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.
Practice yoga with Chrissy Carter’s Chaturanga Vinyasa Flow video on GaiamTV.com.
It is impossible to know hope until one has experienced hopelessness — that feeling of suffocating permanence, as if you will be forever trapped in your present situation. In a place of hopelessness, all feels irrevocably lost. We harden and brace ourselves for permanent pain in the same way that we gather and store reserves in preparation for a long, hard winter. It’s as if the shutters have been closed and all the lights turned off. Lost in the darkness, we succumb to avidya (ignorance), the belief that our finite experience is all-pervasive and interminable. Helpless, hapless and hopeless, it is impossible to imagine a light at the end of the tunnel, and we start to lose sight of the big picture.
But in these times, hope can be a light in the darkness, filtering through the slats in the shutters, shifting the shadows in our dark room from ominous to promising. Suddenly and against all odds, we can find compassion for ourselves in the face of suffering.
Before the holidays is a great time to detox. It can stave off weight gain and put you in a healthy mindset to help you resist temptation. And detoxing after the holiday “re-tox” — no matter how much carnage was left on that Thanksgiving dinner table, or how much stress crept into your weekend — is as easy as unrolling your mat. No matter when or on what level you could use a little realigning, this sequence is for you.
No matter what
No matter where
It’s always home
If love is there.
I grew up with this quote hanging on our kitchen wall. As a little girl, I admired the fine needlework (yes, I grew up in Kansas) rather than the actual message embedded in the thread. As I’ve grown in life and with my yoga practice, I’ve come to fully understand the power behind this simple message. Home and comfort reside in the small things, and love is magically woven into every crevice of our lives when we learn to let go of the story we’re telling ourselves and open our eyes.
My student Mary came to me nearly in tears one day after class. She’d been working for years to get into a headstand, yet continually watched newer students lift up with ease before her. She asked, “What am I doing wrong?”
Since Mary had come into my yoga classes only the week before, I asked her if she was using her bandhas to help her attain headstand. “What’s a bandha?” she asked, looking puzzled.
Yes, yoga is known for its healing powers and ability to transform your body and mind into a lean — yet much less mean — you.
In more than a decade as a yoga instructor, I’ve noticed that yogis are often super strong in the arms and legs, but the core? Not so much.
What are your resolutions this year? If you’re like many people, you’ve got a goal in mind: lose weight, make a change in your job or relationships, treat yourself better, or otherwise embark on an Operation: Transformation!
Not to be a total bummer, but no matter how many hours we’ve put in on the mat, how many “Om”s we sing or how many times we dent the meditation cushion, anyone can regress in times of stress. We get snarky, we lash out, we turn on the waterworks and display a host of other behaviors better suited to the Terrible Twos than, say, a holiday dinner at the adult table.