I discovered yoga at a time in my life where so little seemed to make sense. I was confused about my career, my spirituality (God reclaimed my life on a yoga mat – more on that another day!), and my overall purpose. I was fueled by coffee and anxiety and was very unhappy. I wasn’t sure what my purpose was any longer. All I could focus on was work and doing it well. Even if I didn’t know it was the right direction. Something just felt off and it gnawed at me and my well-being.
At the recommendation of a wonderful friend, I had been seeing a psychologist who had been helping me very gently unpack the confusion. As I hit the peak of my work burn out, she recommended a six-week mindful meditation course. Off I went, not knowing what to expect or how it would help. But for the first time in a very long time, I felt at ease. I felt like I could cling to these tiny oases of calm when my mind went full tilt crazy from the confusion. It felt like the only time I could catch my breath, and that was enough to convince me on its power. And through this, I opened my heart to yoga. I started practicing and started noticing how I was evolving.
I learned to notice when that peace from a yoga session left me. I noticed that I could feel more at ease, more present and that it was 100% in my control to maintain that. I started to notice what pulled me out of this. And this was important for two reasons; It started to show me the relationships, situations and choices that were not conducive to a mindful life, and it started to show me how despite these, I could maintain my presence. I could face someone that scared me, or a situation that was highly uncomfortable and still face it with presence, confidence and compassion.
Do you know that emotions often start in our bodies as body sensations? I have become more attuned to the root of my emotions. I have become aware of when I start feeling uncomfortable in my stomach (often anxiety) and my lower back (often for me, anger). Noticing it before it turns into an upsetting thought, or worse yet a horrible snap-back at someone, means I have a cue to breathe deeply – To breathe into those parts that begin tensing, to notice they are triggering something, to allow them to soften, and to let the emotion or sensation pass. It always does. But when it’s not quite happening quick enough, I’ve also learned to remove myself from the situation until I can face it with presence and compassion again. I didn’t really know I could access that so easily before yoga.
A much, much deeper appreciation for the choices I make that affect my body has formed over the years. When moving through a flow, I get to feel every inch of my body and notice the tightness in my stomach from tight pants that have been cutting in too hard. Or my Achilles tendon that has been shortened from years of high heels. Or an annoying headache from a glass of wine the night before. These have all taught me to treat my body with more compassion. To notice how my body keeps the score of my choices, and it’s totally unnecessary to treat it like anything less than Jesus’ temple!
Yoga to me, is so much more than the sessions and the poses. It’s the value it has added to my life beyond the mat. And I feel that this is the power of yoga and the gift that God has given to us with this beautiful practice. There are many forms of practice that encourage stretching and poses, but the mindful presence that yoga requires means there is so much to take from the mat and into our lives. The choice is ours; will we get the full benefit of yoga? If we choose to take this beyond the mat, then yes, we most certainly will.
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Post by Candice Clark. Candice is a registered counselor and yoga teacher that specializes in trauma and mental health. She has completed an Honors Degree in Psychology & has a calling for the healing and restoration of broken hearts. Spoken over her before she was 1 year old! She loves to write, love on her hubs & 2 fur-babies and spend uninterrupted time in God’s presence. She is currently wrapping up her Yoga Therapy training via Holy Yoga. You can find out more about her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/candsclarkvz or on her website www.candiceclark.co.za