First off, I just want to say that I am not a yoga expert by any means. I am simply telling my story about how I got involved in yoga and how it has helped me. Always listen to your body and consult your primary care physician for medical advice.
My Yoga Journey
I decided to share this story with you because yoga has become very important in my life, especially throughout my healing journey.
I started to become interested in yoga shortly after my gymnastics career ended. Being familiar with the practice from having gone to a few classes here and there (since I had the flexibility and strength from gymnastics), I hadn’t really become passionate about it until my health started going down hill.
I have a very athletic family (it just runs in our genes-we would all go crazy and rip each other’s heads off if we didn’t exercise!), so when I started having severe joint pain and had to quit gymnastics, I wasn’t left with many options as to what I could do for exercise. Despite all my symptoms, like the fatigue and digestive issues, I still felt like I had to do something besides sit around all day because like I said, I would go crazy not doing anything!
Trying to Fill the Void
I tried swimming my sophomore year in high school, but that was a MISERABLE experience! I’m always cold, so deciding to swim everyday in a pool that was FREEZING was not enjoyable. My lips and nails would turn purple at practice everyday and I would have to take an hour long shower just so I wasn’t chilled to the bone. I still laugh about it today as to why I even tried it, but I was so desperate to find something to fill that void in my life that gymnastics had always filled.
After swimming didn’t work out, I tried just doing some low-impact exercises, body-weight strength training, and walking, but as much as I love to go for walks outside, it just wasn’t enough to fill that gap in my life. Plus, as my digestion started to get worse and I lost weight, I needed to find something (besides walking) that wouldn’t take so much energy and burn so many calories.
Finding My New Practice
For Christmas one year, my family had gotten me these yoga DVDs that I started to do all the time. The more and more I did them, the more I loved them because I started to feel like the strength and flexibility that I had lost after quitting gymnastics was finally coming back (at least a little since I still had trouble gaining muscle mass because my body wasn’t getting enough nutrients due to my digestive issues). Yoga even started to give me some relief for my joint pain, which I’m sure was in part due to tight muscles in addition to the Lyme disease.
Falling in Love with Yoga
As I continued to do more and more yoga, I started to feel like it was finally becoming that missing part of my life. It was something that I could do to clear my mind and not worry about everything else I had going on in my life. Yoga became my therapy that was (and still is) essential to my healing as much as eating nutritious food, taking my supplements everyday, or any kind of treatment.
How Yoga Saved My Life
After starting college, yoga became more a part of my life than ever. I tend to stress out very easily, and with the amount of stress put on college students these days, I wouldn’t have survived my first three semesters at Marquette University without it. I would go to the free yoga classes that the Marquette Medical Clinic held for students, or if I didn’t feel like walking there (it was all the way across campus, ugh!), I would just lay out my yoga mat in my dorm room, put on some calming music, and make up my own routines.
In addition to helping my joint pain, I even started to notice its effects on my digestive system. Stress puts our bodies in a fight or flight response, slowing down everything unnecessary to survival at that moment (like digestion), and being a college student, I was constantly under stress, which wasn’t good for my digestion at all. However, doing yoga gave me that sense of calm and relaxed my body so that I could get out of that fight or flight response and settle my nervous system down for a while so that my body’s natural processes could work (plus, the twisting poses especially help ease indigestion!).
Learning from Yoga
After yoga became one of my true passions and I learned more about the practice, I started realizing the importance of taking time for myself. We get so caught up in our busy lives and start to just go through the motions that we often forget about what’s really important.
Yoga gave me a chance to slow down, take time to reflect, and realize that it’s okay not to go one hundred miles an hour all the time. In fact, not taking time to slow down and calm the mind is what can cause so many health issues in the first place! Our bodies need a chance to recover after the stress we go through on a daily basis. It’s like trying to drive a car without ever stopping to fill up the tank with gas. We need to take those stops and refuel our bodies so we can keep going, otherwise we’ll just end up burning out. I will always be grateful for the fact that I found yoga, so I can give my body and mind that chance to recover, refuel, and de-stress.
Doing Something That Makes You Happy
So whether it’s going to the gym or doing some type of exercise, taking a nice hot bath, spending time with friends or family, enjoying a special dessert, or simply taking some time to meditate or just watch a show on Netflix, be sure to do something everyday that makes you happy and allows your body to release all the stress that accumulates throughout the day.
Connect with Me!
If you’re lost and don’t know what to do, I’d love to help you find your passion! Feel free to email me or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’m always more than happy to help or just talk. Talking is fun and helping others makes me happy 🙂
P.S. If you’re looking to start your yoga journey and don’t know where to begin, I highly recommend starting off by purchasing a good yoga mat. For me, having a fun/high-quality mat sets the mood for me to have a good practice. I love opening up my leopard-print yoga mat because it just makes me smile. It’s all about the little things, right? Anyway, I happen to stumble upon this great guide to yoga mats so that you can find one that works for you. It goes through 30 popular mats and details which ones are the best for traction, support, and versatility. Happy shopping!