Yoga saved my life.
Pretty grand statement, I know. And perhaps other people say that, too. I guess depending on where you are in life or what you happen to be going through, there are a lot of things that can save your life. A good book could do it, a sign from the universe or maybe even a strong martini. But when I say that yoga saved my life, I mean it truly came into my life during one of the darkest moments I had ever experienced and gave me back my desire to really live — fully and entirely.
A few years back, I found myself completely paralyzed with anxiety. I couldn’t go to work, drive my car or even leave my house without a potential panic attack. This anxiety made me angry. It made me resentful. But most of all, it made me an entirely different person. I became a shell of what I used to be. A lot of people thought I’d stay that way. Full disclosure: I thought I’d stay that way too.
I took a lot of the summer off to rest and rejuvenate. It was a really powerful time for me and I used it to contemplate and reflect on many areas of my life. It is very interesting to me that when we slow down, the opportunity to witness our thoughts and behaviors amplifies.
One of the things that I noticed is that there are times when I will resist something or someone only to discover that the event or person is bringing me an amazing and unexpected gift. I paused and asked myself to explore the habit of resistance. It’s a habit I often see in my clients, so we work on dismantling the need to resist without reason. And then, here I am, watching the same behavior in myself. (We never really arrive, do we?!)
If you’re like most people, you have, at some point at least, tried meditation. But if you are also like most people, you’ve probably not found meditation user-friendly enough to become a regular habit.
In addition to the age-old spiritual benefits, thousands of research studies have demonstrated that meditation increases awareness, well-being and equanimity; relieves anxiety, depression and other mental health problems; increases mental clarity; and reduces the stress associated with many medical problems.
Ever felt yourself going through the motions of a yoga pose without focus or purpose? I think most yogis who’ve been practicing for a while have this experience, at least sometimes.
Several years ago, I found myself rushing through the Sun Salutation, praying for the series to end so I could move on to asanas I enjoyed more. I hated the way the pose strained my wrist and left me breathless, and it seemed to take forever to get through five or six of them. But since appreciating whatever you’re doing is a key spiritual teaching, I knew I had to do something to change my perspective.
You may know you want to seek enlightenment, but how exactly do you define it and know what you’re looking for? One astute attendee at the Vancouver Yoga Conference, where Colleen and I were answering questions about our online yoga site the Gaiam Yoga Club, asked us for our insight. “That’s the question we’re asking every day,” says Colleen. “What is enlightenment? What does it feel like? How do I get there?” Get our answer in this video that’s not what you might expect.