June is Men’s Health Month. What a great time to share how yoga has contributed to bettering both my mental and physical health.
Up front, I’ll let you know that I am 59 years old and joined the Yoga world about seven years ago. Like most men, I grudgingly came to Yoga due to physical injury. Bad knees, bad back, achy joints, all an accumulation of over 30 years as a firefighter/ paramedic. All of that, and a bad habit of not taking the best care of the body up to this point of life. I will also admit that my “State of Mind” at the time may also not been the healthiest. I had no idea what I was doing. A bit apprehensive. And I definitely don’t have the physique one sees in the men’s health magazines (imagine more like a Hobbit from JR Tolkien). I had no idea what I was in for – but I went to my first class. And then I went to another, and another, and another. 7 years into it, I’m still at it.
In those seven years I’ve learned some things. Things about Yoga and about my body. Even, about my mental health.
The first, quoting Erin, our fabulous long-distance mentor, soon-to-be-mom, and goddess of all thing Bad Yogi, “What works for one body might not work for yours, and that’s okay. So often in yoga we’re looking for what’s “right,” but I think “right” depends more on what works best for you rather than just following hard and fast rules.”
I think of Erin’s quote often when I’m in the studio. It reminds me to be honest with myself. I cannot compare my yoga to the person next to me. So, I close my eyes and practice for myself, no one else. Mentally, this is a metaphor that Yoga has brought out to my life in general. My life is my own. Everyone else’s life is their own.
Yoga has reminded me to have patience. Results are not immediate. Results also may not be what you expect. You may work for months to finally push up to a “wheel” pose. Then one day it just happens. And all of a sudden you realize you can also “flip-your-dog”
Did Yoga help me physically heal? Has it changed my mental health? I believe it has. But I don’t know where the physical and mental separate. I still have bad knees (not as bad as they used to be), a bad back (not as bad as it used to be), and achy joints (but not as achy as they used to be). Yoga has not taken all the pain away. I don’t believe it will. But it has given me a mechanism to deal with the pain. With Yoga, I can come into the moment, temporarily putting pain and distress into some other place, giving my body a chance to rest, a chance to heal. Yoga has done the same thing with the mental stresses in my life. It hasn’t taken them away, but as with my physical ailments, Yoga gives me a temporary place to put my stress, giving my mind a chance to rest and heal
Yoga is not an end-all solution for every physical and mental issue that one encounters in life. But, for me at least, the past seven years of Yoga practice has improved my well-being. It’s impressed this old guy enough that I believe my next step in the Yoga world is teacher-training.
A fair warning, you may have to put up with a series of essays documenting that journey.