HOW YOGA SAVED ME FROM DESPAIR

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Everywhere you look now there seems to a new yoga studio popping up.  I think more people are now realising that it's not just a form of exercise but learning that yoga really does improve the connection of mind, body and spirit.  My yoga journey started over 10 years ago when I attended my first Bikram Yoga class. I loved the feeling being in a hot room and being able to move into poses with ease while sweating out all the toxins from my body.  This ritual was much easier in the winter months as being in a heated room was much more appealing and something I regularly looked forward to.

Over the years I experimented with various styles of yoga.  Bikram yoga I soon discovered had given me great flexibility but not much strength. More recently I have been enjoying the benefits of hatha and yin yoga.

Although similar in nature, hatha and yin yoga have distinct characteristics of origin and practice.  Hatha yoga has roots in India (which is my ancestry) and is designed to be a physical practice for strength, purification and preparation for meditation.  Yin yoga on the other hand originated in China and is a slower paced style of yoga which focuses on holding poses for longer periods of time (anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes) aimed to stretch the connective tissue and deepen meditation. Both these types of yoga help relieve stress and enhance well-being.

Severe neck and shoulder pain led me to discover more the benefits of these two types of yoga.  Some months ago I had terrible pain radiating down my left arm along with pins and needles in my hand. After a few weeks a few of my fingers went numb and I lost feeling in them. I was extremely worried and at the advice of my physio, I finally went for an MRI.

The results were not so good as they showed that I had 3 degenerative discs in my neck and a bulging disc. I was basically told that at 41 years of age, my neck was like 10 years older. "Imagine if I didn't keep active all these years", I recall saying to my physiotherapist.  Of course when my GP first gave me my results, he referred me to a neurosurgeon.  Advising that this was not his field of expertise.  "No way", I thought to myself, surely this wasn't the answer and would be a last resort.  After discussions with my physio, we agreed to continue with physio treatment and increase my exercise, focusing on my neck and waiting a few weeks to see how that went.

I decided to try yoga again but increase it to almost everyday. I still remember the first few classes, I couldn't even lay in savasana without the pain going down my arm.  It was unbearable!  I did however continue with yoga and over the next few weeks, the pain started to subside and eventually after a month the feeling came back in my fingers. I couldn't believe it - it was working!! In between yoga I also continued with my walking.  I couldn't believe the effect this type of yoga had on my body.  I was impressed so much to the point that I wanted to share it with others and have now decided to do my yoga teacher training at the end of October.

I still continue with my yoga practice and have made it part of my routine. I feel like yoga really gives me hope in managing my pain.  I have also found the mediation component just as important as the postures themselves.  I have found it a great way to deal with stress and anxiety. Yoga practice has a way of quietening the mind in a world where we all can get so busy rushing around to get things done.  I encourage you to take time out for yourselves and try a yoga class if you have never tried. If yoga is already a part of your lifestyle, I would love to hear how it has benefited you in your life and how it has made a difference.

Meirav Dulberg