One of the massage therapists I see regularly told me earlier this week that she remembers the first time she worked on me—she recalled that at the time I was nursing and probably at my lowest body weight, and that she remembers commenting that my body was definitely a “yoga body” because there just wasn’t any tension throughout and especially in the typical places people carry tension. We both agreed that it’s a different story today, for sure. But does being exceptionally flexible and open throughout your body create a “yoga body”?
Yoga is so much more than simply moving through or holding multiple postures; it’s about nurturing your emotional health & state of being so that you free your mind of needless worry & anger and radiate love and light through all interactions, setting ego aside.
For most of us it’s a constant process as we go through the seasons of life. And the point in my life I mentioned above was probably a time when I had made great progress in the work I am constantly doing on myself through my yoga practice after having my first child. But as I also noted, at this time in my life, I am in a different place mentally and emotionally. Our family has undergone a lot of changes over the past year, one of the most prominent being that we will be welcoming another member in the next few months.
The subconscious stress that this pregnancy has caused me has, at times, been nearly more than I can handle—the pain and uncomfortableness in my physical body from the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (brought on my pregnancy); lack of sleep because of the TOS; shallow or lack of breathing; overall tension in my body, especially in my neck, shoulders, & feet; and mood irregularity are just a few of the ways my body is responding to this stress. It’s as though my mind is resisting the perception of the upcoming life change and my body is reacting by physically trying to hold itself in place and avoid opening to this new chapter in life.
I had an epiphany a couple weeks ago and realized that we hadn’t really done anything to prepare, mentally or physically, for the arrival of this baby.
I realize that this is typical for any child born after the first, but we haven’t even really been acknowledging that our lives are about to change…drastically. It’s still early as we have at least 10 weeks left until baby’s arrival, but it’s like I have just been avoiding the situation altogether so as to not disrupt the wonderful status quo we have going right now. Once I consciously accepted and realized this, things started to change. That night I slept mostly through the night, only waking once to use the bathroom and my hands weren’t even numb! You should know that in the weeks leading up to this I had been sleeping in 20-30 minute increments at night because of the pain I was waking with in my hands. It was making me not want to go to bed at night, even though I was so tired.
Coincidentally, I found some very basic physical therapy exercises online that were supposed to relieve symptoms of TOS that I tried that evening before bedtime as well. I’m not sure if it was the acceptance, the PT exercises or a combination of both that helped me sleep that night, but whatever it was, it worked. I felt as though a weight was beginning to be lifted off of me. A few days later I started actual physical therapy and have been given some deeper stretches for my neck and shoulder tension. The therapist also suggested that much of this stiffness could be being caused by shallow breathing.
It all made sense, I had been struggling with my breath in my practice, no doubt partially due to my lungs now sharing space with a baby, and had been realizing quite often that I seemed to be creating rigidity in my jaw and neck by the end of my practice. This was one of the other ways my body was responding with resistance. I’ve been trying to push everything down without fully “breathing in” the upcoming changes. I believe that the body and mind are not separate, but rather one, with the physical body reflecting what is happening within the mind. And now that I’ve realized my resistance and acknowledged it, I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a little relief throughout the rest of this pregnancy.
So the idea of this “yoga body” actually means far more than having a flexible body.
For many of us it is merely a concept that we may float in and out of throughout life as we work toward the ultimate goal of yoga—healing and harmonizing the nervous system. By balancing the nervous system we alter our decision-making process and perceptions so that life changes and circumstances do not affect us, both subconsciously & outwardly, nearly as much as they would had we not been practicing this lifestyle. Flexibility is simply a by-product of yoga; the work actually being done goes much deeper and impacts the spirit of who you are, not just your physical being.