Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Stretching My Wings

What do you think of when I mention the word YOGA? Do images of people twisting themselves into impossible poses come to mind? Is it something that you always wanted to try, but felt intimidated by what you've seen?
For my father's generation, it represented something from Asia. After battling the Japanese in World War 2, folks of his age wanted nothing to do with it and saw it as a mild form of takeover of their country. Although many poses resembled stretching exercises practiced in the US military.

Recently, I've run across a few people that have tried to tell me that their doctor won't let them do yoga. And I think, "Really, your doctor doesn't want you to stretch your muscles and move your body?" I grew up in a chiropractic household. With both of my parents doctors of the alternative medicine, I've been exposed to a different reality than most. But even still, treatments revolved around manipulations to rectify a situation and not so much prevention.

My last few post have indicated that I am experiencing a change in my life with the loss of my parents and transition of my work. I've at times painted a bleak picture that would have me hiding in a dark corner not wanting to deal with the world. That is not the case at all though. I have been experiencing a whole new life. A life that has existed all around me all along. An alternate universe, if you will. Coexisting with my own, just outside of my vision.
Let me tell you about growing up inside my body. To compliment the fact that I did not seem to fit in with my surroundings being gay in a Pentecostal world of the 70's, I've dealt with allergies and asthma all my life. If I was interested in a sport, my poor breathing habits usually nixed the idea of participation before it grew very much.  Even shoveling snow or walking in cold weather could knock me out cold. As I aged, I stayed away from many places that others gravitate to simply because of people smoking there. I've always felt like an outsider, not welcome anywhere.

A few years ago, I was introduced to yoga. It, like many other things in my life, was interesting to me. But it was not love at first stretch! Like many people, I tried to push myself to be somewhat of an expert to fast and too soon. In a class setting, I pushed myself to be just like the instructor. I did not want to be that awkward guy in the room. I did enjoy one instructor that has Multiple Sclerosis and found her teachings to be very down to earth. She said, "Sometimes, I fall over. Deal with it."

I recently decided to start practicing at home. At home I could mess up, fall over and make a fool of myself all I wanted to. But more importantly, I could take it at my own pace. Now, every instructor will tell you to do this. But when the peer pressure is there, I push myself. I found a instructional video that I connected with and haven't looked back.

What it has done for me has been life changing. For starters, I've learned to control my breathing. This winters extreme amounts of snow would have been enough to kill me in the past. But instead, I've enjoyed shoveling, as much as a person can enjoy such a thing. And although smoking is still offensive, I've learned to cope with it around me. I've worked on my posture, which has been an area that has needed work most of my life. I feel less pain associated with everyday life. I have been toning and strengthening my entire body, trimming inches off my waste and allowing me to do a few push-ups for the first time in my life. I've lost around ten pounds, have better digestion and actually enjoy eating healthy meals. I have almost eliminated my daily headaches and find the tension in my back is completely gone. I look forward to every day and the challenges that it brings. I enjoy the sunlight streaming in my windows. When I am practicing my yoga, the bitter cold outside melts away and life is beautiful. I can't imagine my life without it now.

Anyone looking to feel better, I would recommend finding a routine that works for you. I know from my parents senior community that they offer programs for the elderly and even wheelchair bound. For now, I am sticking with the Intro to Yoga for Beginners program. I will stay with it until I feel that I am ready to move on. I've already purchased more programs and look forward to them. But I am in no way going to push myself to get there. I will also rejoin the class setting when I am ready.

So to those that have worried about my health in this time of transition, there is nothing to worry about. I am feeling and doing much better. And feel that soon, I will be back to the Brighter Side more regularly.


MorningAJ said...

Yoga's never really appealed to me, though I used to do tai chi some years ago. These days I swim, having overcome my fear of the water about six years ago. It does help the breathing a little too. And sometimes when it's quiet it helps my relaxation and concentration. This morning was slightly hectic - but I got in a few lengths.

MorningAJ said...

You might like this too:
Though sadly, Barney is no longer with us.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

this is wonderful news. i love doing yoga and am just about to start a new program.

Unknown said...

I know someone who teaches water yoga at the YMCA.

Jim said...

Good to hear this Stew. You are approaching this activity in a safe and positive way. Going slowly at first till you find your comfort zone is the safest way and most productive way.
I haven't done my 'routine (via my DVD's) for about a month now but will start again....thanks to you for giving me that push!
I love the relaxing and yet invigorating feeling aI get after a 30 minute yoga session.
Have a great day Stew.

anonymous said...

I've tried yoga. Bikram... my friends threw me in the deep end. LOL But I don't think it's my "thing".