I was first introduced to yoga in college and found it to be incredibly centering and emotionally healing. Plus, it felt good to stretch muscles I never knew existed! But once I graduated, my career, parenting, and all other aspects of “adulting” took precedence, and yoga was pushed to the side.
Yoga found its way back to me when my daughter was young. She was in a special education class and one day when I dropped her off, one of her classmates was having a very rough start to the day. This girl was angry and determined to stay on the bus until it took her back home. She was screaming, spitting at the bus aide, and grabbing her seat as if it were a life raft. Suddenly, the teacher stepped onto the bus and calmly called out the name of a yoga pose. The girl quickly stopped yelling and began doing a sun salutation in middle of the bus. You could see the anxiety start to melt from her body (and everyone else’s!), and in a few minutes, she stepped off the bus and entered the school with a smile on her face.
I was stunned by this miraculous turnaround, so I asked the teacher her secret. She told me the kids spend 15 minutes a day in the gym learning simple yoga poses to get their brains and bodies into the routine. Then when they become agitated, anxious, angry, or sad during the day, one of the teachers helps them do poses on a mat. She said it had lowered stress levels in the classroom, reduced emotional outbursts, and increased the focus on learning.
When I developed my WRAP, I remembered what an impact yoga had on me and the kids in my daughter’s class, so I added weekly practice to my plan. My first day back in a yoga class, I felt a bit silly because everyone else knew the poses and seemed as flexible as a stretchy toy. But at the end of class, a weight seemed to lift off my mind and body. I felt a sense of calm envelop me, and suddenly my life stressors didn’t seem so insurmountable. Yoga isn’t a miracle cure to all of life’s ills, but when I take the time to fit it into my life, I am more mindful and less reactive to my triggers.
Although some people think of yoga as a form of exercise, it’s far more than a workout. The word yoga means “to join or yoke,” and its practice brings the body and mind together into one harmonious whole. It can be emotionally and spiritually transformative. And yoga is for everyone—no matter their health status, size, age, flexibility, etc., poses can be adapted to the individual’s comfort level and abilities.
Let me share just a few health and wellness benefits of yoga. Regular yoga practice can
- improve the quality of your sleep and relax your nervous system (which is particularly helpful for people with chronic fight-or-flight response and posttraumatic stress);
- lower your cortisol (stress hormone) levels;
- boost your immune function and ease chronic pain;
- help you “be in the moment” rather than worrying about your past or future;
- improve your balance, posture, blood pressure, flexibility, joint health, and bone density;
- help you heal from past trauma; and
- help you achieve greater inner peace and serenity.
Do you use yoga as part of your WRAP? If so, have you noticed changes in the way you feel? Let us know by commenting on Facebook, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will share some of your stories and ideas in future articles. Namaste.