THE BLOG

Why I do yoga--reason #1

12 step recovery baptiste yoga beginners yoga why yoga yoga yoga practice Aug 31, 2022

Why I do Yoga

Over the years I have cultivated a yoga practice that I feel proud to call my own. It has taken different twists and turns, but most importantly, it’s consistent. Consistency is key when it comes to cultivating any practice or change that we want to have happen in our lives. The most important thing you can do is show up for it.

One of things that haunted me early in my recovery and yoga practice was discomfort. I had no idea that most of the decisions that I made were in an effort to avoid being uncomfortable. I would go to great lengths to secure my comfort at any expense, mine or others. I’m talking about comfort over all sectors of life. This could be my physical, mental, or emotional comfort that I was constantly juggling.

Physically, I was over 330 pounds before I decided to get help. I can see now that what got me to that weight was constantly over managing my comfort. The interesting thing is that I was very unhappy and uncomfortable at that weight, but it didn’t outweigh the discomfort of having to make changes. Exercise made me terribly uncomfortable, and so did restrictive eating. The truth is that I was very uncomfortable, but it was a discomfort that I was more comfortable managing. The discomfort we know is better than the discomfort we don’t.

Mentally and emotionally, I was all over the place. My distorted thinking was driving the bus. This also meant that my emotions were erratic because I was very connected and committed to everything that I thought. I confused my distorted thinking and erratic emotions with the truth. If I thought about it, I believed it. One of the powerful things about thinking is that it has a physical effect on the body. I can think of things that will cause my body to have a physical reaction. This wreaks havoc on the nervous system.

By the time I reached the recovery rooms and the yoga mat, it was clear to me that I was uncomfortable. At that time, everything made me uncomfortable, whether it was people, places, or things. I ran from discomfort at any turn. I actually had no idea how uncomfortable I was until my sponsor pointed it out, because it was oozing off of me.

If I tell you about my yoga journey, one of the first things I mention is how much I used to hate yoga. Mostly, because it made me very uncomfortable. I found the people, the clothes, the postures, and the teachers all uncomfortable. Yoga is often touted as being good for relaxation and de-stressing. This was not my experience. When you are out of shape, deep stretching can be excruciating. Especially, when poses are held for longer periods of time. If yoga was for relaxing, I never found that class.

When I finally found yoga and decided to stick with it, I had already been working out a little bit and had built up some stamina. Since I had tried yoga many times before, I had a familiarity with the poses, although I still had a lot to learn. The type of yoga I was doing at the time was hot power yoga, and as you may imagine, it was very intense. What was different this time is that I really wanted to change. I was desperate for it. In hindsight, what shifted was my willingness to be uncomfortable to get what I wanted.

So, I started practicing regularly. The teacher that I really liked would often ask the question “what happens when you become uncomfortable in the pose?” This question deeply intrigued and perplexed me. It hadn’t occurred to me yet that I was uncomfortable, only that while I was in the pose, my thinking was going crazy. It was like my arms and legs were shouting at me because I was doing hard things. The more I thought about that question, the more I could see that when I become uncomfortable in the pose, my thoughts would turn to rage.

I could rage about anything that was happening in the moment. Most of all, I would get mad at the yoga teacher as though it was she that was holding me in the pose, not me. On the mat was where I first met myself through discomfort, on purpose. I began to notice that when my body was physically uncomfortable, my thinking became distorted. Rather than running from the discomfort, I stayed with it. Even when I wanted to run out of the room screaming, because the pose felt intense, I stayed. This is where I learned to stay with discomfort rather than react to it.

Yoga also gave me physical principles that I could use to work through the discomfort. The principle of focused gaze gave me a physical place to set my eyes and cultivate focus. Learning to connect with my breath was another tool that taught me to move through the discomfort and stay with it. As I began to notice my body more and stay with myself, I had other things to focus on than just the sheer discomfort itself.

I began to notice that when I was out in the world and feeling uncomfortable based on things that were out of my control, I could apply the same principles. Whether I was in traffic or in line at the grocery store these principles held the same weight. These tools connect me to the present moment so that I can calm my body and stay with what’s happening. When I can stay present to what’s happening, I don’t get wrapped up in my distorted thinking. My brain is so powerful it can convince me that things are terrible. In reality, everything is much more manageable if I don’t exacerbate it with fussy thinking.

 

I am deeply grateful that I have the yoga practice that I do today. It was not easy, but it was worth sticking with it. I understand that not everyone has this much mental turmoil to work through, but I bet many of us do. Yoga has become a way for me to connect myself to the present moment and stay with what is. My desire to check out, or run out of the room screaming is deep, but not so much anymore. I’ve learned that whatever is happening around me is usually manageable if I can stay. Ultimately, this too shall pass.

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