In January I started training to become a yoga instructor. I thought I would share my transformative journey as it unfolds. For fellow yogis, my stories will remind you of why you practice. For non-yogis, come along for the ride—maybe I'll entice you to try a class or two.
Why Do I Love Yoga?
I began my yoga practice about seven years ago, shortly after losing my husband. It was a way to physically and mentally focus and relax. Yoga and mindfulness meditation helped me heal through stages of grief. According to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as interpreted by Mukunda Stiles, "Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify itself with its vacillating waves of perception. When this happens, then the Seer is revealed resting in its own essential nature, and one realizes the true Self."
In some ways you could say I lost my soul mate and found my "soul mat." Yoga was my ticket to wellness after many months of dealing with my husband's progressive illness and eventual death. It helped me to stop, breathe and be in the moment.
During the past two years since leaving my full-time job, I've grown to love going to my weekly yoga classes. Instead of resisting, I am more open to change. Yoga has shown me how to slow down and find greater balance. I have developed a sense of gratitude for all that I can do.
I am growing and improving each day. An inspiring quote touches my heart. A fellow yogi strikes up a conversation. A perfect pose or an imperfect pose invigorates my body. Plus, I'm starting to take the goodness of yoga off the mat and bring yogic philosophy into my overall lifestyle. (My friend W says I've become very "zen.")
Last fall, I decided to take a big leap. I went to an open house at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies and signed up for its 200-hour yoga training program.
Welcome to Anatomy + Physiology
I'm proud to say that I just finished my first 20 hours of anatomy and physiology. I learned a whole lot from my amazing instructor N and her skeleton companion, Raja. It was much better than my high school or college biology class. Perhaps I am a more eager student during my life after 50.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, there's a ton to understand about the body's muscles, bones, joints and connective tissue and how they all work together. There's Sanskrit language to grasp—from asanas (poses) and bandhas (respiratory locks for proper energy flow) to ujjaye pranayama (breathing exercises), mudras (hand gestures), mantras (words, sounds or prayers to focus and change the mind) and more.
7 Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
While I clearly am on the first step of my journey, I left my first class with a greater conscious awareness of my body. Here are helpful tips I learned for a healthy lifestyle:
- You only get one body (at least in this lifetime), so be good to it. The late, great yogi B.K.S. Iyengar said, "The body is my temple." Are you treating your body like it is your temple?
- Good posture is important as we age. Go ahead, put those shoulders up and back and widen your diaphragm. My instructor says, "You want to expand throughout your life."
- Joy is found in the hips. If you're lacking joy in your life, then maybe you should try some hip-opening yoga poses. Want to know which muscles to stretch? Here goes: psoas, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, hamstrings. (Go, Judi! Go, Judi! Go, Judi!) There's more, but stretching these four will get you on the path to a joyful life.
- Resistance causes stress. BTW, that stress hormone called cortisol is stored in the mid-waist area. Got that? Yep, the more stress, the greater your middle-aged middle. Whatever's bothering you today, let it go!
- Your digestive system includes some long tubes. The small intestine is about 22 feet, and the large intestine is about 5 feet. (Wow-o-wow, that's a long way down.) Seated or standing yoga twists can help move food through the digestive tract.
- Your body is made up primarily of fluid. Stay hydrated and drink water.
- Be kind to your knees. Raja's kneecap fell off quite a few times during classes.
Class is over for today.
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.