I have been an avid runner since college, though years of pounding the pavement has taken a toll on my ailing back and arthritic hips (man, I sound old!). Running is not the cause of my chronic pain; I was born with a weak back, and several accidents involving my back has manifested into deep-set pain. I still enjoy running, though not with the intensity that I once did. For years, physicians suggested I try yoga as an alternative treatment for the pain, but I stubbornly rejected this holistic approach. It wasn't until recently, and for a very different reason, that I began practicing yoga routinely.
A little over a month ago, while I sat at my desk sketching a design, I experienced a hand tremor. It was as if I were jittery from too much coffee, but I had skipped my morning joe that day. It only lasted a few seconds, and the tremor didn't concern or worry me, but I was frustrated that my perfectly straight upstroke was now an unattractive bumpy line in need of a re-do. I blamed mental stress and physical fatigue for causing the muscle spasm, and decided a cathartic mini-break from lettering was in order. Seeking mental clarification and physical rejuvenation, I headed to the local Y and attended my first vinyasa yoga class. Since then, I have attended a class nearly everyday. My favorite pose? Happy baby.
Yoga is hard. Nothing points out your lack of strength, flexibility and mental stamina quite like yoga. I ran a marathon five years ago, and I believe yoga is more difficult than running 26.2 miles. Yoga poses appear easy, and we all know how to breathe, so how hard can it be to stretch and control your breathing? As it turns out, it's very hard. Yoga requires a high level of awareness and concentration. Without either, you are unable to balance and hold positions correctly. When I first tried a half moon pose, my concentration broke, I lost my balance, and I landed on another students mat (I am very sorry about that neighbor!)
Reverting to why I started yoga in the first place: I was interested to see if practicing yoga would accomplish the following:
- reduce stress and anxiety
- improve overall strength and flexibility
- improve alertness, awareness and concentration
- control muscle spasms and tremors, and reduce back and hip pain
Since I work with my hands creating stenciled art, drawings, and writing calligraphy, it is important that my mind + body are working hand in hand (pun intended), and I can maintain control of my hand skills. Since my yoga journey began four weeks go, my ability to focus more intently has improved, and my anxiety has lessened. The aches and pains in my back and hips have subsided, though I do not think stretching will ever alleviate the discomfort completely. I have discovered I have shoulder muscles (!), and I have achieved the flipped dog position. I tried the crow and the wheel the other day; two positions I never could have imagined doing a few short weeks ago. Perhaps most importantly, I haven't experienced a hand tremor since.
Many artists and calligraphers sit for several hours a day, causing neck, back, and hip muscles to tighten, and hands to cramp. Take the proactive approach and prevent cramping and muscles tightness by practicing yoga at least 30 minutes a day. Of course, you needn't be an artist to reap the rewards of yoga; this practice is ideal for desk job sitters!
One day, I hope to be one of those people that post pictures of themselves in strange locations posing in bird of paradise or sitting bind.