Adventures In Yoga

After a long holiday hiatus, yoga classes picked up again at my local community center.  I never thought I would be so excited about an exercise class.  But, as I learned during the past few months, yoga is so much more than exercise.  For me, it’s been an adventure.  Aside from the physical benefits practicing yoga is aiding my transition from emotionally, mentally burned out caregiver widow to calm, strong, resilient me.  I am no longer carrying darkness.  Instead, I’m restoring the light.

This revelation began on a sunny late August day when I decided (on a whim, of course) to turn onto the road leading to the Richland Area Community Center (RACC).  A pleasant friendly woman named Jody greeted me at the front desk.  Soon Jody was showing me around as she described the activities offered by RACC.  We peeked through a windowed door at a yoga class in session.  Shhhh.  A sign posted outside the room asked for quiet.  Something about the women, and it was mostly women, lying on their colorful mats in silent repose called out to me to join them.

With a six week instructional class starting in September I enrolled on the spot.  No time like the present to feed another whim.  There were also three drop-in classes offered every week.  I decided to take a wait and see approach before jumping into one of those.  However, it wasn’t long after starting the formal class that I began dropping in on Mondays as well.  As a friend who is a long time practitioner said, “How can you not love something that ends with everyone wrapped up in warm blankets?”  Indeed.

On my first day of class any trepidation I felt soon melted away as our instructor approached me.  She asked my name and announced she was also Cathy, “with a C”, as she flashed a captivating smile and said a soul warming “welcome to the group”.   Cathy also took care to ask if I had any physical constraints.  I did.  A knee was giving me pain to the point where I thought I should take my orthopedist’s advice to have cortisone shots.  Handing me knee pads I soon learned to adopt Cathy’s mantra of  “listen to your body”.  There was no pressure ever to move beyond my personal scope of abilities.  Mostly of a more mature age, including a few octogenarians, we all seemed to have some limitation or another.

As week after week I stretched and balanced and strengthened and groaned my knee pain disappeared along with the knee support, painkillers and topical treatments.  I still listen to my body (and my doctor) and use knee pads, but to say I’m amazed at this result would be an understatement.  Oh, yes, I do get a tinge of discomfort now and again, which is when I back off from whatever I’m doing with ‘listen to your body’ echoing in my ears.

Working on my Warrior II pose

However, the most significant surprise wasn’t the physical benefits.  Like a benediction following each session savasana delivered a deep far-reaching spiritual calm in the midst of my personal storm.  You may be asking what exactly is a savasana.  If so, you can see that learning the vocabulary of yoga is one of the good for your brain challenges.  To put it in simple terms, savasana is also known as the corpse pose.  Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?  It actually is delightful and difficult all at once.  

Twenty minutes before the end of my first class, as we readied ourselves for savasana out came blankets and sweat shirts, socks and eye masks, small pillows.  It was as if we were preparing for adult nap time.  Then, we adopted the corpse pose, lying flat on our backs, eyes closed, hands open-palmed facing the ceiling.  Now for the hard part…totally relaxing, not just your fresh-from-a-workout body, but your mind.  Despite soft meditative music playing in the otherwise extreme quiet my ever busy mind worked against my efforts to calm.   

Never able to meditate for more than five minutes, thoughts materialized in my hamster wheel of gray matter faster than it emptied them out.  Oh, busy busy mind.  Relax. Relax. Around my third or fourth class we were introduced to the Sa Ta Na Ma meditation.  Coincidentally, the next day my grief counselor introduced it to me as well.   Ask and ye shall receive.  The universe knew I needed a crutch to lean on.  With this method I now meditate during savasana to the point of nearly falling asleep!

As the handout Cathy gave us says, “Sa Ta Na Ma is intended to bring mental balance clearing your subconscious for a fresh start.  It improves concentration and brain function, increases intuitive abilities, and brings peace and understanding to the practitioner.”  And, so it does.

Again the vocabulary.  Here is the meaning of each word as each finger is touched in a pressure point to the thumb.  This is done slowly with inhales and exhales as each finger presses the thumb and each word is silently, mindfully said.

Sa = birth = index finger pressure point

Ta = life = middle finger pressure point

Na = death = ring finger pressure point

Ma = rebirth = pinky finger pressure point

As I practiced this at home my ability to meditate grew to ten minutes of keeping my busy mind at bay.  I’d even venture to say meditation has calmed not only my mind, but my spirit as it allowed much needed rest, peace and mental space to blossom. After savasana, each session ends with an inspirational or poetic reading by Cathy. Then, we all place our hands at heart center and say, “namaste”, which is a Sanskrit word meaning “I bow to you”. The word never fails to leave me with a peaceful feeling of being here and now and part of a larger community.

