But it is not instantaneous. It takes more than a week of classes. I will explain.
I am not on medication. Yoga helped me immensely with my trauma induced issues. It also helped me with my art practice, and with every day life and my physical health. As I stated on the first post 3 days ago, I look younger than my 44 years.
It didn’t come easy. Yoga was snowballing in the 1990’s and my friends were attending yoga classes. At that time, I was in my twenties, not yet diagnosed with PTSD and chronic anxiety. I was diagnosed with depression, and it seemed at that time that everybody had depression. My two hospitalizations were pushed to the back of my head; anyways, who didn’t have depression, who went to the math and sciences school I went to, who didn’t have utterly supportive parents?
I found a yoga school that was easy to get to from my home, where at that time classes were $5 for each 90 minute session, if you buy 10 at a time. Doable with my waitressing income. Rents were lower in that part of town I was living in. The classes were taught by patient, dedicated people wearing t-shirts and sweatpants. I, as well as the other students were taking classes in t-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, sweat pants back then too.
Did I feel stress free, relaxed, blissed out, liberated after each class?
No way. I kept attending because I wanted to gain flexibility, and the benefits of yoga, whatever that meant. Subconsciously I may have desired the peaceful, non reactive demeanor of the teachers, but that did not come up in my mind. My friends told me that their yoga practice helped them stave off colds and become stronger. I also liked that I had strange sensations during yoga classes: I also liked that taking evening classes helped me sleep at night and taking classes earlier in the day helped me stay awake better. Those strange physical sensations weren’t always pleasing sensations. Sometimes yoga practice hurt, but not the hurt that was muscular, as these classes were intense, but not power yoga, or heated vinyasa, these classes had us hold postures and was very no-nonsense. The classes were held in silence except for the occasional traffic or people noises from the streets. The pain was emotional hurt that was regurgitated, but I did not know what it was. I would go home irritated, eat junk food, and smoke a cigarette. But this anger, irritability, and unhappiness was not something foreign to me, and every yoga class I attended at this center created a safe space and time for me.
One night, after the final resting pose, and the closing of class, I heard the teacher tell one of the students that muscle memory releases stuff that is stored in the body when yoga is practiced. I also heard that bad stuff can come up from doing yoga. I did not join the conversation*, I picked up my belongings and left that night.
The other sensations that I experienced that were not negative: tingling sensations in my arm when scapula area muscles were stretched, this vision of grey green lines that moved and stopped during final resting pose that was like a TV screen, my body getting so heavy that I felt that I was half buried in the floor (probably the first times I had softened my muscles while fully conscious, without chemicals), air going in and out of my body as if it was clean or hollow and not mucky and sticky, all these things and more.
I continued attending classes, especially with the teacher I overhead that evening. I did try attending that teacher’s sitting meditation group as well. Sitting for 5 minutes was very challenging as was the 20 minute sitting at the end. I didn’t get it. I did not know then that I had chronic anxiety, and I thought that i wasn’t ready for sitting meditation. I still continued with that class.
That was my into to yoga. I went to other classes, went on to vinyasa and more vigorous yoga, and went back to the more long poses held yoga. I tried kundalini yoga, which had meditations that I could do, and as they say, one can feel the benefits of that form very quickly. I also have done sitting meditation. That helped me defragment my mind and the insight I accessed helped me see inside and outside myself. That started about 10 years after I initially started asana class “Because my friends were doing it.”
Please, if there is somebody you want to get better, do not tell them to take a few yoga classes to snap out of what they have. Please do not nag anyone to go to yoga to try to get an outcome from them that you desire. Please do not “put” a child in yoga class to “help them calm down”. Yoga is very powerful, but it is not a pill.
Yoga helped me in my at practice, as it helped me focus. To get to the point to able to do headstand, crow pose, firefly pose, all exercised my focus and patience, as well as my physical body. It also helped be non reactive and yet started my education on having boundaries. I used to react to the smallest thing, as that is what I knew from my childhood home. I also let people walk over me because I had in my mind that anyone who treats me better than my parents did were treating me right. That was programming I really needed to undo. To be able to stay in a pose and breathe through discomfort and intensity, but to know when to undo a pose, even if there were others who can watch, including the teacher, is a translatable, multidisciplinary skill. Breathe through discomfort but know when to stop.
Ohm to all. Thank you for stopping by.
*I am shy now, I was painfully shy then. Many times I did not speak up, and did not know how to speak in an audible tone most of the time, even with people I had met before.