Two years ago I took my family to India for a holiday. I didn’t have any expectations but I knew that something would change in me. India is the place for that people would tell me over the years, and as the birthplace of yoga it’s the ideal way for you to jump into yoga as a beginner or as a seasoned practitioner. People that do end up wanting to take their yoga to the next level do end up travelling to India –– to Pune or Rishikesh –– one of the spiritual centers.
I found myself at neither of those places but at a cafe-cum-community center called Artjuna in Goa, where I met Ian, a yoga teacher. Two years ago I jumped into yoga again after leaving it for more than 15 years. Now in my 40s I see some amazing changes in myself.
Since starting yoga and being with Ian every day for 5 weeks, first off it gave me a mission while travelling. I put my kids in a local school The Yellow School run by hippies and took my morning class. It was hot and sweaty and there were ants on the floor here and there, agriculture brush burning in the background every morning, but after the session I felt good and strong and found myself reaching for healthier food, like salads, every day. After 5 weeks there was a transformation. But it wasn’t only in the way I looked.
Yoga helps you deal.
Some months after we returned from India my dad who had travelled with us started complaining about a pain in his back. After some complicated weeks in the summer we found out that he had cancer and it would be a difficult and fast disease. We would lose my dad 5 months later. And I think that journey with him, from diagnosis to palliative care gave me post-traumatic stress that I am trying to deal with.
Yoga helped me deal with the crisis then, and still deal with the crisis now –– sometimes I even amused my dad from his hospital bed (and the nurses too) when I stood on my head. It helped us deal with the long hours of visiting each other and it helped me calm down to sleep through the night beside him.
I sometimes cry on my yoga mat in practice, and a few tears slipped out of the corner of my eyes this morning thinking about my dad. But yoga helps you deal in a few ways:
Yoga helps you look at the situation for what it is.
Most of our life is spent running around with our lives. From here to there. Carpooling the kids if you have them; running from one meeting or social activity to the other if you don’t -– or also do! Life today moves faster than it ever did. Yoga helps you quieten, sit for a moment, listen to yourself and recenter. It gives you space to remember, face your fears or loss and look at it. Yoga helps us move in human-scale time. Not robot time, not AI time, not a NY minute.
Yoga builds your immune system.
All of the asanas or yoga poses affect and stimulate your vagus nerve which runs from your head down your spine. It simply makes you healthier in stressful situations that might, God forbid, also cause you to get sick.
Yoga helps you move forward.
In a way, and this is probably a spiritual matter, beyond body resilience, practicing the asanas puts the mind-body continuum in its rightful place. Dramas no longer needs to be so dramatic. Other people’s problems irritate you less. You might have more compassion.
One of the things I might like to do one day when my kids are older is take a yoga teacher training course in India. A simple one is 200 hours, but there are 300 and 500 hours too. Some people emerge with a Yoga Alliance certification –- depending on the one you want. Like in SCUBA diving there are different associations. Now I wouldn’t do it because I don’t want to be a teacher (I mean, well I am to my kids, I guess) … I don’t want to open a studio –– but I’d be interested in a teacher course because I crave that me time. A teacher training class, if you do it in a place like India, can be a 4-week vacation to yourself, not from yourself or your problems.
If you are into yoga you will know what I mean. You can find classes for students of all skill levels, so no need to worry about how you are going to look in hot pink yoga pants from Lululemon. I wear Iyengar pants that look like an unsexy diaper. But I know that the serious yoga schools will not only help you with exercise and movement, they will give you life skills in how to eat, breath and basically live this one great life.