Mind Body & Soul: How Yoga Found Me
The saying often goes, “Yoga finds you when it is the right time” – if you had said this to me a few years back, I would have thought what on earth are you on about? However, now I understand…
I have taken yoga classes on and off for over a decade, so yoga is nothing new to me. I did enjoy most classes at the time but never really stuck consistently at regular practice (other than when I had a gym membership that ran a fantastic class Monday nights), and I certainly never bothered to practice at home on my own.
However, this year, things changed, Yoga really found me.
I now practice yoga nearly every day, whether that be attending a local class, developing my skills in a workshop, or doing my own self practice at home.
Over the last 3 years, my husband and I have been trying to conceive (TTC) without much luck. So in a quest to find out what was going wrong, or wasn’t working, I began to analyse my life, ask questions, and research lots and lots, looking for possible solutions to fix our problem.
I looked into things like diets, certain foods at certain times, supplements, natural and medical treatments, and even possible reasons where a trauma or illness earlier in life might have had an affect on my hormone balance and reproductive system.
Of course we have been medically checked too. All our tests so far have come back fine and the consultants have told us it’s “unexplained infertility” (man I hate the phrase) followed by “you need to gain more weight” and “cut back on exercise” – these options just felt like the easy way out for them, a cop out if you like, especially seeing as I am neither under weight nor overweight – my stats will tell you that!
Now, I admit that I am an active person, but I’m also by no means training like a professional athlete! I love to run, but no more than 3-5 miles max, I enjoy CrossFit, water sports and generally just love being active outdoors. I tried cutting back, in fact I tried a month of doing nothing, but it just made me really miserable. Exercise is my outlet, my time to switch the mind off and focus on just being in the present.
Stress can also be one of the biggest contributing factors to infertility problems. So I began to look at all the things that were causing me stress, work being one of them. I had become unhappy being strapped to a desk for hours and hours, I longed to be active. So after much debate, I ended up leaving my contract role to focus purely on my own freelance work so that I could manage the balance better and focus on what was important to us right now – distressing and TTC!
I ended up feeling like I was locked in limbo, having given up my career but still not moving forward in my path in life, which inevitably caused me more anxiety and stress.
It became apparent to me how important it is for the body and mind to be in sync – and mine definitely were not! I was at constant battle with my mind saying one thing and my body craving another. So I looked into alternative treatments that could help with this specifically and gave hypnotherapy a try. Although I found during the 1-2-1 sessions I was able to unplug, when it came to practicing at home and listening to the tapes, I just found it annoying, I would fidget, get distracted with other thoughts and it was too easy to get up and switch it off, rendering the whole thing pointless. I hadn’t ‘relaxed’ at all!
I needed to find an alternative way to switch off my mind and unplug, whilst being active (gently) and allowing me time to be in the present and de-stress. Around this time yoga was again suggested to me as an ‘active’ form of relaxation that relaxes the mind and the body at the same time.
Exploring Yoga for Active Relaxation
I did miss my yoga classes from the old gym that I used to go to, the teacher was fantastic. A great yoga class totally depends on having a great yoga instructor leading it and more importantly finding the right yoga instructor for you. Everyone is different, from different uses of the voice, styles of practice and most importantly different methods for Savasana, the relaxation phase at the end of your class. So I began trying out all the different yoga classes in my local area, keeping an open mind, but noting which ones I liked best. As yoga classes can be quite expensive I also made use of the fantastic summer we have just had and found some YouTube classes online, taking my mat out into the garden and enjoying the sunshine. Eventually I found the style I love and couple of local classes now that I attend weekly.
The classes that I was often put off by we probably the more ‘spiritual’ hippie type classes. It was a bit much for me. Although I have always had a connection with nature and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings when I am out exploring or walking my dog, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a ‘spiritual’ person. I totally respect those who do practice in a spiritual manor and I totally get it too. I love taking care of my body inside and out, I love to eat and drink natural products, I love the great outdoors, I love being in the wild (running, swimming, exploring), I love the feeling fresh clean air in my lungs and sunshine on my skin gives me. But for me that’s as far as it goes.
However, what I learnt this year is that you can meditate without being ‘spiritual’. Mediation is simply a form of controlling the mind, clearing away the chatter, letting thoughts come and go without chewing on them, focusing on the breath and eventually finding peace and silence in the mind – and when you get there, trust me, it is amazing! Not only does it allow you to enjoy those few moments of stillness, it teaches you to apply those lessons to everyday life, enabling you to be less stressed in general. For me it certainly has helped me to become less anxious, and stew on thoughts less.
Mediation is not that easy to just stop and do though. For me I needed time to calm the body first and gradually switch the mind off everyday things to focusing on the here and now. I found that yoga was a great practice to enable this, allowing me to feel ‘active’ but at the same time focusing on breath control and body movements. Some may argue that the main phase of a yoga practice before the mediation phase of the class is a form of meditation too – I would be inclined to agree.
Finding My Yogi Style
The more yoga I did, the more I could see the benefits and the more I wanted to do.
I started testing it out for different purposes, finding yoga routines for post workout stretching, aiding sleep, period pain relief and one of the most surprising discoveries… calming the mind in preparation for weightlifting. I found that if I did a 15-20 min calming yoga flow before I went to an Olympic lifting class my technique was far more controlled, I could lift far heavier and overall I was far more focused.
I found that even though this summer I was doing less fitness training due to undergoing our first IVF cycle, my strength still improved due to gently working all those little core muscles in yoga practice, my focus stayed positive (mostly – everyone gets their down days) and I was generally less stressed than I had been in years despite what we were going through. This combined with my new sugar free (Keto diet) left me feeling amazing inside and out.
This discovery got me thinking about how yoga compliments most things in life – even weightlifting! It’s really a practice that everyone should add to their fitness routine, whether that be for restorative purposes to compliment an intense training schedule, for focus in physical training or work, or for general stress relief – lets face it, who couldn’t do with a little escapism today huh?!
The fallout of these discoveries left me wanting to help others, share my findings and help those in similar situations to me.
Sharing My Yoga Experience
Although yoga had helped me to chill out a little bit, I still felt a little in limbo with progression in life. I am the type of person who needs to be challenged, needs to progress, needs a goal to work towards. I also was sick of being tied to my desk work-wise and decided it was time to look into a long awaited career change into the health and fitness industry. Yoga and nutrition seemed to be the perfect fit for where I was at in my life right now. So I signed up for a Yoga Instructor course along with basic nutrition course too and will hopefully be fully qualified by the end of the month!
My vision is to create two concepts; one for hormone balance and stress relief using yoga or nutrition or both, and one for fitness – to aid recovery, restore and focus, again using yoga or nutrition or both.
My goal is to inspire the non yogi types through use of the yoga practice, but in a way they have not tried before, giving the practice purpose, complimenting their existing routines and helping them achieve their goals whatever they might be – fitness or balance.
So watch this space people and maybe yoga will find you too someday sooner than you think 😉
My Top 5 FREE YouTube Yoga Flows to get started
Fancy giving Yoga a try, but are maybe put off by a full hours class? As long as you have internet connection and some floor space you can try these quick 15 – 30 min sequences anywhere to give you a taste…
- Yoga by Candace – Full Body 15 Min Vinyasa Flow
- Post Workout Cool Down – perfect for all you CrossFitters!
- YOGATX – Full Body Stretch
- Fancy a challenge? Try This Full Body Intermediate Vinyasa Flow
- Alo Moves also give a 14 day free try and have an awesome selection of classes and series on there site available.