Om… Anyone seen my Zen?

A few years ago, the thought of yoga didn’t inspire me, namely because I’ve always been more of a kick-boxing kinda gal. I always felt like I got my best ‘de-stressing’ workouts by doing something aggressive, and truth be told, I was sure yoga would stress me out. Yes, you read that correctly.

Back in 2006, I was dating this guy and my relationship was pointlessly complicated and extremely stressful. As a result, I woke up one day with IBS. Fantastic! The trigger? Stress. Admittedly, back then I was more high-strung and my stress level was pretty high on a normal day. I had always worked out – weight training, cardio, kick-boxing, but I needed something to help me manage my stress more effectively. I remembered that when I was a kid, my mom used to do yoga every day, and that often, I would accompany her. She had been practicing yoga for years, and even while pregnant with me, continued her practice.

I started doing yoga using a DVD that a friend suggested, and incorporated this into my workouts. I’d done this for about 2 years, but realized that it wasn’t inspiring me. There was no flow to it, and I didn’t feel challenged. I also still hadn’t found my ‘center’, and figured that I would have by then, if this yoga thing actually worked. Thanks to Google, I discovered the fabulous Rodney Yee. I picked up a couple of his beginner DVDs, and started the path to a more serious practice.  After a few months of doing beginner yoga, I upped the ante and started doing power yoga. This is when I realized that power yoga really did it for me –  it challenged me both physically and mentally, and lo and behold, I was starting to feel calmer. I then started doing more advanced yoga, which I practiced at home a few times a week. Granted, I felt better, and power yoga certainly complimented my gym workouts (Note to readers: if you weight train and do power yoga, you will tone up very nicely!), but I hadn’t quite found my ‘center.’ I have a very hard time with meditation – mostly because I can’t shut my brain off.  You can only imagine how pathetic my final Savasannas are. Savasanna is known as the ‘corpse’ pose, and is meant to be relaxing. Its intention is to rejuvenate your body,  mind and spirit. I still struggle with this one, and am amazed that I can do Camel pose, but I can’t lie on back in peace and quiet. Go figure.

So, in my ongoing search for my ‘center,’ I picked up Yee’s book Moving Toward Balancethis was going to be my next challenge.  At this point, I was pretty sure I had a ‘center, but that it was still buried pretty deep. This was a guided practice; before you begin this journey, you must make the  commitment to practice yoga six days a week, for eight full weeks. No excuses! The poses and sequences are outlined for you, and all you have to do is get on your mat. So, I made the commitment and what a difference it made. If you practice frequently, you will notice the physical and mental changes. I gradually started feeling calmer, more peaceful, even patient. If you know me, you know that patience is not my biggest virtue! At the end of the eight weeks, I felt fantastic. Things had gone so well that I decided to practice yoga daily. There are days when I do both yoga and work out – this is always a good day. I also decided to start doing hot yoga – something I’d been thinking about for a long time. After speaking to one of the educators at my local Lulu store, I decided on Moksha. Moksha is very similar to Bikram, but there are subtle differences. Moksha uses a series of 40 postures and is practiced in a heated room with a temperature between 38-40. It is more meditative then Bikram.  Bikram uses a series of 26 postures that are repeated twice and the temperature is hotter than Moksha.  I’ve also heard that it has a more ‘militant’ approach then, but have not experienced this first-hand. Personally, I prefer the diversity of Moksha.

Moksha is amazing. I never thought it would be possible for me to empy my mind completely. I went to my first class and left 90 minutes later feeling completely drained. It was an incredible feeling. During my practice, I focused only on myself, and was able to tune out everything that was going on around me, in and out of the room.  Adding Moksha to my practice has helped me find my zenitude (Annism!), and I will be forever grateful (I have a ‘center’ after all! Who knew?). To add to all of this, I also discovered my new favorite yogi, Baron Baptiste. I have incorporated his hot yoga level 2 into my practice, and it’s a great substitute for the days I can’t go to Moksha, or hit the gym. He makes me sweat and I like it.

In the last year, I have practiced yoga regularly, and have noticed several changes – I feel calmer, at peace, a LOT less stressed. I feel happier, and I’ve realized that I can leave behind allthe things that don’t bring positive energy into my life.

My takeaway from all this? Yoga is good for me. But the real lesson is that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. Having a bad day? Do some yoga, go for a run, hit the gym – bring some positive energy into your life, and expel the negative energy out of your life. You will be amazed what this can do.


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