The Transformative Power of a Consistent Yoga Practice – in a Chair or on at Mat

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The Transformative Power of a Consistent Yoga Practice – in a Chair or on at Mat

My first yoga class was a random one at the gym of the university where I was working in my mid-30s. And, I have a vague memory of using a borrowed VCR yoga tape with some consistency for a few weeks not long after that. But, that was it for my relationship with yoga until I started a 3-year relationship with running in my mid-40s. And a year or so into that relationship, someone suggested I do some yoga to help make me a better runner. So, I started taking a weekly class taught by an Iyengar-trained teacher. I went to the weekly class two or three times a month for a few years. Not much, but enough that when I was 50 and trying to live with the fallout of a toxic romantic relationship without turning to the booze & other substances I’d given up eight years prior, my instincts led me to a local yoga studio. And led me to begin to glimpse the transformative power of a consistent yoga practice.

I felt an obvious shift in my reactions to my life and the people in it as I navigated the healing process on my yoga mat. I was soon practicing five or six times a week. Then, about 15 months later, came November 2016, when I fell into a pit of political rage and despair and believed a story loop in my head that said there was no time for yoga – no time for spiritual self-care of any kind. I somehow managed not to drink or drug during the ensuing two years, but I also came to clearly understand what it meant to have zero emotional sobriety. So, when it became crystal clear that I needed to get off of the rage cycle and back on a path of less self-destruction, I knew that returning to a consistent yoga practice was exactly what I needed. By now, it was early 2019. And, by the end of 2019, I clearly understood the transformative power of a consistent yoga practice. I was practicing five or six days a week and had made the decision to do a yoga teacher training towards the end of 2020 so that I could teach yoga to recovering alcoholics (like me) and to also teach chair yoga to people looking to age with grace (also like me). Of course, I didn’t do my training in 2020. But, I did manage to do it during the summer of 2021, during a brief interlude when it seemed like the Covid Pandemic was over.

What kind of transformation?

The transformation for me was finally seeing a path to something outside of my ego that I felt comfortable with. And, as the years went by, I found myself – for the first time – being consistent and sticking with something longer than a few years. And, without being extreme about it. I didn’t fall into the path of being the “best” or the “perfect” yogi. I didn’t fall into the trap of thinking I needed to do extreme postures or push myself more than was safe / comfortable. This was HUGE for me! I had never (even in sobriety) not been completely obsessed with a new endeavor – had never not pushed myself harder & harder. That three-year relationship with running, for example, went very quickly from running 30 minutes a day to training for marathons. And that two-year political rage had me leading groups and protests and pouring every waking hour into thinking I had some kind of control over the world around me and the people in it. So, to simply be practicing yoga five or six days a week without falling into the too common trap in the U.S. of thinking that yoga equalled doing ridiculous postures and was ALL about pushing myself was a clear illustration of the transformative power of my consistent yoga practice.

Jivana Heyman, author of The Teacher’s Guide to Accessible Yoga & cofounder of Accessible Yoga School, says that “yoga is not about achievement or even transformation, rather it’s about removing the veil that distorts our self-perception.” For me, the transformation WAS removing that veil (even if not yet permanently) – the one that keeps me from slowing down / unwinding enough to pause and notice my emotions and to notice when I am reacting instead of responding. Through working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I had learned a lot about myself – about how certain story loops about who I was kept me from connecting with a power greater than myself. Through my consistent yoga practice, I found that power within – hidden by the veil of ego that distorted my self-perception. Through my consistent yoga practice, I found a way to not always be wound up so tight that I couldn’t pause and BE. So, as a yoga teacher, I am committed to helping others build a consistent yoga practice – in a chair or on a mat.

Why consistent? And, WHAT is consistent?

According to the CDC, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly. And, we need two days of activities that strengthen muscles. After age 65, we also need activities to improve balance to be in the weekly mix. If you’re thinking that yoga couldn’t possibly work for you (or fill any of those suggestions), please see my blog – The Many Benefits of Chair Yoga.

We clearly need to consistently move. Of course, we could do several different activities to meet the CDC recommendations. We could walk, ride a bike, swim, and maybe just do one yoga class a week. Which would be absolutely okay. And, good. BUT, I didn’t find that my responses to life & the people in it began to shift until I was practicing at least three days a week. It was then that I began to find greater acceptance of the reality that I have no control over so many of the things that had caused me stress throughout my life. And, it was then that I began to feel a level of peace and serenity with who I am that was greater than ever before – greater even than the peace and serenity I had found (and continue to find) within the program of AA.

So, if you are looking for the transformative power of a consistent yoga practice, I’d suggest 3-5 times a week – even if only for as little as ten minutes each time. To get the results you want, you don’t have to be extreme – just consistent.

How to Build a Consistent (Chair or Mat) Yoga Practice

Building a habit takes consistent practice. And often doing something we don’t want to do at the moment – like sitting in a chair or getting on a mat to practice yoga or breathwork or meditation. Or, like flipping any one of the countless story loops running on repeat in our minds. If you are new to yoga, I’d recommend finding one or two classes a week that you are able to attend. And, to not be deterred by thinking yoga is not financially accessible to you. There are many paths to financially accessible yoga: check with your local library, with area churches, with gyms, and with yoga studios. If you attend a class and feel like it isn’t a good fit for you, try another! If you aren’t able to get to in-person classes, find an online program / teacher that you like. For Chair Yoga, I recommend Sunny Bee Yoga on YouTube. Or, Sunlight Yoga on Patreon. Or, wait for my Chair Yoga Patreon Channel to go live – by the end of June 2024! Once you’ve normalized attending one or two classes a week, add a third. And, once you’ve normalized that, I’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself craving four or five. That’s how it progressed for me. But, always be kind and compassionate with yourself – and listen to your body and your needs. Becoming better able to do that has been yet another element of the transformative power of yoga in my life.

Practice Chair Yoga with Me

By the end of June 2024, you’ll be able to practice Chair Yoga with me via my Patreon Channel as often as you’d like. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram for updates on that offering.  If you’d prefer in-person classes (or at least some in-person classes) in Birmingham, AL, please check out my offerings or contact me.