Hello all and welcome to my first blog post with Yoga for Mental Health. I am delighted to share my practice with you as well as my story while Margi is away on retreat!
I want to start off by sharing with you the first time I tried to practice mindfulness and to let you know that it was a giant failure!
I was a junior at my university and a proud member of the cross-country team that fall. During one of our practices, our coach introduced mindful meditation. This was 2004, so yoga studios were few and far between and I thought meditation was only for buddhas in temples (very biased thinking I know). My team gathered into one of the classrooms and our coach instructed us to lay on our backs and close our eyes. We were then instructed to visualize our upcoming race. We were prompted to focus on our mental approach to an upcoming race and to envision the course start to finish. Apparently, the way I envisioned my race was a deep, peaceful sleep. I was abruptly awoken by my coach who seemed very irritated that I had not taken the practice seriously.
I spent the rest of that season working “really hard” on becoming an expert meditator. That’s also the semester that I realized that trying to balance a part-time job, full time academic credit load, volunteering, college athlete, being a girlfriend, sister, and a daughter, as well as trying to get into PA school and be “Gandhi” just wasn’t going to work for me.
Unfortunately, it took a mental breakdown, a breakup, minimizing my food intake to look like the other runners, and a trip to the ER to realize that all those activities were not going to work out.
When I look back at that time and the events that led up to my “awakening,” the one thing I keep thinking back to is to that moment of falling asleep during mindfulness meditation and I realizing that my body was telling me something important way before my mind.
Our bodies are remarkable! They usually tell us what we need before our minds have the chance.
Just like when we run into a moose in the middle of a bike path. Our immediate reaction is to put on the brakes, our heartrate increases, and we focus on our safe escape. Later we realize it was scary, but we made it safely out of the situation!
Similarly, when I am feeling stressed out, I immediately notice my shoulders getting tighter, my eyebrows scrunching, my heart rate increases, my jaw tightening and my guard goes up. It is interesting that I have a similar response when I see a moose.
It would be easy to blame the stressor for my reaction. However, I find it more beneficial to recognize and trust that my body is telling me something. At that moment, I have a choice to check in with myself and attend to the things my body is telling me or continue going down a road of further angst.
Whether it is our first time recognizing that our body is talking to us or our 1 millionth and 1 time, may I remind you of the importance of listening. Really, just listen! Listen as if you were sitting down with a dear friend. Listen to what it is saying and honor it, whatever that may be. I am looking forward to sharing my practice with you all this month! Thanks for reading my story!