Saturday, January 26, 2013

Yoga, Meditation and Me

“When you listen to yourself, everything comes naturally. It comes from inside, like a kind of will to do something. Try to be sensitive. That is yoga.” 
― Petri Räisänen

It's 5am on a Saturday morning and all I hear is literally the tick tock of a very old clock on the wall above my patio door. This blog post is two weeks late and that makes my Type A, neurotic self want to burst(into a neat and organized pile of matter I can control of course). This feeling is only exacerbated by the fact that I haven't slept all night and that the acid reflux burning through my chest, up throat and into my ears is my own fault because no one forced me to eat pizza and drink coffee.

But like I said, the clock on the wall ticks away. This post is two weeks late. And yet, despite my desire to want to spontaneously combust, I am at peace. Crazy how both of those feelings can exist simultaneously within me now. And I credit that to yoga and meditation.

For the last few months I've gone on and on about how I'm changing my lifestyle. Redefining my "normal." Setting and sticking to my "non-negotiables." And finding a realistic balance. I've changed the food that I eat, the time that I rest, and how much and how often I work and pray(meditate). I've attempted to control what I can, so that when everything else around me spins out of control, I don't completely lose it.

Einstein said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I had to stop doing the same things hoping to "get better" or I was going to end up back in a hospital, of the mental institution kind.

After many months of slowly removing the bad and incorporating the good, I came to the final chapter of my "transformation/rebirth" saga: consistent yoga and meditative practice.

Now, many will cringe when you say those two words and feel like it's some new aged hippified trend made popular by the likes of that unnecessary lady who wrote Eat, Pray Love, Oprah and other Hollywood stars. But the truth is that true, honest, and meaningful yoga and meditation really does have the power to change your life. Why? Because it can change and teach you how to control your mind. If you can control your thoughts, and bring peace to your life (at any venture) then you have experienced true freedom.

I decided on yoga and meditation because it is unattached to religion. (At least in my practice) I did not want to have my Catholic guilt interfering with my connection to my higher self, and though I still read passages from the Bible to give me hope and inspiration, it is easier and more beneficial for me to find that same comfort from within.

It's taken me many months to finally make yoga and meditation a habit but over the last two weeks I have had several "aha" moments that solidify it all for me.

1. While sitting in a yoga class (with a very awesome and bubbly teacher/quite the opposite of what you'd expect in a yoga class) I realized that yoga was more than just a good workout with mental and physical health benefits. Yoga is a philosophy. A way of life. When people think of yoga teachers and "yogis" they think of chilled out "zen" and hippified individuals. But the truth is, that's not the case. Yoga teachers and avid yogis have problems just like the rest of us, but they have learned to be in the chaos and trauma of their daily lives and find stillness. (This is something my yoga teacher told me in the very first class we had together, and it didn't hit me until 4months later) It's like those commercials where someone stands in the middle of a busy street and all you see is the blur all around them and they're moving in slow motion, only in yoga, you're completely still. I now know that no matter what life throws at me, I WILL be ok. (I was very unsure of this in the past)

"Let the light within shine through the darkness that surrounds you."- Rhia R., Yoga Teacher(paraphrased)

2. My second "aha" moment came when I did two things by instinct without making excuses or trying to convince myself into it. One morning last week I woke up, sat up in bed and just instinctually started meditating. It wasn't even until about ten minutes into it that I realized what I had done (breaking the meditative state BUT...) it was an awesome moment. The other moment happened when I realized that I didn't "feel" right because I hadn't practiced yoga in a few days. I noticed a HUGE difference in my joints, muscles and even energy levels. When I started to analyze why I felt this "strange" (and it wasn't pain that I felt, just different) I realized it was because I hadn't practiced in a few days. So, I simply put out my mat and practiced for about 20min. It completely changed my mood and my body.

3. The last epiphany I had, was while watching TV with the hubs. There was some random movie on that was not a comedy. Hell, it wasn't even a drama. It just was. (One of those talky talky indie films) But while watching it, I found myself involuntarily smiling. It wasn't like a full on cheesy smile, just a soft easy one. This is NOT a usual "face" for me, so after only a few seconds of this I realized what I was doing but couldn't stop. My type A self took another moment to analyze the situation and decided that this MUST be my inner peace expressing itself. I know it sounds hokey, but people, if you know me, you know I don't smile "just because." I make A LOT of contorted faces, smiling is rarely one of them. I knew then that this stillness and peace was coming from somewhere deeper and I was happy to embrace it.

I am not trying to "push" yoga or meditation. It is my perception of how to achieve a more balanced life and each person has to find that for themselves. But I will say, for those people who have often told me that they "can't" do yoga (too unfit or whatever) or that they can't sit still for meditation, you are wrong. You have to find the right kind of yoga. The right kind of meditation. And by "right" I mean what works for you and your body. I practice Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga (until I'm ready for something faster) because they are both slower practices that focus on healing the parts of my body that I know need healing. And when I meditate, I lay or sit in a position that is comfortable and let all my bodily twitches just happen because I have to learn to let go of control of those things. (Live in the chaos, be in stillness)

We show our love to the ones we love by listening to them. Considering their needs and doing what we can to fulfill those needs. Like the quote above says, yoga is about listening to your body. Why not stop for a moment and listen to what your body is telling you and give yourself the love you deserve?

The clock is still ticking violently. The sun still hasn't come up. My husband is still asleep. And I know that it's going to be a long, busy day where I may get cranky because I haven't slept. Despite this, I am happy, because if THIS is as chaotic as it's going to get, then I have so much to be thankful for. (And that is what yoga can do)

(Disclaimer: I am not a yoga teacher/master etc. I have a lot to learn and understand. This is just the beginning of the journey for me and this is what I've learned so far, I just hope to share what I know and dispel preconceived notions of what it means to practice yoga and meditation) 

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