By Esther Kane
In this article, I wanted to share with you one of my greatest passions and recommendations for all of my clients to help them de-stress, find balance, and get in shape- yoga. I have been practising this ancient form of fitness, meditation, and relaxation for over half my life already. I was introduced to Kundalini yoga at the tender age of 19- a form of intense, sweat-producing postures and very fast breathing techniques, which literally changed my life. At the time, I was experiencing really bad bouts of depression an anxiety and after learning the poses, movements, and proper breathing techniques, I felt much happier, lighter, and much more relaxed. I was completely blown away by this simple ‘workout’, which was also deeply rooted in spirituality and mindfulness.
Over the past 20 years, I have tried every type of yoga I can get my hands on via taking in-person classes and listening to CD’s and watching videos. I can honestly say that I love every kind of yoga I have tried from the slow, meditative kind called ‘yin yoga’ where you hold postures for roughly seven minutes to the more vigorous flowing dance-like series called ‘ashtanga’. But the one type of yoga that I prefer the most (and have practised for over six years now at least three times a week) is Bikram’s hot yoga- a series of 26 hatha (beginner) postures done twice each in a super-hot room (average heat is 105 degrees). I know it’s not for everyone, but I am a complete addict and actually look forward eagerly to ‘sweating it out’ in a hot crowded room with others who are often grumpy, smelly, and irritated. Some days are harder than others and I really don’t feel like stretching and being instructed loudly by a yoga teacher who talks non-stop for 90 minutes, but in the six years I’ve been practising this yoga, I have NEVER regretted doing a class once it’s over.
For me, yoga is so much more than simply exercising the body. I find that it’s a great way to cultivate self-discipline- especially of one’s mind. There is nothing that will trigger your irritability more than being stuck in an incredibly hot, humid room full of other people while being expected to perform an entire 90 minutes of challenging exercise. Sometimes I actually feel murderous and want to scream obscenities at the teacher or the person next to me, wriggling around, and most definitely, not contributing to my inner peace. As a psychotherapist, I consider this release of extreme feelings as an ’emotional cleansing’ and find it incredibly therapeutic.
Let’s face it- we all go through major stressful events in our lives- often on a daily basis-and don’t have time to process them emotionally. We just move ahead with our lives- going through our routines- simply getting the job of living done. Where do these feelings go? Inside! We stuff, suppress, ignore, and deny what we’re feeling underneath until there is a large ’emotional stew’ bubbling away inside us, just under the surface. And when we don’t acknowledge and express these feelings, they just compile; one on top of the other until our emotional ‘cup’ runneth over and we end up exploding in rage, crying jags, or succumb to physical illness.
That’s where yoga can be a real lifesaver. The word “yoga” actually means, “union of body and mind”- it’s purpose being to balance us out physically, mentally, and spiritually. I recommend yoga to nearly all of my clients as a method to:
• release traumas held in the cells of the body
• Get some much needed ‘me time’
• Learn how to relax and meditate
• Relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety
• Improve body awareness and body image
• Relieve various forms of physical illnesses in the body which are tied to emotions
Esther Kane, MSW, Registered Clinical Counsellor, is the author of the book and audio program, “It’s Not About the Food: A Woman’s Guide To Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies” (www.endyoureatingdisorder.com) and “Dump That Chump”(www.dumpthatchump.com), and “What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You”(www.guidebooktowomanhood.com). Sign up for her free monthly e-zine, Women’s Community Counsellor, to uplift and inspire women at: http://www.estherkane.com .