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Monday, August 20, 2012

Yoga For Mules

There's a reason Greg calls me, Mule. Oh, sure. I can lift, tote, and work all day without a break. But I'm also as stubborn as that proverbial beast of burden.

Two months ago, I would've bet cash money that yoga would be another failed attempt to relieve the pain in my knee and back. I was so wrong.

Yoga is not a miracle cure. It didn't give me instant mobility or relief, but I noticed improvement within two sessions. By the end of the week, I was sleeping all night--something I've not been able to do in FIVE years. My knee is also stronger and doesn't fatigue as quickly. It's still grinding bone on bone, but the muscles have grown so strong, they support the joint almost effortlessly.

I go 5-6 days a week. Only once did I miss a week when we had several catastrophes on the home front that required my attention.

I am a terrible student. That's no exaggeration. I really am bad. This is not for lack of trying, but because my brain is wired backward when it comes to body mechanics and I have no balance whatsoever.

I persevere because I've seen such dramatic improvement that drugs, surgeries, or therapy have not given me. Even when I don't want to go, I know it'll make me feel better if I do.

Despite how it looks, yoga is very difficult to do well. And as soon as you master one posture, there's always an advanced posture that will put that ego on the curb.

Probably the thing I like best about yoga is that for at least one hour, it's all about me. It's about my body and how far I want to push it. For sixty whole minutes I am the only person that matters. It wasn't until I started training that I realized how far down on the list I had put myself.

That's sad. We're always doing for others. How often do we think of ourselves first?

Try yoga if:

• You have injuries. There are no jarring moves. Every posture is done slowly and with control. You go as far as you feel you are able. No one judges you.

• You need alone time. Even though it's a group class, you really are alone with your thoughts and focus. In the beginning I used to notice how everyone else was doing. Now they all disappear when I concentrate on myself.

• You're not afraid to work hard. Yoga is a journey. Master one posture and there'll always be something new to challenge you. Me, I'd be happy if I can balance on one foot without falling over.

• You're under stress. Believe this from a dyed-in-the-wool, Type A personality. No matter how much stress I'm under, it literally dissolves when I spend an hour in practice.

Yoga has improved my posture, breathing, pain, and stress level. Oh, and I'm losing weight too.

So that's my testimony. Many of you have been with me through countless surgeries and physical therapies, but this is the only thing that truly helped. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's not for everyone, but give it a full week of practice before you make a decision.

It changed my life.

What form of exercise do you like to do? How long have you been doing it?


Darke Conteur said...

I love yoga. Haven't done it in a while. I really need to get back to it. I'm so glad it's helping.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: There are so many different types of yoga too. If one doesn't work, another might. It all depends on what you need.

Angelina Rain said...

I'm glad to hear yoga is helping you! I've been meaning to try it myself. I hear it improves concentration, which I totally need help with.

Rula Sinara said...

I have another writer friend who said yoga saved her husband from having to have back surgery for pain. I love it and practice it...but not routinely enough.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I did yoga after each of my c-sections to slowly get back in fighting form.
My best stress relief now is jogging. I've been doing it forever it seems.

Melissa McClone said...

So glad yoga is working for you! YAY! I am slowly getting back into exercise. Did a Barre 3 class which has some pilates, yoga and ballet moves all combined into a one hour workout. Hard, but good!

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

Maria: I had a similar experience many years ago. My son convinced me to try Tai Chi, and to my amazement it worked. I think there is so much we don't know about the human body and mind, and unfortunately many Western doctors refuse to recognize alternate methods. Glad to hear things are going better for you.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: In some ways, yoga is a lot like karate. To do it well, you have to focus. Halfway measures won't work.

Rula: I'm so glad to hear it helped your friend's husband. It gives me hope that in a year's time I'll be in a better place too.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: One of the instructors told me how she did yoga all throughout her pregnancy. She'd had her baby only a few months ago and her body looked as if it had never been pregnant at all. I was amazed.

Melissa: I've never heard of Barre, but I like that combination.

Maria Zannini said...

Jim: I asked every doctor I'd seen about yoga and each of them shrugged their shoulders in dismissal.

I might've spared myself a lot of pain if I'd started earlier.

PS I've always wanted to learn Tai Chi, but there's no one local to teach it.

Angela Brown said...

Sounds like yoga has been a positive addition to your routine. That's a beautiful thing...also beautiful are the benefites you're getting from it.

Jackie Burris said...

Maria after going today to consult with my surgeon to see what kind of tests I need to pinpoint why I am having the problems with leg and back right now can say that maybe if I would have tried yoga several years ago the problems would not have happened.

BTW you are not the only "Mule", every female I know, myself included, puts their needs and their health at the bottom of a very long list of taking care of things we consider more important. Namely our family members, our pets and our property usually come first and then when we are "forced" to do something for ourselves we finally do. If we are lucky we take care of ourselves before we do damage that cannot be helped or repaired.

