We constantly hear about the health benefits of yoga, but generalities quickly become tangible when a personal story is told. I’d like to share one such story with you today: the story of how yoga changed my life.
I began practicing over four years ago. It started as a New Year’s resolution, and ended as one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I could write a report on all the things that yoga has brought to my life, but in the interest of time and space I’ll focus on just three things:
1. Yoga eased the near constant pain in my neck.
When I was in 7th grade I was involved in a serious school bus accident. The accident left me with permanent bone damage and a pinched nerve in my neck. Since the injury occurred, I tried chiropractic care, physical therapy, medicine, and anything else I could think of to ease the pain. But nothing worked – until I began practicing yoga.
Gradually over time, the pain in my neck eased. Today, I’ve found that if I skip a few yoga practice sessions, the pain slowly begins to return. But as soon as I get back on the mat, I can feel the difference.
2. Yoga helped me deal with stress.
I’ve always been wound a little tight. But I never realized how much it affected my body and mind until the stress receded and I could feel a difference. As the saying goes: “sometimes we don’t know what we have until it’s gone.”
After I began practicing yoga, I found a sense of inner calmness and peace that I had never experienced before.
Physically, my headaches lessened, I slept better and I felt much less anxiety in my daily life.
Mentally, my mind didn’t race quite as fast, decisions were easier to make, and I was more apt to stop, notice and enjoy the beauty all around me. In this way yoga has helped me to replace stress with a new kind of calm awareness.
3. Yoga taught me to be patient.
I’ve never been very “sporty.” I joined track in high school but dropped out because I could barely even finish a race. I participated in soccer during middle school, but I spent most of the time on the bench.
Before I started yoga, I couldn’t even touch my knees in forward bend, and my Downward Dog looked more like Plank Pose.
At first I was discouraged, but I kept at it and stayed patient with my body. I accepted my own physical limitations and allowed myself to simply enjoy each pose exactly as I could perform it at the present time. Gradually, over years, my body became stronger and more flexible. My sense of balance improved and I was able to hold poses I once thought impossible.
It took me nearly four years of consistent practice to be able to perform full Downward Dog. This little victory was the result of a lot of time and patience.
But in the end I learned a little something extra: having patience is the ability to let go of a desire to get to the end result. Rather than feeling this desire, having patience allows you to enjoy the present moment and not concern yourself with the future.