My first experience with yoga wasn’t great. I had enrolled in a free extracurricular introductory yoga class through the university I attended, and expected a pleasant, mellow experience for my first time Hatha yoga. It could not have been more different. I arrived to an overly warm and jam-packed room with yoga mats laid haphazardly from wall-to-wall. Finally locating the instructor, I checked to make sure that I hadn’t inadvertently showed up to the Bikram class, seeing as I was already sweating buckets and class hadn’t started yet. In short, I was in the right class, and opted to leave after ten minutes of sustaining more consciousness over where other peoples’ bodies were than my own.
Now fast-forward three years to my first proper Hatha yoga experience. A new colleague of mine had just left her full-time job at a holistic health spa, but was still teaching yoga classes a couple days a week. She encouraged me to give it another try, and offered me a spot in her class. After the first session, my mind was blown. It was eye-opening, and so different from that first experience at university; rather, it was how yoga should feel. Throughout the class, I felt relaxed, supported, and like a huge mental weight had been lifted as I flowed through each posture and breath. That was the day I decided that yoga would become a regular part of my life.
The last two years of practicing yoga on a near-daily basis have been truly transformative. I didn’t expect yoga to affect other areas of my overall wellbeing like it does, but it has and it’s a welcome surprise. My mind, body, and spirit are more whole as a result. I am a centered, stronger, better version of myself.
Prior to my yoga routine, I suffered from tension headaches and migraines on a near-weekly basis. The headaches were especially bad on the first couple days of my menstrual cycle and were of course, not helped by bouts of extreme menstrual cramping. Ibuprofen was my go-to remedy for the aches I had learned to anticipate. But since my first month of practicing yoga, my headaches have subsided to a frequency of about once a month, something I hadn’t thought possible. I’ve learned to relax, stretch, and release the tension I carry. And while it doesn’t always prevent menstrual cramps, it sure does help once they’ve started (I cannot recommend the Cobra pose enough! A life changer, that one.). The overall physical relief I’ve found through yoga has made me feel like a newly healthy person.
The transformation has been as much mental as it has been physical—Perhaps even more so. Back in 2011, I had suffered a sudden panic attack while working at a large-scale event. It wasn’t something I had experienced before, and I was blindsided when it hit me. For those who aren’t familiar with panic attacks, they can make you feel like you suddenly can’t catch your breath, like you may vomit, and like getting outside to fresh air is the most important and lofty goal you’ve ever had to reach. At least, that’s how they make me feel.
Some post-panic attack introspection led me to conclude that finding myself without my colleagues’ support in a stressful situation brought it on. My emotional resources had been taxed, and something inside me snapped. Since that awful experience, I have been able to integrate my yoga instruction with those kinds of feelings. The panic attack of 2011 happened at a time where I couldn’t find the will to be flexible with the situation, or to take myself out of the situation entirely. Yoga has taught me mental flexibility as much as physical flexibility, which continues to be an excellent tool for preventing panic attacks.
Nowadays, when I find myself in situations that present similar challenges to the ones I faced in 2011 and for all the years I was coping with headaches, I am able to channel the lessons bestowed upon me by the physical demands of yoga practice. I know which yoga poses will resolve which pains, and can now practice them with ease and endurance. I can consciously steady my breathing, relax the tenseness I accumulate throughout the day, and know that I can bend with the wind. I can be flexible and not break.
Mary Frenson is a Marketing Assistant at Checkdirector.co.uk, a new source of information on UK companies. Mary is always happy to share her marketing ideas and thoughts on business issues. In her free time she enjoys handicrafts.