My student Casey had no idea what to expect for her first yoga class that spring.
She had been struggling with her weight and needed something to help calm her in times of stress. Having never tried yoga, she was very nervous, but showed up and soon came to find that there were other new students in the class just like her. Suddenly that nervous feeling dissolved and a sense of comfort and relief came over her.
As her first class proceeded and I guided her through her first plank, down dog and sun salutation, I saw an immediate change begin to take place. Her body moved effortlessly with breath as she transitioned between one posture and the next. Her mind, body and spirit were instantly connected as she focused on being in the present moment and let go of all the nervous tension that she had walked in the door with.
Over the next several months, Casey remained dedicated to her practice and saw many areas of transformation in her life. Physically, she lost over 30 pounds, putting her in a healthy BMI (body mass index) range for the first time in her adult life. She grew 3 inches taller by learning how to stand with good posture and lengthening her spine.
Mentally, yoga equipped Casey with the necessary tools to overcome daily obstacles. As a business owner, she put in long hours and seldom had a window of time to carve out for herself during busy workdays. Focusing on her breath and using techniques from class helped her become centered amidst the chaos and enabled her to take a new perspective on the situation at hand.
“Yoga is like a mini vacation,” Casey said. “It is a time just for me to breathe and center myself so that I can get back to my day feeling new and refreshed.”
That same year Casey injured her back and was unable to move for a couple days. Until she was able to get back to practice physically, she used the tools she had available to strengthen her body and mind during recovery.
I have seen and heard the countless ways that yoga has impacted lives like Casey’s.
Yoga is an opportunity to discover yourself and grow physically, mentally and spiritually. The best part about yoga is that you can take it everywhere you go! Once you learn the basics, you’ve already started building your tool box that you can access any time you’re in need. Maybe it’s taking a deep breath, closing your eyes and centering, finding a new perspective or taking five minutes to stretch out. It’s always available to you. And that’s the real goal, taking yoga practice from the mat and bringing it into everyday life to help you stay grounded, focused and open to whatever comes your way.
“I believe yoga can help everyone and that anyone can practice. You just have to carve out some time and bring an open mind,” says Casey.
Stefanie DeWysockie is the owner of Taken Back to Nature, LLC, a holistic health practitioner, yoga and prenatal yoga instructor, writer and author. She loves nature and creating; she makes skin care products without harmful chemicals or preservatives and works in her field as a health and fitness counselor. You can follow her at takenbacktonature.com or facebook.com/holistichealthnow.
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Assistant Ed: Thandiwe Ogbonna/Kate Bartolotta