Good for you that yoga is working where medical science did not 100%!

Shelley Munro said...

That is so cool, Maria. A non-drug treatment is worth sticking with. I've steered away from yoga because the couple of times I tried it I was so terrible at it. No balance and a bit like a gangly giraffe.

I cycle four or five times a week. It's funny because when hubby suggested we get bikes I asked him if he had rocks in his head. Now, several years later, I've worn out two sets of tires and his bike sits gathering dust.

Nadja Notariani said...

I love this post, Maria! I have been practicing yoga on and off for over 10 years. (I get bored easily and switch up my workouts)...but I always come back to yoga.

You identify a few of the best things about practicing yoga. It is all about being in tune with your body - and your spirit - and your energy. It is so calming. And you don't lie when you say it is much more difficult than it looks! When a girlfriend first asked me to go to a yoga class with her, I balked. I figured I would humor her and sit in some 'peace-love-and-happiness' pose and count the minutes until the class was over. Boy, was I wrong! I realized quickly how much strength and balance yoga requires. It hooked me from that first class.

So glad you've had such a positive experience and results. :}

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I came in as a doubting Thomas, but a few weeks changed my mind for good.

Jackie: Doesn't it seem we spend all our time taking one test after another? It's frustrating. I hope you get some answers soon.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Wait a minute. Your hubby talks you into cycling and now he doesn't go with you?! LOL.

Greg introduced me to cycling too. This was back when he used to ride 100 mile marathons. --something I could never do. But it was fun until we moved South. Around here you only bike early-early in the morning, or the winter.

Maria Zannini said...

Nadja: Years ago I took yoga that was really just mild stretching (back when I was part rubber band).

But this yoga is strictly strength and balance building. It calms you I think because you work so hard to complete the posture.

Yeah, I still smile when people tease me that it's all 'peace-love-and-happiness'.

You have to do it only once to cure that fallacy.

Mike Keyton said...

Swimming is my poison, but you do make yoga sound attractive. I remember feeling very stiff, and I lay on the floor just to stretch my back. What a shock. My back wouldn't rest straight. It took me a good ten minutes for my spine from shoulders to buttocks gradually realigned. I could actually feel ligaments and bones shift back into shape - like the werewolf transformations seen on film but in slow slow motions

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Try as I might, I can't relax enough to swim. I am so envious of those who feel at home in the water.

The first couple of sessions, my back wouldn't straighten out either. It would cramp on me as it adjusted to being placed flat. Like you, it shocked me. I had no idea my body was so misaligned.

If yoga isn't for you, I recommend Tai Chi. I love the fluid movements, and like Jim above said, it really does work.

LD Masterson said...

Okay, you've re-fired up my interest. I keep thinking I want to try yoga but still having trouble getting my butt out the door. I'm really glad it's helping you.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hmm? Interesting. This is the second time today someone has mentioned yoga. On my blog this week, I interviewed Jenny Baranick. She is the author and blogger behind "Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares". She guest posted somewhere else where she demonstrated some positions. I told her I would just stick with my Treadmill! I'm not sure I could get out of some of those moves! Lol.
I'm very happy to hear that you have achieved some relief, Maria. Congratulations.


Maria Zannini said...

Linda: We might not live close by, but I'll be glad to be your 'virtual' yoga buddy.


Jimmy: Treadmill, eh? Are you a runner? I imagine it's always nice weather in California.

James Garcia Jr. said...

If you live on the coast, in the mountains or in San Diego, then the weather is awesome in California. On the other hand, if you live in the Central Valley (near Fresno) - where we've just had something like 12 days of triple digits - then no, it isn't great.
I run my treadmill in order to keep the middle age off of my belly and sides. Lol! :)


Maria Zannini said...

Jimmy: I didn't know that about your weather. At least a treadmill is never too far away from a cold bottle of water.

Cate Masters said...

I keep meaning to go back to yoga! I've read about its health benefits but your testimony's convincing. I'd love to sleep all night! Glad you've found some relief.

Anonymous said...

I love yoga...actually need to get back into it. So glad it's working for you Maria!

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: I have spent thousands of dollars and this is the only thing that's had a lasting effect.

I went from sleeping four hours a night to seven. I am in heaven.


Raelyn: We need to start a yoga club where we keep track of each other. :)

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I'm tempted by yoga and will probably try it someday, but right now it's just impossible. I really like my elliptical machine, tho

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: My elliptical machine is the perfect clothes caddy. LOL.

Shirley Wells said...

What a great post, Maria. Delighted to hear that yoga is working for you. I'm a great believer in yoga - but I'm hopeless at it. :)

Like you, I have a clothes caddy, LOL.

Maria Zannini said...

Shirley: Sometimes I feel I will never improve my balance, but my strength is coming back. I'll take what I can get.