Recently, I was asked by a very busy mom friend about why I was such a proponent of yoga. I had to give it some thought. Although I have no doubt that yoga has been good for my body, mind, and soul, it was hard to verbalize the why. This is how I responded:
OK. Me and yoga. Long story. It started 14 years ago when I was pregnant with Daniel. We lived in SE Arkansas and there were no childbirth classes and I needed something to help me focus on stretching and breathing. Yoga seemed like a good fit. I did it while I was pregnant and I think it did make a difference. After he was born, life was crazy (5 children) and to be honest — we’ve had crisis after crisis in the years since he was born. Job loss, moving, my return to work and grad school, medical crises with our children and my mom’s mental health issues. Somehow along the way, I became that classic mom who put everyone else first. I didn’t eat right, I ate too much, I didn’t exercise. I’ve never exercised regularly, other than when I was pregnant. I guess I valued my body more then — I don’t know — but that makes sense.
After watching Em go through everything she did, I ran out of excuses. I had to deal with my food and body issues. If she could put that much focus and effort into recovering, I could face the demons in my closet. I spent most of last year focusing on the food part of things — I treadmilled some for exercise, but was never consistent.
Toward the end of last year, I finally reached the weight I had in mind to begin exercising regularly. I was thinking cardio and really wanted to do Zumba or maybe challenge myself to become a consistent jogger. Zumba classes didn’t fit my schedule and the thought of jogging regularly seemed overwhelming.
I’ll be honest — I have a stress overload in my life. There are SO many things going on that I can’t begin to list them here. My counselor looked me in the eye and gave me strict instructions to schedule some kind of intentional stress reduction every week. I’d done yoga in the past and off and on at home — knew it was good for stretching and calming — so I went with a friend.
The first time I went I almost cried. Yes, it stretched my body and I could tell that the weight-bearing aspect would also strengthen it in time. But it was gentle, calming, and soothing to my soul too. Our bodies and minds and spirits are so intertwined. I don’t even know how to describe exactly what happened. The rest of the world was out there. I was able to just focus on my breath and my movement. At the end of the class, it’s just a calm time of reflection, so I was able to pray my life-prayer: Breathe in — “Be still” — Breathe out — ”And know” — Breathe in — “That I” — Breathe out — “Am God.”
In my crazy hectic life of working full time and caring for my family I rarely get the opportunity to take a few minutes to focus on God, let alone focus on myself. My yoga times give me that. I know there are people who think it’s too eastern or whatever, but I know who I am and I know who God is and I know what I do and don’t believe. An exercise class is not going to change any of that.
So to me, it’s worth it, even if the midst of the kind of stress and overly committed life that I have. I don’t get there every time because of issues with my mom’s care and the time that it takes, but it’s on my schedule every Tuesday and Thursday and I am stronger in both body and soul because of it.