My Yoga Journey… So Far
By Christopher Stoddard
I came to yoga fairly late in life, in my early 60s. But as they say in yoga, it doesn’t matter where or when you begin; it’s the journey that counts. And I have found that to be true on multiple levels.
I have been doing “gentle yoga” now for the better part of a couple years and would like to share some of what I have experienced, especially in the course of recovering from a shoulder injury (torn rotator cuff) and some lower back problems (spinal lumbar stenosis).
I injured my shoulder in early 2017, eventually undergoing surgery to repair it last June, which caused me to take a break in my weekly gentle yoga classes. Following surgery, I went through physical therapy, but eventually got back to yoga class.
What I found interesting was that many of the exercises they taught me in physical therapy mirrored the stretching exercises in my gentle yoga class. The slow, regular stretching involved in yoga has increased my shoulder mobility and reduced the pain and stiffness that I experienced post-surgery.
The same is true for the spinal stenosis. I found that my gentle yoga routine, both in class and at home, has significantly decreased the numbness in my lower back and legs.
In addition to increased flexibility and relief from discomfort, gentle yoga has given me other benefits that I value. It has improved my balance, strengthened my core muscles; and overall, it has allowed me to be more in tune with my body.
That and learning how to breathe. Making the mind/body connection between the gentle in and out of breathing has given me a tool to reduce stress, helped me focus my thoughts, and allowed me to arrive at a state of being in the moment. As our yoga instructor, Janet Wenger, once told us, “If you’re breathing, you’re doing yoga.”
Perhaps most important lesson that I have learned in yoga is that your practice of it is your own, unique to you and you alone. If your yoga pose is steady and comfortable, then it is right for you. We all arrive on the scene with different abilities, different bodies, and different physical conditions. An excellent instructor, like Janet, offers students workarounds for the various poses. I found this particularly helpful in the course of my recovery from shoulder surgery.
As this new year unfolds, I look forward to continuing my yoga journey, both in class and on my own, finding my own pace and place, and learning to better listen to my body and inner spirit.
We’ll see where the journey takes me. Mostly though, I am looking forward to all the experiences along the way.
“Success is not just the destination; it’s the entire journey, every bit of it. It’s not just the outcome, rather it’s the entire process.”
― Mohsin Ali Shaukat
Christopher Stoddard is a free-lance writer and author living in Orlando, Florida.