Stories of Yoga

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“In December 2017, walking became extremely painful for me.  By Christmas Day I was literally dragging my foot behind me in pain. The pain eventually also went to my hip as a result of walking like that. It seems as if overnight I developed Plantar Fasciatis.  My Dr.
prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication, stretching, a change of shoes and yoga. On January 1, 2018 and started going to Yin Yoga religiously. 3 weeks later, the pain had subsided.  I continued to see improvement with each passing week.   But even more than that, I started seeing other benefits in my life. Yoga became my go-to tool for stress management.  I find myself not needing to go to the Chiropractor as often and my overall health and well being have improved.  On April 3, 2018 I was able to go on a one hour hike and three hour caving adventure with my son and friends during Spring Break – something that would have been impossible before starting a regular yoga practice!  Yoga has been life-changing for me.  

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“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an anxious person. Always worried, always dreading, always unsure. It’s an exhausting way to live. I tried for a long time to push away the anxiety, to pretend it wasn’t there. No matter what I did it always came back. Before I knew it, I wasn’t the one living my life; anxiety was living my life.

Many years were lost to struggling with anxiety. I realized one day through my own unique journey that the anxiety wasn’t the problem. Anxiety is normal human emotion! The problem was how I was relating to the anxiety. I had to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable! This is where yoga comes in. Doing yoga is challenging. You put your body into positions that are often times uncomfortable, and that’s the beauty of the practice. By learning to breathe into the discomfort, relax into the tension, and settle into the distress in my body I’m developing the ability to do that in my everyday life.

Yoga has become a routine part of my self-care. It helps keep me balanced and in touch with my body. It helps me to be present in my life instead of living in a past I cannot change or a future I’m not guaranteed. For me, practicing yoga means I’m practicing being me. That’s a good thing since I can’t be anyone else.”


 

“I started doing Ashtanga yoga over 15 years ago.  I did it because it was kind of and extreme form of yoga.   And that was who I was then.  If I was going to run, I had to run a marathon.  If I was going to ride a bike, I had to ride a century ride.  I thought yoga was too slow.  Until I found Ashtanga.  So, I did Ashtanga for many years.  But somewhere along the way I found that yoga was more than just flexibility.  I also found that my body limited me from being extreme in yoga.  Just because I wanted to bend like a pretzel, my body had other ideas.  I learned a lot about ego through yoga.   Today I do yoga because it makes me feel good.  It’s that simple.  It makes my body feel good.  Yin yoga in particular makes my joints feel good.   And it makes my mind feel good.  I became a yoga instructor last year.  I guess I still have a little of that extreme aspect in me.  I can’t do something just a little.  I still have to give it my all.”       Susan

 


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Since my late teens I’ve struggled with panic attacks. It wasn’t until my thirties that a wise counselor educated me about the mind/body connection; she pointed me toward meditation. Meditation centered me in a way I had never been centered before. Eventually, I fell away from my mediation practice.  Crazy. But that’s my pattern – once I feel good, I stop doing what got me there. The stress and anxiety reappeared and I found it difficult to jump back into a meditative practice. My mind was too busy. I needed to find a way to quiet my body first. Two years ago I took my first yoga class. This was my “eureka” moment.  Concentrating on movement and breath rather than stress and anxiety quieted my mind. Engaging in movement quieted my body. The combination of a quiet mind and body brought peace. Today, I make yoga a regular practice. Today I feel healthy. Today I feel centered.  Today I am grateful for the internal harmony yoga brings to my life.

I turned seventy in April, started practicing yoga in June. What a difference It has made for my body and mind.  I have gotten taller, I know this because I hit something with my head in my shed now that I didn’t before. I have muscles now that I didn’t have before. The instructors have been patient, helpful and encouraging. Don’t get me wrong I am still seventy, I have stiffness and soreness. Hopefully, yoga will keep improving my body and mind.

20 years ago, I walked into Strawberry Fields Natural Food Store in Urbana and saw a flyer for Iyengar Yoga of Champaign Urbana. I thought yoga might be a fun and relaxing new thing to try. 
Turned out Lois Steinberg had studied with Iyengar himself, and she turned out to be a demanding teacher. But she gave me a foundation I’ve never abandoned, through 20 on-and-off-years, five other studios, and many life changes.
I’ve never practiced as much as I should. (If I had, maybe I could have followed through on my pipe dream of teaching yoga.) I took whole years off anything but home restorative practice when I had small(er) children. But my time on the mat has grounded and changed me. I wouldn’t be who I am today, and be in touch with my inner workings as much as I am if I hadn’t put in the time I have. When my kids come to me with physical problems, of course, I use appropriate medication, but I also suggest poses. “Try this for pain.” “This will help you stretch your hamstrings.”
Speaking of hamstrings, mine were a mess from years of walking on my toes as a child. I was stiff inside and out and asthmatic to boot when I started. Overall these years, I’ve really wanted to touch the floor in Uttanasana. Never quite got there. Until today.
I guess you can teach an old (down) dog new tricks.
Jennifer

No.  You’ll never find me in a yoga studio.  But I did break down and ask Susan what I could possibly do to relieve the pain in my back.  She invited me to attend her class.  But I’m not walking into a yoga studio to do yoga with a bunch of other people.  Nope.  Not me.  So, she told me to buy a book about Yin Yoga.  And I did.  I didn’t really hold out much hope.  I’ve been dealing with back pain for over 10 years.  But I was kind of desperate.  I was willing to give it a try.  I got the book and started doing some of the poses every night.   At first, they were really difficult and I could hardly get into them at all.  But 3 days in, I started to notice a lessening of pain in my neck.  My neck had become really stiff and painful along with my back.  This crazy yoga couldn’t be helping that much that quickly.  But I kept doing it.  My pain isn’t gone.  And I still hurt after standing for as little as 15 minutes.  Some of that is an old injury that nothing is going to fix.  But after almost a month of daily practice, I am noticing a significant amount of relief.  I hate to admit it.  But I can’t help it.  This Yin Yoga is really helping.  I’m a believer.  The proof is in my increased mobility and reduction in pain.  I still will never step inside a yoga studio.  But today I am a believer.
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