In March 2015, I started a weight loss journey that was desperately needed - I was nearing my 60th birthday and my weight had ballooned up to 325 pounds. Yikes! By mid June, through dieting, I was thrilled to have lost nearly 50 pounds. In addition to continuing the weight loss, I wanted to get fit but was at a loss on what to do - I hadn't gotten that overweight by being a fan of exercise! To be honest, I was physically a mess, as the sedentary lifestyle that contributed to my weight gain had also left me with little in the way of muscle tone, flexibility or balance.
My friend and co-worker Ruth had done yoga years ago and talked several times about how wonderful it made her feel. One day she suggested that we do something outside of work hours for fun and I found myself saying - why don't we try a yoga class?
Yoga is one of those things that you think, "Hey, I should be able to do that" and then you discover that it’s much more than it looks on the outside (in many ways, really, but more about that later.) I bought the two week unlimited pass for new students at Expressions of Grace ("EoG") and came to every session classified as "gentle", "beginner" or "basics" in the hopes of finding something I could do. I quickly determined that "gentle" was as much as I could even begin to tackle, and even then, it was a struggle to keep up.
I think in those early days, the thing that kept me coming back was a combination of sheer determination and the truly lovely people at EoG. At a time when I felt horrible about myself, the people around me were supportive, affirming and encouraging. I've seen ads about places being "no judgment" establishments, but EoG is more than that. "No judgment" just means a lack of condemnation. EoG is a place where you are actively supported, which creates a welcoming and wonderful learning environment.
Over time, my reasons for coming shifted a bit. I started finding when a class was done it wasn't just relief I was feeling, but a growing sense of well being. A portion of that comes from the physical exercise that yoga brings. But for me, it also came from the teachings/philosophy and practice of yoga, which nurture my spirit.
I'm currently reading a book by Judith Lasater, who says that her motivation in teaching yoga is to help her students connect with the Divine. I feel that process has begun in me. For me, yoga has helped getting in closer contact with God. I am reminded on a daily basis just how "fearfully and wonderfully made" we really are. And I have come to know in a much deeper way what it means to quiet my heart and mind - to be still and know the peace that simply being in the presence of God brings.
Well-being. Relaxation. Joy. Is it any wonder that I now come to yoga five to six times per week? I have come to a point where I still enjoy the gentle classes, but can now also enjoy the beginner, basic and even some intermediate classes. Each has its own challenges, and I learn more every day in each class.
Yoga has changed more than the appearance of my body (through diet and yoga, I have now lost over 125 pounds and am still losing! Yowza!) I came for exercise but I got so much more! Yes, I do have far more muscle tone, flexibility and range of motion than I had before yoga. No small feat for someone with stiff knees, severely deteriorated bone tissue in my spine and neck and a shoulder that doesn't respond well to a whole lot! Yoga really is for everybody! But I'm better in more than a physical sense.
For example, it is much easier for me to reach out to others with compassion and kindness now. If I were reading this, I'd be rolling my eyes about now. But at the end of each class, my teachers often urge the class to show ourselves compassion and kindness and to offer ourselves gratitude for the commitment to self care showing up at the mat involves. Those words have gradually soaked into my mind and heart, and I have turned off much of the self-hating talk that I once engaged in on a daily basis. In my increased happiness, it's easier to show kindness and compassion to others. Well being, relaxation, and joy - they each walk out the door with me and find their way to others in the form of kindness and compassion.
So if you are thinking about trying a yoga class - do it! Don't give up! Keep watch for and celebrate progress - at first it may be just remembering the name of a pose or the position of your feet for it. Then maybe a pose that was difficult for you becomes a little easier or maybe something you couldn't do before, you now can. Notice how you feel after your practice - relaxed, happy, lighter in spirit. Come as often as you can and the changes you'll notice will happen much faster, and that is so encouraging!
As Sheila said, "do it!" Start your yoga journey today. Our entire team is here... for you. - EoG