I attend a yoga studio called Sundara Yoga. I have gone there for a little over two years.
I started practicing yoga regularly at the age of 42, 25 years after I had practiced it last as a teenager. I had felt for a couple of years that I should take up yoga again, but it wasn’t until a couple of days after my wife of 23 years and I decided to divorce. (It was a surprise to me.)
I was broken and reeling mentally and emotionally. I suddenly could not sleep. I could barely get through the days. My Doctor prescribed sleeping pills, which did not work and gave me a feeling like I had a sinus infection. I would walk for miles and hours to relieve stress and anxiety. It helped a small bit while I was doing it, but as soon as I slowed down the stress and anxiety would hit me full force.
Yoga brought me peace. I started going to Sundara almost every day. They offered a 21 classes for $20 plan initially. I think I made it to about 19 of those 21 classes. While this was probably good marketing, it also made sense from the perspective of building a healthy new habit. Going once a week, simply would not have set the positive habit as effectively.
Walking gave me a bit of relief almost like a pause button. As soon as the pause ended, the volume came back on at full volume.
Yoga gave me a different type of relief. It was more like rebooting a computer. During a 75 minute session, yoga demands a focus on the movements, the stretches and how our body is or is not working. We have to focus so much that the anxiety and depression or stress or our inner voice worrying about these things, it is silenced for much of that practice time. Yoga ends with a meditative ‘cool down’ portion. Our bodies relax and our minds can ‘reboot’ (my concept to understand it).
Coming out of a yoga session, is like starting up a brand new computer. We do not have all those programs running at the same time, distracting us and preventing us from dealing with any single program let alone all of them.
The silence and the reboot allow us a moment to focus on what we need to do next, and then we can crank up the program to do that thing.
Now for me, at the height of the pain and sorrow of loss, I desperately needed this reboot each day. I found that the reboot was only good for about 24-36 hours. Then I would need to practice again and reboot again.
I was living through a crisis and trying to heal from the shock of the trauma that initiated the crisis. So it was easy for me to get maxed out on the stress and anxiety of all those things that had happened and the things I needed to do to start a new life.
I learned a great deal about myself during this time. I rebuilt myself physically and mentally. I lost 30 pounds that first month. Six months later, I even had visible abs.
I was not really looking for a new physique. I simply wanted to survive and be happy.
The physical exercise aspect of yoga was a bi-product, a side effect. The real benefit for me in practicing yoga was the mental and emotional improvements I found.
I learned to heal my wounds. I learned to find peace. I learned to let go of the things I could not control (anxiety). I learned to forgive myself and others for the past (depression). I became a better father. I became more functional in many of the things I did. I learned to make better choices about priorities in life.
Two years later, I am still working on these things. I am not in the same place that I started. I feel as if I am ascending a mountain, not by walking up switch backs, but by circling around the mountain in a spiral of never-ending improvements and new perspectives that bring back to places that are similar to where I have been before. They are not the same. I heal and grow more with each passing and I keep making progress.
During the first month and over the last two years, I have found that practicing multiple styles of yoga benefited me greatly. I often chose my classes in the early days based on when I could fit it into my day. It did not matter if I went in the morning, mid day, or in the evening as long as I made it there!
Different yoga instructors teach at different times throughout the day. They all had different styles, approaches and all helped me get different results.
Some sessions helped me get stronger, some helped me unwind and become more limber. They all helped me sweat and breath out toxins from stress that had accumulated in my body over decades. They helped me to reflect on the past and work out the toxic thoughts that had accumulated too. Some instructors were younger than I am and some were older. They all had different levels of strength and capabilities that were inspirational, but the help they provided in terms of giving me space to be and heal and move on was amazing.
I have since practiced yoga in other studios around the country. I have done yoga on my own using my memory, apps, YouTube videos and more. I have done yoga on top of mountains, at the beach, on a paddle board, at breweries and the White Water Center. I have practiced with hundreds of people and by myself or with only a yoga instructor in the room.
The diversity of instructors and settings and styles and approaches, they all help me get in touch with some new aspect of myself, some new thing that needs to be healed or rebuilt.
I have written this as something of a primer for myself. I am going to write a testimonial for my studio that might be used in a magazine article that is either interviewing or featuring Sundara.
Writing succinctly is not something that always flows easily for me!
This has been something of a brainstorm to help me attempt to zero in on some of the more important sentiments that I hope to cover in something shorter. 🙂
Funny thing happened on the way to writing the actual testimonial…
I had been writing sitting on my girlfriend’s couch. This particular couch is one that I normally avoid when I’m working, because it is far TOO comfortable. As this couch goes, it was making me tired.
All this talk about yoga, inspired me to walk out onto the porch and try a hand stand to go upside down, get some blood flowing to my brain and wake up!
I found a spot that I had not tried a hand stand in before. I stretched a bit as I hung at the waist and let my arms reach the deck boards. I wasn’t feeling terribly limber (had previously hiked up Elk Knob just outside of Boone.
Leaving one foot on the ground, I reached out with my right foot lifting it up. Then I proceeded to hop up with my left foot pushing off, once twice, OUCH!!!
I managed to kick the railing on the porch with the under side of my right foot!
I then proceeded to write the testimonial below while standing on an ice pack and laughing at myself! (The picture of me doing a handstand is from months earlier.)
What can I say about a place that helped me save my own life and helped me rebuild my life too?
Two years ago, I found Sundara Yoga in Lowell through my friend Martha Blanchard, who happens to be the owner too. I was broken emotionally, reeling from a surprise divorce. The Sundara community of instructors and other members (all yogis) took me in and gave me space to heal.
The practice of yoga itself gives me the ability to reboot my brain each time I practice well. Unlike walking, running, exercising, swimming (exercises for the body), Yoga is not just a physical exercise but a balancing of the mind with the heart and the body. As a tech person, it feels that might mental computer gets completely rebooted. Without it, I’d have too many little programs, tasks, thoughts blazing through my mind to the point where I could not multi task any of them well. Yoga lets me reset and reboot, so that I can focus and run the one program that I need when I need it.
Physically, it has made me far stronger than I have ever been. Stronger than when I served in the Army. Stronger than when I used to run 10 miles a day. Stronger than when I was a teenager. Yet, the strength and physical capabilities are all side effects compared to the mental benefits and how that helps me to align with my purpose and heart.