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How Yoga Helped Me Reclaim My Body and Mind

Posted: July 21, 2015

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A mother writes on how yoga helped her reclaim her body and mind. Yoga, as she realized is about being healthy within and without!

Many years ago I had bloated way out of shape, having added on layers of fat and many kilos of weight. Getting way beyond my own ‘permissible range’ of ‘comfortable body weight, it began – as it does, with so many other women – during pregnancy and continued with the first few years of motherhood.

In hindsight, pregnancy and motherhood to me, were pretty much like purchasing a ticket to Mars. People marry and have babies all the time, right? In India, this is clearly no big deal. Almost by default, we are programmed and willing to make babies and take them to term efficiently, despite any and all socio-economic and health care hurdles. For centuries as a nation, we have consciously and unconsciously worked to increase our numbers. Ultimately we have staked our claim to the title of ‘world’s 2nd most populated country.’

After marriage, life for me had only become less complicated and more relaxed, full of fun and romance in the hours we were not at our work places. It was, therefore, an obvious and natural progression for me, to think of having a baby, after three years of marital bliss. Little did I know that this commitment was to take far more centre stage in my life, than anything else ever had.

In my opinion, for ordinary people like me, fitness should be about being healthy enough physically, to enable one, to easily do the things that your daily practical life requires you to do.

Before pregnancy, I had always enjoyed my 8 hours of beauty sleep and it kept me fresh and alert for the remaining 16 hours of each day. Although I’d never been slim, I had always been active and fit enough to do all the things a person my age could do. In my opinion, for ordinary people like me, fitness should be about being healthy enough physically, to enable one, to easily do the things that your daily practical life requires you to do. For others- those from the fashion industry or mainstream commercial cinema, (whose professional job profiles, place inordinate value on conforming to trending popular ideas of beauty both facial and physical) or people whose profession by common sense would require them to be in top physical form – like fitness trainers, dancers, army or police personnel or any other such – fitness can have many other ramifications. As for me – no celebrity or fitness professional – all I ever really aspired for is a positive body image and a comfortable body weight that doesn’t hinder doing the things I’ve been doing and want to do.

But that was certainly not to be post-baby! The seemingly endless, sleepless nights, combined with the 24/7 high alert watching over and tending, (unnecessarily excessive vigilance many thought, but it seems I’m wired that way!) of a completely unpredictable new little person, with clearly a mind and will of her own, brought me to my knees a million times, in reality and figuratively. Every impending week, all the ‘seasoned’ mothers I consulted, encouraged me with confident predictions, of things turning the corner, pretty soon. But the little one was having none of it – she was here and she was going to blaze her very own trail, being different as hell!

I am a foodie and married to a foodie. Food is pretty much the glue that can mend any crack that threatens to appear in our relationship.

I am a foodie and married to a foodie. Food is pretty much the glue that can mend any crack that threatens to appear in our relationship. In fifteen years of marriage I can honestly confess, there’s never been an argument severe enough so far in our home, that can’t be resolved with a favourite treat or meal!  To take things further along this road, as I was already clearly in over my head with childcare, my dear husband insisted I hire a cook, so that I could eat nutritious fresh food every day, to boost my flagging energy levels and keep me happy. I promptly did- the cook was adorable – very indulgent and made very delicious food. All very nutritious, but some, very fattening too!

To cut the long story short, what began as a little “affair” with food, continued for the first few years of motherhood, as a matter of entitlement for me. Till there came a point, when my ‘positive self image’ took a very bad beating. We don’t really grasp this for the longest time – often our self-image is a victim of our own created circumstances. Another strange truth about housework and baby care is that despite doing tons of it, to the point of extreme exhaustion and fatigue, there is a big underlying conspiracy by the forces at play! We may lose many things such as hair, an even skin tone, a decent waistline, a formerly peaceful marital relationship, a whole lot of sleep etc. in the process of housekeeping and baby care, but sadly NO WEIGHT!

