And that title is not hyperbole for the sake of drama. I believe yoga did save my life.
20 years ago, I lay in a bed in my mother’s guest room wishing I could just evaporate. I appealed to God (or whatever power that may be) to just let me not wake up.
My mother was gravely ill with cancer a couple of rooms away, and had been in a decline with her health for a couple of years, which all was on the heels of my father’s demise from cancer. This alone would be kind of heavy, but adding to the sense of doom was the fact that my second husband had just vacated our marriage, leaving our 18-month old daughter and my older two daughters in the dust for his 19-year-old receptionist from work. Perhaps the humiliation of this cliché was almost as bad as the actual trauma of the breakup. Oh yea, and he left without any warning on the exact anniversary of my father’s death. Nice.
I was publishing a magazine at that time and it was circling the drain as whatever money I had was hemorrhaging from every potential source. I felt a weenie bit defeated.
Life was messy and I wasn’t feeling particularly well equipped to deal with it.
I was about four years into my adventure in recovery from alcoholism and addiction—at least I had that going for me!
Just to give you perspective on my physical and mental state—I had been smoking and drinking and abusing drugs since I was 12, although I had finally quit smoking cigarettes along with all the other fun stuff at that point in my life. I had started having children at the age of 21 and had some difficulties with each of these pregnancies that left me scarred mentally, emotionally and physically. I had kind of lost faith in my body and had no idea how detached from it I had become. I wandered around fairly unconscious of what my body might want or need and took for granted things would keep moving and functioning right up till I actually didn’t care about anything anymore.
So, when the universe, God or whatever didn’t comply with my wish to stop living in a magical pain-free way, I threw on some jeans and shuffled off to a women’s AA meeting, where I slumped into a chair and expected to not be helped.
I shared with the group that I wasn’t feeling particularly good about living and I guess the hopelessness oozed out, and one kind woman said,
“Honey, you need to not be alone. Why don’t you come with me to my yoga class and then we’ll worry about the rest of the day later.”
She was wise. Very wise.
I had never done yoga and I had zero interest in anything, but for some reason, I followed this woman into the class,—jeans and all—and just plunked myself unceremoniously onto a mat and hoped maybe I could at least get a nap in while I was so close to the floor.
The teacher, Nancy Sena, gently asked us all to pay attention to our bodies. Was it her voice, her super non-judgmental way of guiding the class, was it just good timing? Don’t know, but I was astonished how emotional I was getting. She would say something foreign like, “breath into those muscles and ask them what they need.” All I could do was cry. I hadn’t ever spoken to my body, let alone acknowledged that it might have needs. I blubbered and cried through the entire class, but for some reason didn’t care.
By the time we stretched out for savasana, I was stunned by how little I had been connected to my body and by how much neglect and abuse I had thoughtlessly heaped upon it.
A new sense of connection to this vessel of flesh had ignited.
I got up off that floor a different person and have never felt the kind of despair I went into that yoga studio with again. Not that life is perfect or there haven’t been tough times in the last 20 years, but it marked the beginning of a journey of a relationship with my body that is still an ongoing adventure.
Then Yoga saved me again . . .
Unfortunately, a painful health condition coupled with the onset of that big cauldron of change called peri-menopause (I call it mental pause), caused me to stop doing yoga on a regular basis and over the next 10 years, my physical condition declined as my weight creeped up on me. I tried to exercise regularly and periodically tried to get back to yoga, but my body rebelled, my joints screamed at me, and it was easier to focus on the business of building my media company, and ignore my body . . . or so I thought.
Then I met my green diva soulmate, Lynn Hasselberger, who aside from being a brilliant writer and editor and social media goddess, has the body of a 25-year-old. Her radiant health was a bit annoying at first, but I started to get the glow, and I began to wake up and do a gentle 20-minute yoga and meditation every morning, which seemed to loosen things up a bit. Then Lynn and I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii as Green Divas. It was a harsh reality to get into a bathing suit next to her, but we did this magical morning hike down to a black sand beach. All was great till we had to hike back up. I had such a hard time. It really stunned and scared me that I could be so out of shape. I vowed I would NEVER be in this terrible condition again.
Upon my return from Hawaii, I began a more focused yoga program at home and this enabled me to increase my exercise levels. After 3 months I was able to start running again, and after years of being unable to do a full yoga class, I’m back to taking yoga with another my favorite teachers/heroes Phil Dilavore and Erika Sherger.
Yup. Once again, it was yoga that brought me back. I personally believe I was at a cross roads in terms of my health and how the second half of my life was going to go (or not go), and yoga was this gentle way to bring my consciousness back to this fleshy vessel, which is home hopefully for another 50+ years. I’ll never be a yogini, but I have huge gratitude for yoga, my teachers and hope to keep expanding my practice as I trudge this happy road of destiny.
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