One year ago, I joined a yoga studio as a last ditch effort.
I was frayed. Burdened. Desperate. One of the many caretakers who continue to care while on empty.
My life was part and parceled. It was a pizza pie with each and every slice spoken for.
Each responsibility demanded my time and attention. I rushed from one to the next trying to meet every need, and at the end of the day, there were only crumbs left.
Every day ended in exhaustion. I was so busy taking care of everyone else I rarely made time for myself.
What did I need? I wasn’t completely sure but knew that giving myself a break and having my own space would be a good start.
Although I didn’t know if yoga would offer me the pause I craved, I had to try something. I was in a mid-life caretaking crisis and grasping for a lifeline.
Over the past 365 days, I’ve learned so much by showing up and stepping on my mat 3-4 times per week. The benefits have been extraordinary.
The top four ways yoga provided a lifeline back to me:
Respect for my Body
I used to drive my body hard expecting it to perform and “just work” the way it’s supposed to. It didn’t matter if I didn’t feel well or needed rest, I was just go, go, go.
Yoga has allowed me a new relationship with my body. Not only have I lost weight and gained lean muscle and flexibility, I now understand my body’s strengths, and also its limits, and I have more acceptance and respect for all of it.
I used to beat myself up for getting older, focusing on what I couldn’t do any longer or was having trouble doing now. Things that were a no brainer when I was 30 or 40. I am now kinder.
Respecting my body has transformed how I treat it. Newfound respect has me trying to eat better, drink enough water, and get enough sleep too. I am supporting my body just like I expect it to support me.
Even though we breathe every second of every day I really never thought about it. I never thought about how shallow my breath became when stressed or how rapid it became when scared.
Yoga has allowed me to practice intentional breath—breath that allows for flow and being in the present moment. Intentional breathing is calming. It is centering. Slow inhale for four seconds, hold at the top, and slow exhale for four seconds, hold at the bottom. It helps to ease my mind and stress level. To be honest, my breathing shifts as soon as I get in the car to drive over to the studio. My body shifts into me-mode with my breath leading the way.
Balance is tricky. Some days you have it, and some days you don’t. I have learned to laugh at my balance shenanigans. I attempt all sorts of poses that require balance, and most of the time, I fall out, and often, I fall over.
Same as in life.
I try every day to be in balance, and most days, I fail miserably. Instead of being hard on myself, I smile, chuckle, and then try again. With each attempt, I strengthen my balancing act and receive the added benefit of laughter. It’s helped me lighten up on myself off the mat too.
When I step on my mat, it is my time, my space. My phone is off. My Apple Watch is in airplane mode. No one can disturb me. I have a whole hour all to myself to just be. I get to focus on me, my needs, my mind-body connection, my spirit, and fill up again.
Turns out that giving myself an hour of care and attention allows the rest of the day to flow from focused intention rather than feeling like a hamster frantic on a wheel.
Sometimes it is difficult to show up and take the time. Sometimes it still feels selfish too, but I do it. And every time I do, I feel refreshed and proud and ready to tackle what’s next.
They say yoga is a practice. Respect for your body, breath, balance, and taking time to be alone are practices too.
Each is a practice of putting yourself first. Difficult to do when you feel compelled to take care of everyone else, when caretaking is your job, when you are their person, or when responsibility calls.
The thing is that we are our responsibility too. I am my responsibility. You are yours.
Remember, we get to have a slice of pizza too. We also get to eat it first to have fuel and sustenance to fuel and sustain everyone else.
Yoga is a key ingredient of my pizza slice, and it is damn good!