Making Space for Yoga
After my father suffered a heart attack and underwent triple bypass surgery at the age of 54, I became very aware of my need to make major lifestyle changes in order to avoid his fate. Fortunately, he made a full recovery and has since maintained a 25 pound weight loss and cardio exercise program now almost six years later. His experience inspired me and I found my passion in running and proceeded to finish my first half-marathon in the fall of 2010.
As part of my recovery from child birth and postpartum depression, I hesitantly decided to push past my fear, let go of my assumptions and make space for yoga in my life. Though horribly intimidated by ‘yogis’ and their tight clothing, ridiculous strength and flexibility along with their easy-going, ‘whatever’ approach to life, I mustered up the courage to walk in the door of my local hot yoga studio and subject myself to 75 minutes of stretching and twisting my body into awkward postures in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius with 100% humidity. At the end of that first class I thought I might die; but I didn’t and decided to keep going. As the months passed, I started to marvel at my increasing strength and muscle tone; I was even starting to make modifications to my poses to increase their difficultly. As much as my body was changing, my mind was also starting to fully appreciate the awareness that is encouraged in yoga through active focus on breathing. Rather than my mind running a million miles ahead and making plans for next month’s meal plan or developing a creative solution to a problem at work, it would focus and just be in the room. I started listening to my body and becoming more in tune with my emotions, finding that my yoga mat would often be the start of tremendous changes in perspective to challenging situations, a place to let go of difficult feelings and to make peace with past struggles, finding a place of calm centred in the present moment.
The connection between yoga, mindfulness and mental health is strong, with many Albertans and their physicians turning to the practice as part of their self-care routine. From May 3-10, the Calgary Health Trust is partnering with Calgary yoga studios to fundraise for mental health awareness initiatives in the Calgary area. Southcentre Mall will be hosting a kick-off event on Sunday, May 3rd at 9:00am, with a large group yoga class being led by Kelly Saunders. I have been so fortunate to learn from Kelly over the last year and if you’ve considered trying yoga but find yourself making excuses, Kelly’s easy going approach to teaching and her integration of modifications for all ability levels make this event a great place to start. For more information about the Calgary Health Trust’s ‘Yoga for Mental Health’ week, visit http://www.calgaryhealthtrust.ca/events/event-list/2015/yoga-for-mental-health/