Looking back, the first baby step in the right direction probably happened when I began to really look at myself again both in the mirror and inside my head too and began paying attention. An inner voice was telling me – something was out of sync – the way my life was hurtling along, strictly focussed only in the present moment, with little awareness of a bigger picture. I needed a fix too of the subtle negative image of myself, growing larger and larger in my head – that I was fat and less-than-fit and that was emotionally too. I slowly began to be aware that even this little time, I spent alone with my thoughts and my mirror, was helping me see myself more clearly and helping me confront the bigger problem of  reclaiming my lost self.

It was at this point, that yoga fortuitously stepped right into my scheme of things.

It was at this point, that yoga fortuitously stepped right into my scheme of things. An acquaintance had suggested yoga to a friend of mine who was trying to move on with her life, after a recent tragedy. She had decided to sign up for a yoga class and asked if I could join too, to keep her company. It was a reasonably priced class and I wanted to take time off for myself in a structured way everyday, so I went ahead and joined up. The class consisted of a small informal group of friendly women. The instructor was a pleasant fatherly type of person – disciplined, yet indulgent to a fault. It was a healthy combination that probably pushed us to attend the class regularly. It was also a good idea that I had signed up along with a friend- our easy camaraderie, certainly enhanced our sense of being in it “together to the end” and we both moaned and groaned and chuckled like unwilling teenagers through the initial classes, when our muscles rebelled. However, although we initially struggled with some of the simplest asanas, we soon began feeling empowered with the range and complexity that we could gradually conquer.

The marvels of yoga are endless. Basic yoga is low impact and inclusive – it works for everyone. A basic yoga class is a relatively cheap and short-term investment with high returns and you can start from a zero level of fitness or anywhere above that. In terms of equipment, all you really need, is your own body and some empty flat space. The prescribed attire is loose fitting garments (a loose tshirt and loose cotton pyjamas is perfect-not the skimpy tight fitting gym gear you see on tv yoga shows today!) and no footwear. Best performed on the bare floor, but, a yoga mat (you can purchase a decent one for as little as Rs400/-) or a thick dhurry can provide the needed cushioning for those who cannot manage on the bare floor.

Basic yoga alone if done regularly, can push you to a level of fitness and flexibility that enhances your own body image, physically. At the same time, the meditation (achieved through mindfulness and controlled breathing) aspect of yoga, psychologically and emotionally enhances a sense of balance and stability of thoughts and feelings. It is a sure catalyst when you want a metamorphosis in your life. It will introduce you to the more strong, peaceful and balanced side of your self. The best part about yoga is that it makes you self-reliant – once you’ve learnt the routines and the right way to practise them, you can easily do them just about anywhere, anytime! (except soon after meals).

One month into the yoga classes, we began feeling an ocean of difference.

One month into the yoga classes, we began feeling an ocean of difference. We started eating more consciously and sensibly, sleeping better and feeling far more flexible and stable. In about six months time, we had really begun to eagerly look forward to the class to push our limits and revel in our own flexibility. Later, when the timing and venue of the class changed and it was no longer convenient for us to attend, we were competent enough to do most of the basic routines ourselves and so we continued doing them at home.

Although I don’t do yoga everyday, the asanas for meditation, never fail to calm me, when I’m stressed or can’t sleep. Over the years that have past since then, I have maintained a comfortable body weight and feel good about my level of fitness. I may not climb mountains, run a marathon or take part in a decathlon- but I’m happy to say I can easily keep up with people way younger and with my out-door, fun loving child, who has turned out to be a real active live wire!!

Nurturing flexibility and strength in our bodies gives us a feeling of power and control over our minds and this opens up the marvellous path to deeper contentment within ourselves. Reclaim your power to look within lovingly yet objectively and give yourself the push to reach a higher state of equilibrium. It is key to surviving any challenge and moving onward in the journey. Lastly, I urge you to taste Yoga! It is a magical fruit that’s been grown for centuries right in our own gardens and now being exported around the world!

Yoga pose image via Shutterstock

Inspired by the Tao, Piscean at heart. Proud to be Indian, female, daughter, wife, mother.

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