Last night was my second yoga class since the summer. I got lucky and scored a really cheap monthly membership at a studio near my place. They also do hot stone massages there, and your first one is discounted. Needless to say, I can’t wait for payday.
On the new client form, they asked a variety of questions, the last of which read: What do you hope to get out of yoga? I responded, “Strength, flexibility, and peace.” I’ve never been one to meditate, nor do I hold an ounce of spirituality in my body, but I’ve read about the beneficial effects of yoga on the mind, body, spirit connection.
This excerpt comes from an article in Mother Earth Living:
“Practicing yoga can improve both your physical and mental health. “Yoga creates a healthy climate in your mind and in your body,” says Tess Lorraine, a Boulder, Colorado, certified yoga instructor. In addition to calming the nervous system, the systematic stretching of yoga postures releases muscular tension. Lorraine says yoga also helps increase circulation, enhances digestion and helps eliminate toxins more efficiently. These physical benefits make yoga a useful tool for treating a variety of health conditions.“Yoga encourages you to breathe deeply and slowly, and it changes your emotional response to life,” Lorraine says. “Add slow, rhythmic movement in correlation with the breath, and you’re able to quiet the mind, balance the body and calm the nervous system.”
Harvard medical school published a 2009 article on Yoga for Anxiety and Depression. They found that yoga does have the ability to decrease stress, depression, and even help with mental illness and PTSD:
“At the end of three months, women in the yoga group reported improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. Depression scores improved by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores by 65%. Initial complaints of headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality also resolved much more often in the yoga group than in the control group.
One uncontrolled, descriptive 2005 study examined the effects of a single yoga class for inpatients at a New Hampshire psychiatric hospital. The 113 participants included patients with bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. After the class, average levels of tension, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, and fatigue dropped significantly, as measured by the Profile of Mood States, a standard 65-item questionnaire that participants answered on their own before and after the class. Patients who chose to participate in additional classes experienced similar short-term positive effects.”
The women in my family are prone to suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress. While I have never been clinically diagnosed, I have experienced periods of depression and attended counseling. I also know I have a poor way of handling anxiety and stress. I have a hard time being positive, and I let setbacks and rejections hit me deeper than I should. I tend to expect the worst, because that way when the worst happens, I can smugly say I told you so.
This is no way to live life. In my quest for better self-care, I have determined that to be happy, I need to work on these things, and yoga one of the tools I plan on utilizing. Last night’s class was neither invigorating nor boring, but rather very controlled, and for an hour I finally focused on nothing but the way my body moved and the quality of my breathing. At the end of the session, we did the relaxation pose Savasana, where you are supposed to experience total relaxation. The yoga instructor then told us we would be doing a relaxation exercise to help us release whatever remaining tension we retained after our practice. It went something like this:
“Okay, everyone. We will be doing a full body relaxation exercise. Pay attention to your body. Feel where any tension remains, and work to release that in Savasana. First, focus on your toes. Inhale and squeeze them tightly. Then on an exhale, release the tension and let it goooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”
Wow, she really wants us to let it go. Okay, that’s cool. I’m lettin’ it goooooooooooo.
“Now we are moving on to our calves. On an inhale, squeeze your calves and knees tightly, and on an exhale, let it gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”
Aaaawwwww yeeeeaaaahhhhhhh……….. I’m lettin’ it gooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
“Now focus on your thigh muscles. Squeeze and contract your thighs on an inhale. On an exhale, let it gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”
Wait, Is she talking directly to me? Is this a personal message that I need to let go?
“Now it’s your bellies. Inhale and squeeeeeeeeze those muscles, tense up. On an exhale, let it gooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”
You tell it, sister! Let that shit goooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
We went on like this until we had tensed and released every inch of our bodies. Each time she said “let it gooooooooooooooooooo” I wasn’t sure if I should start crying or laughing. I did neither, but definitely tried to focus on how my body felt and letting gooooooooooooooooooooo of the tension.
After class I drove home and spent the rest of the evening chatting with my mom. When it was bedtime, I participated in my new ritual of insomnia. Rapid heartbeat, inability to shut down my mind, tossing around unable to find a comfortable position. I tried some controlled breathing exercises to help me let it gooooooooooooooooooooooo and eventually fell asleep.
That is, until one of my mom’s cats decided to take the world’s largest cat shat in my cat’s litter box. At 3:15 am. Without burying it. I heard the scrape scrape scrape of the litter box, realized Gina was next to me, sat up and saw Manny jump out of the box and run out of my room. Then the most intense smell of poo hit my olfactory glands, and I gagged. I got up and immediately cleaned out the box, but I couldn’t get rid of the smell. It was so bad. Finally I lit a candle and blew it out, hoping the sulfur would eliminate the poo stench. I then put lotion under my nose, and enjoyed the sweet, sweet smells of poo, sulfur, and lavender. At some point I managed to reach sleep again.
This morning, I practiced my other new ritual of hitting the snooze button multiple times before getting up, and then being two hours late for work.
So much for letting it gooooooooooooooo.
Until next time ~ B