Yoga did not change my life overnight. It has been a gradual change over time. In my early adult years I witnessed the harmful effects of obesity, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes in my family. I made a commitment to not take my health for granted and to make exercise a regular activity throughout my life. Since then, I participated in a variety of sports and physical activities that helped me stay healthy. At the same time I was finding that the brief ten minute cool down at the end of a step aerobics class was not nearly enough release for my muscles, joints, as well as my restless mind. I felt a need for some sort of complement to my aerobic exercise.
It was about ten years ago that I started looking for yoga teachers in the small rural Manitoban city that I was living in at the time. Fortunately, I found two talented teachers who had been trained through Yoga Centre of Winnipeg. I remember learning poses with strange Sanskrit names. I remember the challenge of the unfamiliar poses as I stretched and contracted my body. I remember the infusing flush of warm energy. I also remember learning awareness of the flow of my breath.
The physical benefits were soon apparent. The stiffness in my hips and legs released. The frequent tension carried in my neck and shoulders melted away. As flexibility and range of movement increased, my body’s movements became more fluid. From the practice of both long held poses as well as faster flowing sequences; the additional benefit I did not expect was the strengthening and toning of my body. My arms, legs and core felt more stable, while the dull recurring ache in my back was no more. It felt as if my posture had been unfurled and the effort to support my frame had lightened.
Another welcoming development from practicing yoga has been an increased calmness in my everyday life. The lessons of breath, focus, patience, acceptance, and perseverance practiced on the yoga mat have illuminated my life outside of the studio. When I realized how beneficial yoga practice was to my body and life, I wanted to learn more about it. It started as one, two, and then three classes per week. If I missed a class, my husband could sense my disappointment. As we moved from city to city over the passing years, I attended yoga classes in community halls where occasionally the whiff of beer from the previous weekend’s social still lingered. I attended yoga classes at the neighborhood gym where the loud cacophony of hungry summer day camp children waiting outside our glass walled studio/lunchroom tested many of us students ending a session in restful savasana or corpse pose. Most importantly, I attended yoga classes when life was demanding and stressful, as well when it was quieter. Since attending classes at Yoga Centre in Winnipeg, I have eagerly pursued a deeper understanding of yoga poses, pranayama (or breath practice), meditation, and philosophy. Presently as I work on completing my basic yoga teacher training, I see my yoga practice as a wonderful lifelong journey of study, discovery, and reflection.