Yoga. Almost every recovery blog, sober website, or poster on dry threads seems to have got into yoga. I am no exception. I’m a 51 year old, stiff woman with a BMI of just over 25 and I’m contorting myself 4 times a week into the most extraordinary poses, and I LOVE it. Really, I LOVE it, I can’t get enough yoga; I snuck out of work for a 10.30 yoga class this morning (admin day) and claimed the time as my lunch break ( I never, ever get a lunch break – that’s a different story) … I’m planning and plotting to try and get to 5 classes a week, as I feel too clumsy and uncoordinated to practice very much at home at the moment.
Yes, I’m a new convert. I had literally never considered yoga before I got sober this time, I don’t even think I’d given it much thought to be honest, and if in passing I’d wondered about ‘yoga’, I think I imagined a bunch of earnest, vegan, tree hugging people squatting on the ground and meditating. I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I would fit in…, or that the practice of yoga would become a crucially important cornerstone to my life.
So, just in case ANYONE reading this doesn’t already know, and most of you on that sober journey know MUCH more than I do… what is yoga? whats the point ? and how come it’s suddenly become so important to me (and it seems countless other recovering addicts)
Literally yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in ancient India. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old old. Yoga’s spiritual side has its roots in the Hindu faith, with some input from other ancient religious traditions. The main philosophy of yoga is simple: mind, body and spirit are all one and cannot be clearly separated and so basically yoga is a collection of techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe
Apart from the spiritual goals, the physical postures of yoga are used nowadays to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple, and the joints and muscles strong and flexible.
Central to the postures is breathing. For most poses the breath is slow and steady, breathed in and out of the nose and down into the belly. This focus on breathing helps induce a kind of meditative state.
The practice of yoga poses and meditation prove to be a powerful combination. With consistent practice the wobbly body becomes stronger and steadier and the stressed, over anxious mind becomes calmer, I think this is the main reason why so many people have fallen into the practice of yoga
So what do I, personally get out of it ? When I quit drinking I started to attend several different type of classes at the gym, but yoga has been the one that stuck. Why ?
I think its
- progress – I can literally feel progress. I’m already much better balanced, more flexible and bendy than I was. I like this, It makes me feel like I actively inhabit my body
- Its FEELS good – stretching and expanding muscle groups just feels good. Its feels especially good when someone else adds just a little pressure and takes it one stage further!
- Its inspiring. My favourite yoga teacher is a woman at least 10 years older than me, who is SO strong and flexible, I find her very inspirational
- it is relaxing. It takes practice, but that breathing and mindfulness type exercise does calm the mind and provide some kind of sustenance.
And the lessons I have taken from Yoga so far ?
- Flexibility and strength are equally important
I walked into my first yoga class convinced I would be the most uncordinated, useless , weak student. And at first I was, but alongside me was a very strong, muscular youngish man, who equally couldn’t hold the poses… he’s learning alongside me…
A healthy body needs a balance of flexibility and strength.
Flexibility is good in all aspects of our lives. Learning to go with the flow and adapt to the circumstances is key to stress reduction. We also need to find strength: strength to stand up for our values and strength to keep to our commitments
- You need to know your limits
Through yoga we learn to listen to our bodies. We try hard, but we don’t push it if it feels painful. I am no where near being able to lift myself into a crow pose… so I dont, I wantch and try to learn, and develop some patience and trust that one day I WILL be able to do this…
(That’s not me !)
This same respect for our limits, patience and trust is important in day to day life. If my workload is overwhelming and I’m feeling stressed, I SHOULD respect my own limits by saying no to more tasks!. When I feel anxious or stressed about drinking, its ok to turn down social invitations..
3. I / You CAN do it ..
When I think I simply CANNOT physically reach the floor, or catch my foot? when I am afraid that standing on one leg means I will fall ? Actually, with help, I CAN do it
Fear, in all aspects of our lives, holds us back. It keeps us from applying for that job we want, stepping in to the unknown, or falling in love. Its a good feeling to get past the fear…”Feel the fear – and do it anyway.” isn’t that the title of a book ? It is only by acknowledging, accepting, and moving past fear that we can fulfill our potential.And now I CAN do a Warrior balance !
(sadly that’s not me! )