I’ve been a bit quiet lately on this blog. Sorry about that. When I began, I had hoped I’d do two posts a month minimum – maybe even one a week! Those were my best intentions, but being a working mother of two young children, a student (I’m studying vegetarian nutrition and injury assessment) and trying to build my own business as a yoga instructor and massage therapist, my best laid plans tend to go awry. I’ve just been really busy.
Also, I’ve been reading other people’s blogs a lot. Getting more of an idea of the kinds of things I may want to write about, but also getting an idea of style. Because I have an academic background, I think sometimes my style of writing tends to be too distant for a blog. I’m not personal enough. I don’t share enough, but rather have so far kept a very editorial or academic distance. The blogs I admire the most – while not all being ‘confessional’ in nature – are the ones where the blogger does share some detail or personal anecdote, something more intimate than just he-said, she-said, this-happened-then-that. So I’m going to take a shot at shifting the writing style on this blog a bit and sharing something that’s been going on with me and relating it to Hindu teachings.
One of the reasons I’ve been so quiet in the blogosphere lately is that, when not doing just the everyday busy-ness of my work and family life, I’ve been busy practicing yoga nidra and establishing sankalpa in relation to my immediate circumstances and my overall goals in life. While yoga asana, prayer and puja are still part of my day-to-day, my spiritual practice has been taken up largely by practicing yoga nidra and attempting to focus my resolve, my best intentions.
My sankalpa – which one essayist describes as “the resolve, determination and good intention that resonates precisely in your core and aligns sublimely with your essence” – for my life in general is a simple one suggested by Swami Satyananda himself: I will develop my spiritual potential. But for more immediate concerns, I have focused on the sankalpa: I will regain my health.
When my partner and I decided to become parents ten years ago, we had no idea the time and toll it would take. We were both fit and healthy people then – he was a scuba diver and diving instructor and had run the London Marathon, and I was practicing yoga daily, studying for my yoga teaching certificate, country walking had become a passion, and I was training for my one and only half-marathon (…which I managed to complete. I’m not a natural runner, but it was a challenge I wanted to take on just once in life). We ate well, rested well, and were lucky enough to enjoy an overall healthy, comfortable lifestyle. What we didn’t count on was the variable gifts and challenges of our genetics and the ineffable nature of luck. While we had no trouble conceiving, we had a great deal of trouble bringing the pregnancies to term. Over the course of the past decade, I was blessed with seven pregnancies yet suffered several miscarriages and a still-birth of my middle child, a daughter. We now have two wonderful, healthy children, a boy of seven and girl of three, and our family is complete.
But these times and the trials took their toll on my mind, emotions and health. Because the medical professionals we saw could not pinpoint any acute reason for our losses – and not wanting to just speak the plain and simple truth that many people don’t want to hear: that some people just have bad luck and that sometimes these things just happen -- they settled oddly on the fact that maybe we were ‘too active’ (one nurse told me this) or ‘too healthy’ (that’s not how they put it, exactly, but that was the effect in the end). I was told to stop doing yoga, stop exercising, stop even my daily walking, even just walking with the dog. I was told to basically just – stop. I settled down to a lifestyle just short of bed rest.
It didn’t help. I still miscarried and suffered the stillbirth despite giving up what was, for me, a very focused and enjoyable expression of fitness and health in my life. I sunk into depression and ate comforting foods to try to numb my bad feelings – the foods that reminded me of childhood, the comforts of family get-togethers, the foods that made me feel padded, if you will, buffeted away from my emotions. They were largely unhealthy foods or non-vegetarian foods (which aren’t necessarily problematic in themselves, except for the fact that I had been a dedicated vegetarian). So, following advice, well- and ill-advised, I ate away my feelings and stopped exercising, stopped doing yoga asana practice (and for a time stopped prayer, meditation and study of Hindu writings), and I ate some more, and buried myself, figuratively and literally, under a mountain of ill health and over seventy excess pounds. I buried my feelings and hopes and got more and more padded, physically and emotionally. In spiritual terms, I was desperate. In physical terms, I was obese and desperately unhealthy, manifesting different forms of illness and disease with each passing month (asthma, skin disorders, arthritis, digestive problems, inflammation, to name a few, and I was courting diabetes).
While I managed to build a family at last, and we have these lovely and amazing children, what I was left with of myself was an enormous mass of ill-health – physical, emotional and spiritual dis-ease.
It took a long time to get back to myself. Or rather, it took a long time to get back on this road that I will continue to travel towards that ultimate destination – a realisation of my Self. But with the help of my faith, my family and diving deeply back into my spiritual practice – particularly asana practice, meditation, yoga nidra – along with an improvement in my diet and a return to physical fitness activities, I have become healthy again.
During these weeks of silence on the blog, I have been rising at 5 am each weekday to do pranayama and sun salutations, head off to the gym at 6 am for a workout, come home to prepare my children for school and then get down to the day of working or studying. The result has been a weight loss of almost 60 lbs (or, over 4 stone, in British terms), a reduction in the use of my asthma and arthritis medications, a complete disappearance of a veritable plethora of other vague symptoms and niggling aches and pains that I had begun to feel were just a part of life, but which I’m happy to realise were just part of the lessons these past ten years have taught me. And now that I have recognised and (hopefully) learned from those lessons, no matter how hard they have been, I’m now ready to let them go. I let go of the weight and ill-health markers on the physical plane, but the corresponding up-lift in the emotional and spiritual realms is the truly profound change.
So I’m healthier and happier today than the last time I blogged here for you. My children have a better role model in their mother as far as their own health and spiritual well-being is concerned. I feel more capable and energetic and able to give them more of my time and to share more with them of what this past decade of life has taught me about tough times and making your way through them.
And, from now on, I hope to be able to have more time to share more things with you about what I’m learning on this path of mine, and to hear more from you about your own lessons and joys and ups and downs and trials and successes, etc, etc, etc…
Thank you for hanging in there during the silent weeks and for coming back to read more and continue in this on-going conversation of ours.