Once upon a time, many years ago in the Land of Los Angeles, I learned my mother had ankylosing spondylitis, which is an inflammatory disease that can cause some of the vertebrae in one’s spine to fuse together. Upon learning my mother’s spine was fused from her neck down to her tailbone (the most extreme form of the condition, also known as “bamboo spine”), I realized that I needed to be proactive in my spinal health. I ventured into the realm of yoga.
I have also taken a sojourn to plan and create my future. I have spent a good portion of nearly three years engaging and abusing my consciousness with education and developing a small business, all while working full time. I put my yoga practice last, fitting in a class if I could. After a while (as any good human would) I started to rationalize the reasons for not doing yoga, such as the body shape bias of some yoga teachers with their eyebrows seemingly raised in judgment and other overly zealous yoga teachers pushing my body into poses it just doesn’t go. My body shape does not fit the stereotype of a L.A. yogi. My breasts serve as a first line of defense, preventing me from going into poses such as shoulderstand and plow.
But as soon as I begin again I remember: my yoga practice gives me a release from the discomfort of fibromyalgia and muscle stiffness.
Recently, I have been working hard within my community. I began to feel frustrated with others who were not communicating well and some who were not living up to their promised level of participation. By applying my conscious mind to various brand expansions and community-boosting activities, I was pushing my body to work over 16 hours a day. I began to feel exhaustion forming in the back of my throat. I recognized the feeling from years earlier; the debilitating cough would soon come. As my voice is the principal instrument of my vocation, I needed to take heed—no one wants to listen to a hacking hypnotherapist.
So I slowed down. Then, as if a light bulb flashed above my head, I decided to do a 30-day commitment to yoga, using my mat as a mirror for where I am in my body and in my mind.
Days one through five:
I felt the yogic glow. The glow was so intense that an instructor after class self-consciously stated that she couldn’t stop looking at my skin because it was so lovely. The joie de vivre was circling through my being and radiating out of my pores. I had noticed it after the first day of my commitment. The issues that had been clouding my consciousness melted away on my mat, making things clearer. A stronger sense of self-confidence and poise occurred. I felt my sense of primal desire stir and my sexuality, which had been tethered up in stress, was released. My ankles and feet seemed more secure and balanced. Yoga brought me back into my body; it increased my awareness and added stability.
Days six through ten:
The next 5 days. My joints felt better. My skin no longer hurt (yoga is my only release from this symptom of fibromyalgia). My body felt healthy. My thought pattern had shifted. I began to do things without self-judgment.
It was a busy week as I had two community potlucks to attend. For the first, I made jackfruit sliders. The second, I didn’t have time to cook for. I asked my husband to go to Costco and buy a pre-made fruit salad (something I would never think of doing in the past). The shift in my attitude took my husband pleasantly by surprise. A bit startled, he said, “Wait! Wait a second. Did I hear my wife correctly? Did she ask me to go to Costco (gasp)? Did she ask me to buy a pre-made fruit salad?” I smiled and nodded.
“What have you done with my wife?” he teased. “My wife deprives herself of sleep and will cook all night for an event.” I started to let things go that were holding me back. Cooking for the potluck would have deprived me of doing yoga, and I was committed to my promise. What I needed was the one-on-one time with my breath, my mat, my body, and my being, and not wowing people with my culinary talents.
Days 11 through 15:
On day 11, a guy at the crosswalk next to the yoga studio paused, looked me up and down, and said, “I’d do yoga with you.” He asked for my number but I politely declined (external validation can be nice, though). On day 13 I thought I was on day seven. I lost count, and in doing so I knew I had tapped into the pure enjoyment of being on the mirror and reflecting inward. Reconnecting to who I am, the core self, was liberating and comfortable.
On the 15th day I felt good, but didn’t see any visible effects. I was bloating (a problem I have been dealing with for years) and my clothes were fitting tightly from the swelling. I started to feel discouraged. My negative self-talk kicked in as I was getting ready for a rendezvous with friends. I started to silently berate myself. During the first 14 days I wasn’t thinking about having hypothyroidism and the frustration of the weight that just won’t come off. I was thinking about the benefits, the perks I was feeling: my sex life was better, my husband found me unsettlingly zen, my diplomatic pragmatism had kicked in, and I was able to disconnect from the frustration of planning events.
But on this half-month mark I was sinking into the depths, allowing the self critic to win. My husband and I walked up to where we were meeting our friends. A yoga teacher whom I admire noticed the positive changes of the last 15 days, and though my primary motivation for my commitment is intrinsic, the extrinsic validation made me assess my critic. I realized that I was being too hard on myself.
I would like to say that I am beyond the influence of the superficial, but I live in a city based on body image. This isn’t a glass slipper story, and I am not a Yogic Cinderella. The first fourteen days were total and utter bliss. But a Yogic Fairy Godmother didn’t miraculously transform me into my ideal image of Self. My happily ever after is present, but it’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment type of adventure. As I lay in savasana or engage in other certain poses, I feel the magic. Some days the yogic glow is pronounced, and other days I just feel good, and that’s good enough.
Thea Pueschel, C.Ht. is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Sports Mind Coach, and founder of The Kinesthetic Visualist Modality. Yoga was her gateway into the realm of relaxation, which led her to her current vocation. When she isn’t lulling people with her gentle maternal patter through personalized metaphor, she engages in multimedia arts, yoga, and writing. To find more about Thea visit her website and her blog on living worry free. Connect with her on facebook and twitter.