga tells you to leave those excuses behind and come sit on your mat. It tells the wounded they will heal, the struggling that we’ve been there. Sometimes going through the motions is the first step towards a whole new you that is just waiting to unfold.
Yoga as Prayer
Most of all, yoga is prayer. The bliss, the revival, the peace you feel after class isn’t an accident. It’s the answer to a prayer! Sometimes you may not recognize it. You associate prayer as being with the mind and forget that prayer can be done with the body. Sometimes the best thing you can do to get close to God is to relax in Him and let your body do the talking. It doesn’t have to take such an immense effort. Just be, be with God. Go through the motions. That strengthening you just did? That’s God taking care of you. The joy you feel as you stretch your hands to the heavens? Worship. Those balancing poses? They are there to humble or strengthen you. The rest you feel as you bow in child’s pose? Surrender. That peaceful feeling? The holy spirit is sitting with you. Don’t think, just be. Let your body do the praying. The ground will hold you, the spirit will move you. Let God answer your prayers and enjoy the calm that settles in your soul.
Yoga as Lifestyle
How can something that affects all aspects of your body, mind, and soul not affect your life as well? Yoga meets me every day whether I am at the studio or sitting at my desk. When my back and legs start to strain from sitting at work, I know to head for the copy room and stretch it out. When anxiety is begging for my attention, I’ve practiced letting that go before! Just breathe. Every movement, emotion, or sensation that I can feel, I have practiced. Letting go in yoga is practice for letting go in life. Reaching toward the sky and bowing down is showing me how to worship and surrender. Every step of my day from loving, laughing, playing, working, and enjoying, is something I experience both in yoga and in life. Learning yoga has been and continues to be one of my favorite things in life!! So yeah, yoga is a lifestyle. It’s the lifestyle I want to live everyday!
Hope you have a beautiful week!Read More
I warned you that I might write about my spiritual life from time to time- but I’m still hesitant. For some reason, even mentioning that I believe in God can be such a controversial subject! People either react with excitement or get super uncomfortable. Isn’t that a bit odd? Anyway, SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to talk about God, take it or leave it.
For starters, God has been tugging at some particularly interesting advice in my life lately. To put it simply: LET GO! Yep, the theme continues. I’ve been clutching at any threads that will allow me to have control over my own life. That’s just the thing! I don’t!
Here is why I’m holding on: I’ve mentioned a little bit that I sometimes have BIG fear in my life. Specifically, the fear of losing someone I love. It is the topic of all my nightmares and the cornerstone of every anxiety bout or worry. If I’m worried because husband isn’t answering his phone, deep down it’s because I’ve feared the worst. If I’m stuck in a panic because a bruise on my arm appears to be a blood clot (due to my extensive medical knowledge, obviously), the heart of my fear is seated in worry of putting Garret through mourning or pain.
Sure, any therapist will tell you that the reason for my fear is past trauma. I have experienced true fear of death in my life which has heightened my awareness that bad things can and do happen. One good friend of mine calls this the “Sh** Club.” Once circumstances in your life cause you to join, you no longer feel remorse for someone who is upset over a breakup or a rough day at work. That’s trivial pain to us members. Real plain dumps years of your life into a black pit. Having seen the bottom of the pit- I don’t want myself or anyone else to! So I worry.
Here is why I should let go: I am a tiny pebble floating down a river. Sometimes the river seems perfect and peaceful and I can soak up the sun when I’m beached by a sandbar. Other times its rough for me and my pebble friends. There are rocks, rapids, or trees that appear out of nowhere. We are tossed and turned, soaked and cold. It can be difficult so we try to hold onto branches or sand to keep our head above water. But God is there. God is standing from a very high vista point and can see the ENTIRE river. He can see that little pebble Elle is stuck in a rapid and can’t get out. BUT He can also see what I can’t: that just around the river bend, the water becomes crystal clear. If I can just make it through the rapid and come around the other side- I will be able to see the beauty of the teal waters and lounge in the astonishing sparkle of the sun.
I can’t see the big picture because I am just a small being in an infinite universe! Just as a child will get upset when her Dad tells her to stop playing the dryer- it is only because she doesn’t see what her Dad knows- That playing in the dryer is dangerous!
Let God: So in a prayerful request to God, I asked that he help me to let go and let Him take over. At first I resisted. I prayed, “Lord I want you to take care of my life, I want to trust you… but I don’t.” I feared that a closer relationship with God would leave me exposed to all the heartache in life. That bad things would happen to me, but as a Christian I was just supposed to weather the storm! I couldn’t let that happen!! So a small piece of me held on. I told God He would have to wait. Until…
While listening to a Timothy Keller podcast on the subject of submission, it dawned on me: I don’t have control of these things anyway! Just because I believe I have control, doesn’t mean I do! I can feed husband as many colorful veggies as I want but that doesn’t keep bad things from happening. I will worry with or without God. People who don’t believe in God weather just as many storms as people who do. At that moment I gave it all. I said, “God I’m yours, and I trust that your will is far better than mine.”
From that moment forward I have been transformed. I now know that every worry that comes my way, I can simply pass along to God and say “Thank you for taking care of this for me!” I trust that whether or not a rapid comes, God can see the big picture and will always take care of me. Just as Jesus endured struggle, in the big picture, God needed that moment to bring us to today. God loves us amazingly and will always do the best thing for us. We just have to keep in mind that we can’t see the big picture, but rejoice that God does!!
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”
~ Luke 12:22-26Read More