It’s All Connected

It’s All Connected

About a year ago I discovered Yoga. I had just suffered a month of major upheaval. It was though I forgot how to sleep. I would lay in bed until 5AM, then finally drift off for three our four hours. I wasn’t getting anywhere near enough sleep and I woke up way too late to get all my work done easily. And, of course, my body was training itself not to sleep before 5AM, which is a big problem for someone who suffers insomnia.

I spent a lot of time agonizing over why this occurred and how to ‘break’ the cycle. For a long time, I thought it had something to do with stress over the inability to complete my work. Yet, strangely, no matter how zombified I felt, all my work got done. I felt like I’d just crawled my way out of hell, but I still wrote, edited and networked on a daily basis.

I discovered yoga during my search for a solution. I wanted something to help me relax and deal with stress. I also wanted a way to be physically active for 20-30 minutes per day, since all of my work is done at a computer. Yoga was something I could do from home, whenever I wanted. I could start with ‘easy’ and work my way up. I could do light routines for days I didn’t feel up to a lot of physical activity and more challenging routines on days I wanted a challenge.

I’ve never had that great a relationship with exercise. I’m not a fan of the burn from a heavy workout, and I didn’t want something that would require a trip to the gym. At the time, we still lived in England and I would have had to take the train, which would have been expensive, and cut too deeply into my writing time.

Yoga also appeals to me for other reasons. It involves a mental aspect. You don’t just go through the motions and push through the burn. Instead, the exercises focus on a sense of awareness. You don’t simply hold a yoga pose until your muscles can’t take anymore. You connect to the sensation of the moment. How does my body feel? What is my mental state? How do I release everything and focus on just this moment, this movement?

We live in a busy world. We’re always thinking about the next thing we need to do. Need to check my email and contact this list of people. And what am I making for dinner tonight? And oh, I have to do this chore sometime tomorrow. The list goes on. Our brains are wired this way; the future is of great concern when it comes to survival. That alone makes meditation relaxing and liberating. For a moment, we forget that we have papers to submit and groceries to purchase. We focus on the taste of our morning tea, instead, or the sensation of tension fleeing your muscles after yoga practice.

My favourite yoga instructor (on youtube) talks about moving with intention. This involves being aware of how each motion affects us. Closing your eyes and leaning forward may knock you off balance. It also involves using breath to guide and inform your movements between positions. In this way, yoga can be used to dispel negativity or stress from earlier in the day.

On a deeper level, yoga allows me to connect to my spirituality. I’ve never considered myself overly religious, but I am conscious of spirituality in my every-day life. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Ultimately, yoga was the first step on my journey toward better self-care. It allowed me to relax, release my tensions and fears, and focus my energy on creative projects. It played a large role in helping me overcome the month-long bout of insomnia. It also gave me the tools I needed to control my stress. If I find myself slipping toward a breakdown, I use my yoga breathing exercises. If I find myself unable to sleep at night, I use a series of relaxing yoga poses combined with the same breathing techniques to help me relax.

It turns out, yoga doesn’t always need a dedicated time or space. You can assume mountain pose in a long check out line and take a few deep, relaxing breaths. I use this in the shower on mornings with a stressful schedule. Yoga routines can be an intensive workout, or a quick series of stretches at your desk between tasks. For me, yoga has been the foundation of living a calmer, happier life. It has certainly given me more than I ever imagined when I decided to give it a try.

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