I love the explosion of life with the coming of Spring. Deciduous trees transform from a framework of lifeless looking branches to bursts of green leaves; hidden seeds suddenly appear as shoots above ground; and the very dramatic Spring-time transformation: Butterflies emerge from the cocoons they made as caterpillars. Besides transformations, Spring ushers in hope--hope for better weather, hope for a successful season of growing, hope for a new life.
Yoga also brings about hope and transformation. I experienced yoga’s power personally—eliminating my chronic pain and bringing back my physical freedom. As a teacher, I’ve been witness to changes in people that have committed to their practice. Women hunched over, standing more upright; women shuffling with a tentative—almost fearful—quality to their gate, walking more confidently; and men with shoulders so tight they’re unable to reach their hands vertically, overhead. These are all quality of life if not life-threatening conditions! Sciatic nerve pain may not be life-threatening but it definitely can affect your quality of life. Do you suffer from sciatic nerve pain? There's a yoga pose--aptly named the butterfly pose--that can transform you...changing, altering...dare I say metamorphosing?! Read Ease Sciatic Pain with Yoga for additional suggestions.
I firmly believe yoga can be the gateway to a healthy lifestyle in general. A couple of my students—a married couple—are the perfect example. The following is Joe’s description of his transformation:
I began yoga in 2010 at the encouragement of my wife, who was already attending classes. Over the course of the prior five years, I had allowed myself to become inactive and overweight and my range of motion had really diminished. I was coming to realize that I needed to become more active again, but I was so out of shape it was hard to know where to begin. To be honest, yoga didn’t interest me much – it didn’t seem like a “guy thing” to do. However, my wife was pushing me a bit to try it and I thought that if I at least gave yoga a chance for a couple of sessions I would be able to quit and not need to worry about further “encouragement” from my wife.
Right from the beginning, I liked the inclusive and encouraging atmosphere that Karen created for the class. I was typically the only male in the sessions that I attended and it would have been easy to feel self-conscious about that, particularly given all of the extra weight that I was carrying at the time. My early efforts to strike basic yoga poses really brought home just how much flexibility I had lost over the years. I wouldn’t say that yoga was love-at-first-sight for me, but I did like how I felt after a session and I very quickly noticed that I was making some progress. More tangibly, my lower back, which was frequently stiff, loosened up a lot as all of the stretching of my quads and hamstrings took stress off my back muscles.
Yoga turned out to be a very important step towards a real return to good health. Yoga is not a huge calorie burn, but it was the first really regular exercise I had gotten in several years. Because yoga is an activity that I shared with my wife, it was easier to stay committed to the program. The progress I was making in yoga and the improved sense of well-being that yoga was giving me encouraged me to make further changes. In early 2011, my wife and I both resolved to improve our eating habits and to walk regularly together. At the same time we doubled our commitment to yoga and began to attend class twice a week.
These changes led to a virtuous cycle for both me and wife. As we lost weight, we began to walk further and further. All of the stretching we were doing in yoga kept us feeling good even as our walking became more strenuous. Within two months, we were walking 20 miles per week and I had dropped 20 pounds. By the end of the summer, my wife and I were walking an average of 30 miles per week and I had dropped 60 pounds while my wife had dropped 40 pounds.
Of course, winter in Seattle doesn’t lend itself to spending seven hours per week out walking. So, next thing we knew, my wife and I had taken up jogging to try and get the same calorie burn while spending fewer hours in the rain. I can’t imagine how we would have managed to take up jogging if we weren’t also doing yoga. Jogging put all kinds of stresses on muscles and joints that hadn’t been used properly for years. Yoga proved to be a great way to recover from running, allowing me to continue to up the intensity and duration of my workouts without damage.
Two years after beginning yoga, I’m amazed at how different I look and feel: I’ve dropped 60 pounds; I routinely run up to 7.5 miles with no pain; my range of motion and balance is better than it’s been in 20 years; and I just feel good about myself. Yoga isn’t the only change I’ve made in the past two years, but it was a catalyst that made the other changes possible. ~Joe H
Thank you so much Joe for sharing your story! You and Lita are living what BKS Iyengar said, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured…”
And if you needed more proof….I recently saw a YouTube video posted by Claudette Evans, a former teacher training classmate. The video documented a ‘miraculous’ recovery of a disabled Gulf War veteran. If you have any reservations or doubts about yoga I urge you to watch this video.
Transform with yoga! Never, ever give up and ALWAYS believe!
Health, Wellness & CURES!!