Everyone going through a divorce should be required by law to do yoga. No eye rolling, please. I’m serious about this. Divorce and yoga go perfectly together, both for the physical and emotional benefits, which I recently discovered.
The first yoga class I ever did was a few years ago. I wasn’t recently separated, but it wasn’t long after I got divorced. I actually got reprimanded by the instructor because I was checking a text message on my phone during a downward dog. So, that should give you an idea of how difficult it was for me to relax back then.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I wrote a story for the Sun-Times on a new yoga studio that was opening right near where I live. Now, let me preface this by saying I do lots of business feature stories on new yoga studios, Pilates studios, and other exercise facilities.
For some reason, this place struck a chord with me. I thought it was beautiful and peaceful, and the big open studio with its dark, hardwood floors and medium blue walls instantly relaxed me, and took me to this place I felt like was a calling. I felt the same way talking to the owner. She has this tranquility about her that was really appealing.
So, about a week later, I went in and gave it a try. My instructor was this older, French guy, who had me sitting in the cross legged position for way too long. Just fyi, I have hip arthritis, and am probably the most inflexible person you’ve ever met (or haven’t met) so sitting cross legged is extremely uncomfortable for me, painful, actually.
Anyhow, as the class continued, I started to enjoy it, and by the end, I felt amazing in many ways. First of all, my joints felt really loose, making me feel like when I walking, I was gliding versus my usual walk where at least one person a day asks me, “Why are you limping?” Additionally, emotionally I felt very relaxed, almost like I was either stoned or a little tipsy.
Since that day, I’ve done four more classes, each one with a different instructor, and I have loved all of them.
Here are the benefits of yoga, told by someone who was the last person on earth to become a Yogi. (By the way, my phone stays in my purse for the entire class. That’s huge for me.)
1. Reduces joint stiffness. I am seriously like two different people, the one walking into the class feeling stiff and robotic, and the one walking out with my joints feeling like they did in high school
2. A great workout! The reason I’ve always been so anti-yoga is that I like to sweat. I enjoy strength training, and waking up the next morning really, really sore. In yoga, I don’t sweat (which actually has another benefit—I don’t have to wash, blow dry and flatten my hair that day, which saves me an hour) BUT, every time I’ve done it, I wake up the next day with muscle soreness (the good kind) which tells me I’m getting strength training at the same time.
1. Relaxation. I’ve actually read studies that show that chronic illness (including cancer) is caused by the inability to relax. Having gone through a divorce, I can tell you it is anything but relaxing!! LOL! Ff you take time in your day to close your eyes and get to a peaceful place, your chances of chronic illness and cancer actually go down.In other words, you need that, especially during this difficult time!
2. Inner peace. Whatever is bugging me, my problem de jour, if you will, totally disappears during a yoga class. The whole idea is to spend an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes being completely aware of the here and now, of your body, and your inner self. It’s amazing how manageable the problems seem when I leave the class. This would apply especially to anyone going through litigation or a custody battle, or even someone who has a broken heart.
3. Breath awareness. This is big. Once you start learning how to incorporate breathing into yoga movements, you start to use the breathing outside of the class. For example, the other day, I got off the phone with a person I seriously wanted to kill. Instead of screaming, “Screw you!” after I hit end on my phone, I took three really deep breaths, the kind I learned in yoga, felt my rib cage expand, and instantly felt better. I let the nightmare woman I had just spoken with leave my world. Let me apply this to divorce: you just got off the phone with your ex-husband. Don’t say that four letter word you want to say, breathe!!
4. Yoga prayer for peace and other things we need to hear. Each yoga instructor says something different at the end of each class, but here are a couple of my favorites. One teacher says, “Let’s take a moment to thank ourselves for the hard work we’ve done here today, and let’s take a moment to thank our bodies for giving us the strength and ability to perform our much loved yoga practice. I want to thank everyone here for the privilege of practicing yoga here with you today.” I mean for me, that’s just good karma right there. Another instructor chanted a prayer for peace. For someone who never did yoga, these things might sound insignificant, silly even, but I’m telling you, it stays with you all day. Trust me!
Long term benefits (which I have not yet experienced, but am looking forward to)
- Improved flexibility and range of motion
- Muscle definition. Long and lengthen
- Improved fitness, ie. A better body
- Improved balance
- Improvement or prevention of chronic conditions, such as insomnia, depression, pain, arthritis
- Improves lymphatic system which fights infection and destroys cancer cells
- Lowers cortisol levels, in other words, in helps you stop worrying!
- Improves self-esteem
- Improves posture
If you try a yoga class and you aren’t a big fan, I think you need to try it at least three times before you give up. Know why? Because you won’t give up. You’ll be hooked, just like I am!