2019-07-11

How Yoga Changed Me

I’ve been wanting to write about my yoga practice for some time now and have met a lot of resistance. Mostly because I anticipate a loss of words when it comes to trying to articulate how profound my Kundalini practice has been.

Yoga has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, but until a few years ago, it was mostly on the periphery. My mom explored yoga and I was always drawn to it, yet never committed to more than an occasional class. I had a few close friends who were experiencing big shifts in their emotional and spiritual well being through Kundalini. I observed and listened to their experiences in awe and tried a few classes myself but it didn’t really click. Kundalini is very strange when you first start. There is a lot of chanting and odd movements that you do for longer than you think you can stand. After a while though, these strange movements start to make perfect sense, on a very deep level. It’s a very methodical sequence of specific movement and breath techniques that creates coherence in your entire being—you can literally reach a state of pure bliss after certain extended poses. We all know now that meditation is an essential part of well-being, yet how do we cultivate that in our lives? For most of us, the first thought that comes to mind when thinking of meditation is squirming on a cushion and wrestling with our mind to quite the thoughts. For me, I realized I needed a more embodied approach to reach this state. After all, how should we expect to quiet our mind with the very mind that is driving us mad with its ceaseless thoughts? Kundalini addresses this phenomenon through very physical sequences that focus on different energy centers guiding you to a balanced state. By doing these repetitive movements, it becomes a moving meditation and you really get in touch with your mind by observing the resistance and everything that comes up as you move through the postures. For me, most importantly it addresses and strengthens your nervous system.

It’s hard to pinpoint a timeline, but I was probably into the first year of practice when I started to notice big shifts. Anxiety and depression have been something I have lived with since I was a young adult and shortly after the birth of my daughter, the anxiety took hold of me. Since then, I have been in a constant search for ways to heal. I tried everything from therapy, to acupuncture to medication. And while all of these things played a vital part in my healing journey, it wasn’t until I developed a strong Kundalini practice that I started to notice big shifts in my anxiety. My anxiety has always been very physical, with a long list of bodily symptoms that drove me crazy—shortness of breath being the most prominent and unnerving. I needed something that addressed the physical part before I could address the mental, hence the strengthening of the nervous system. Once my body started to get stronger and relax, so followed my mind. It’s very subtle but over time I started to notice my center grow stronger and change the way I move in the world. My mind wasn’t filled with anxious thoughts and if they did arise they didn’t take hold of me. I also noticed that I was less reactive to external circumstances, I had more capacity to take things as they came, without resisting, or needing to have control. 

I’m about 3 years in now with a (almost) daily practice and I feel changed. I feel more patient and less irritable (not always!) with my family and more trusting of life in general. My relationship with alcohol has also changed. While I didn’t drink in excess, I did have a much too noisy internal dialog, a nightly should I, or shouldn’t I and a habit of using alcohol to help calm my nerves at the end of the day. Now, my cravings are gone and if I do enjoy a glass of wine or beer, I’m actually enjoying it. I’m more present with the sensation and can usually only drink half a glass. For me, this feels like true health, being in touch with my cravings and what my body truly needs. Many of us are on overload from daily pressures of life and overstimulation from the media. This constant bombardment can have a desensitizing effect on us. This practice helps us find that unwavering center within us all so we can digest what’s happening in the world and resensitize us to the miracle of the present moment. My prayer is to continue to go deeper with the practice and experience new levels of awakening. I am so grateful to have access to this ancient knowledge and the space in my life to explore it. 

So how did I incorporate this strange esoteric practice into my life? Like I said before, the few classes I went to did not draw me in. I practice at home with Glo and have found a wonderful teacher that I fully trust, even though I’ve never met her! Her name is Kia Miller and she’s a true yogi. While the group energy of a class can be very uplifting and transformative, I have found that a solitary practice is best for me, at least for now. It’s truly my medicine and I take it with me everywhere. I’ve reached the point where I can easily practice on my own but I usually choose to follow one of Kia’s classes because her words flow so beautifully with the movement. It all feels like a precious gift that I have held close to my heart and am now ready to share, in hopes that others can discover a practice of their own. 

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