According to John Hopkins Medicine ( yoga improves balance, strength and flexibility, can help with back pain and arthritis symptoms and supports heart health.  Managing stress, better sleep, more energy and brighter moods and connecting with a supportive community are other benefits cited.  Yoga has provided that and much more for me.  As I sit here looking out my window at snow floating softly to the frozen earth, I’m grateful for this adventure in yoga and its many rewards.



20 comments on “Adventures In Yoga

  1. Wonderful testimony. I loved it so much so that I joined a local yoga studio. I am hoping to attain the same level of tranquility, peace and comfort.


    • Thank you Amit. I’m sure you will find the tranquility, peace and comfort. I enter that space at the start of every day and try to carry it through the day. Right this minute I’m listening to solfeggio music, which is like meditation music, drinking a cup of peppermint tea and listening to the wind howl as another snow storm approaches. While reaching out for community I also make time for just being. That also helps. Best wishes for your journey.

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  2. Kathy: So delighted that you have discovered yoga! It has transformed and at times saved my life. It is so much more than asanas on the mat.

    The light in me sees and honors the light in you —Namaste


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  3. Bravo! Yoga taught me to breathe. Evidently I was such a shallow breather due to stress, and now I can actually feel my heavy shoulders getting lighter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Breathing. Same here with all the stress I was under. I think the deep breathing has also helped to relieve my tension, especially in my shoulders, and help me think clearer, sleep better and relax more. Namaste

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  4. I’m so glad it works for you. Alternative therapies (e.g., biofeedback, acupuncture, CBT, etc.) never seemed to make a difference for me. I’ve tried most of them. Getting up and down off the floor isn’t all that easy anymore, let alone striking a pose. That’s a bit of a problem when re-socializing a super-shy senior foster cat. I can still walk though, so off I go for my daily stroll–cat isn’t interested.

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      • This kitty is proving to be a challenge even for us, and we’re experienced cat-parents. We lost our last two senior cats, one in 2020 at 18 Y/O and the other last September at 17. We don’t have much background info on our foster girl. According to the cat rescue/rehoming organization, she’s 12-15 Y/O. Her former owner died, and kitty was placed in a very active, noisy foster home. It did not go well there. She seems absolutely terrified and spends the day under our bed although the situation appears to be improving gradually.

        We’ve had her on a foster-to-adopt program since 12/19/22 and have followed the recommended slow-introduction process. Other than being totally asocial, she’s well-behaved except there have been a few “accidents” that we attribute to her being frightened. She eats everything in sight and (almost always) uses her litterbox. She hasn’t been aggressive at all. We’re letting her set the pace and trying not to scare her.

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      • We’ve had to readjust what it means to have a cat in our home. She’s our “ghost kitty”. Thanks for the info about your 6 Y/O cat.


  5. Hi Kathy, was inspired many years ago by a 90 year old woman who taught yoga in Washington DC named Nida. She gave me a tape. I took up yoga with a girlfriend and we both loved it for many years. It helped to relieve the stress of my long hours on the job. Upon retirement, I tried a Korean style yoga which was also helpful. When Covid hit all this stopped and much of my caregiving to stroke victim husband intensified. Recently, he had a hip replaced due to a fall and is in rehab. Your blog made me think I of carving out some time for myself to take yoga again, as it indeed is fantastic for body, mind and soul.

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    • Mary, I’m so sorry you are going through this situation with your husband. As a former caregiver my heart goes out to you as it does all caregivers. Whether you do yoga or not be sure to carve out time for yourself. Self-care is so important for caregivers. I’m sending you love and light. Namaste


  6. I became an avid yogi during COVID lockdown days – I found a wonderful on-line session. Your post made me realize I have gotten out of the yoga habit almost completely! I cannot recall my last yoga class/session. Part of this is I was doing beach yoga – which is truly an amazing experience. And it’s winter. Even in Florida, mornings are just too cool for me to do beach yoga. I promise myself I will get back into it next month… it does begin to warm up in mid February! I’m sure I can use the mental side of yoga greatly right now.

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    • Pat, try yoga again. The beach sounds amazing! You might also like being in a class inside. I have a yoga space at home where I practice once a week, but it’s not the same. The class and community aspect is energizing. Namaste

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  7. I’ve never been a yoga fan, but have been thinking lately of giving it another try…your post has inspired me.


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