I began my journey with mindfulness almost 10 years ago. When I first acknowledged my reality of chronic illness, it created intense periods of anxiety for me. This constant stress on my adrenals and fluctuation in hormones wreaked havoc on my body. I was losing hair and sleep, and my digestive issues were only worsening. I knew I needed to make a change quickly.
I worked up the courage to go to my first yoga class in 2010. At the time I was living in Washington, DC. My perception of yoga was that you had to be flexible and thin, kind of like what you see on Instagram with all of those yoga bloggers.
That level of perfection seemed unattainable to me. I was intimidated walking into that first class, to say the least. I somehow got myself to class and rolled out my yoga mat. I immediately felt a sense of calm and community. This unassuming yoga studio was not what mainstream yoga has become (a topic for another day). It was a small, family-owned business that flipped a humble, old row-house into a studio. I was lucky that I picked that studio because the teacher that I worked with was seasoned and studied in India for several years, learning everything from Sanskrit, to the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, and ancient yoga teachings.
As we began our practice that day, I recall the teacher gently guiding me to first settle in and begin following my breath. This was a concept that was so new to me. What did she mean by follow my breath? It was then that I discovered the beauty and power of mindfulness. As I started paying attention to my breath, I noticed the world melted away. Did I get distracted in between? Yes. However, I was guided to find my way back to my breath gently. My breath became my guide. My anchor. And for
those few minutes at the beginning of my practice that night, I forgot about my chronic illness, my health challenges, my hair loss, my work stress. All of it melted away whenever I was tuned in to my breath.
As we slowly started moving into various asanas, it was challenging yet familiar. It was as if I had been doing yoga for years. Did I know every position? No. Did I have to watch my teacher and follow her lead? Yes. However, it was the connection between my mind, breath, and body that was so familiar to me. It made sense. It was as if my body was able to come back to its center in those moments. I was connecting inwards and was actually staying in the present moment instead of being in a constant state of worry and anxiety. Something inside me clicked. I was hooked, and I never looked back.
The power of mindfulness through yoga and meditation is something that I so strongly believe in. Meditation has helped me to train my mind to remain in the present. Following each breath is almost tranquilizing for my nervous system, and brings a sense of grounding and peace to my soul. Yoga has helped me to look inwards and be mindful of my body. Pushing myself to explore my body and its abilities, while breathing into the moments when it gets challenging. It is symbolic of life and allows me to approach the challenging moments in the same way. Breathing into the moments that feel uncomfortable or challenging, instead of reacting. Mindfulness is truly the journey to one’s self.
“You may not be able to control the whole world, but you may learn to control your inner world through yoga.” – Debasish Midra
“You may not be able to control the whole world, but you may learn to control your inner world through yoga.”– Debasish Midra
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