NEW! If reading's not your jam - listen to me ramble below.
Searching for some calm among the chaos?
Yoga in the West continues to grow exponentially with studios popping faster than Subway sandwich shops. As yoga is great for combatting stress, this shouldn't shock anyone considering the mental health epidemic our society faces today.
Did you know the average teenager today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s? - Psychology today.
That's fucked with a capital F! As the pressures and pace of modern society continue to accelerate, resources remain limited for those in dire need of help and don't even get me started on preventative measures. Unless something drastic happens, those that don't end up in the looney bin will soon be considered the crazy ones.
THE RESULT OF THIS:
Let's keep the Cristal on ice shall we. Loneliness now also marches it's way up the chain of psychological disorders as we spend far too much time engrossed in our phones pursuing as many likes as possible on Facebook to answer the million dollar question; just how popular am I? While at the same time scrutinizing other 'friends' for their 'anti-social' behaviour instead of actually getting out there and socializing the way they used to in the 50's - the good ol' days.
The lifestyle so many of us currently lead is detrimental to our health. Instead of living, we're busy dying. The truth hurts I know, gargle it. The best antidote would be for the world to wake up and for individuals to stop doing shit they can’t stand, and taking shit from people they don't respect.
Unfortunately, nothing is ever that black and white. First of all, we need to survive and secondly, we’ve been primed to conform, and equipped with a weak mind thanks to crap education. So, when the shit hits the fan, we’re clueless and fall into a self-perpetuating cycle of self-pity, self-loathing, self-sabotage, and self-destruction. The blame game is over folks, we're all adults now and therefore, 100% responsible for our own faith. The onus is on you to put the work in to get the wheels back in motion if you've slipped off the tracks.
With stress levels out of control, it's beneficial to have a few tools at your disposal to help cope as we eagerly await governments to get their priorities in order. It doesn't take a genius to realize drastic measures are required. But you know, put that Trump fuck in power so he can start another war.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL OF THIS STRESS?
Stretch! The benefits of yoga are well documented, and combatting stress is just one. Immortality is another. Intoxication does wonders also but, unfortunately, doesn’t encompass the longevity yoga can lay claim to.
Incorporating a regular yoga practice can help restore balance and harmony within, right deep down in that precious little soul of yours, leaving you feeling calm as a clam. The same way fifty cent wears a vest to protect against gunshots. Yoga can protect you both physically and emotionally when dealing with the pressures and strains of modern society. I’m not asking to get a ‘lord hear us’ here because, in my experience, he doesn’t listen, but I do believe it's worthy of a Namaste. Or a Fuck Yeah!
WHY SO SPECIAL?
Some might think the allure of a perfectly crafted butt thanks to Lululemon's ‘Wunder Under Pant’ makes for a compelling case.
Call me crude, but if you go to seek out the above, don't be surprised when you catch a glimpse of a bulging nut sack dangling nearby in a pair of briefs (It's just a fact, and I'm not using the word scrotum).
As in life, you can only truly appreciate joy with a little pain. Fortunately in yoga, joy trumps pain. Otherwise, the pursuit of the Holy Grail in the form of 'Zen' would be unattainable for most, and we'd be better off smoking crack.
That’s the Yin and the Yang of it, both bi-products and completely irrelevant when unveiling the true beauty of yoga. One just happens to be a nice perk. No pun intended.
A slipped disc forced me to explore the world of stretching. For some reason, I was under the illusion it was going to be easy, kind of like a Zumba class? Pilates was my gateway drug, with the first class being an eye-opener, to say the least. As the teacher seamlessly held every pose, alI I could do was look on in bewilderment as she somehow managed to converse at the same time. I honestly thought you'd have to be Wonder Woman to pull that shit off. Meanwhile, I was laid out like a dip stick with about as much composure as I might have stepping into the octagon to fight Rhonda Rousey.
My anxiety was on high alert which only exacerbated the situation. Plus, my hips were FUCKING killing me! That was just the beginning. I vividly remember holding onto a ring to aid in stretching out the hamstring. In doing so, I could only look on in disbelief as my leg began to convulse to the point where I thought it might be having an epileptic fit.
Fortunately, I dragged one of my best friends along with me. To my delight, he was experiencing similar tremors, inducing an all too familiar reaction within me, uncontrollable laughter. My tremors, however, were no laughing matter. I was basically lying on a mat in utter disbelief as my leg lost the complete plot while laughing hysterically at tweedle dumb beside me experiencing the same involuntary spasms.
He had the good sense not to return. However, the fighter within me knew I had to go back, but I was now predisposed to panic in a room that’s supposed to be symbolic of serenity.
I’ll never forget my first Shavasana (corpse pose). I lay there thinking to myself; this must be one of the most uncomfortable sensations I have ever experienced, as I listened intently to everything I had avoided for several years at all costs. My mind cried out as I forced the bastard to pay attention to my anxiety and how it manifested throughout my body. It pleaded with me to sit up and even threatened to detonate, spraying my brains all over the mat if I didn't oblige. We don’t get along, never have. He’s a wanker. I’m all for embracing anxiety but I’m not about to pretend I like the bastard. I had experienced severe tension headaches for years so lying down flat on my back and paying attention to them, was my very definition of torture. And so, I persevered….
I'm possibly not selling it very well here. Several months later as I felt much more accomplished, I managed to drag another friend along, assuming he would be shit. A terrible idea, we have a history of mischievous behaviour, and I knew any struggle would induce more cruel laughter on my end. After the first forward fold, which in fairness he nailed, I broke down in convulsions (I've never claimed maturity) and had to take preventative measures running to the other side of the room where it took me half the class to compose myself as I gasped for breath. The bastard didn’t even flinch.
At this stage, I had dipped into a few yoga classes which I enjoyed but not quite as much as pilates. This was specifically due my teacher and a minor obsession with torture. That was all about to change, however. Intuitively, I knew yoga was going to play a significant role in my life.
“I had an innate calling from the universe for an awakening. Just kidding - I was desperate as fuck!”
I must give props to the Irish bankers and politicians responsible for destroying our economy because in doing so, one of my nuts was forced to drop as I hopped on a plane to Vancouver in an effort to turn my life around. It didn’t take me long to realize Vancouverites were yoga bonkers. The first thing you'll notice about Vancouver is intoxicating beauty. The second is that it's a zombie nation with fit people everywhere walking around in Lululemon's, drinking chai, and shopping for kale.
New age shit, slightly different than the world I left behind. Pilates classes were rare, and when I did find one, the dude teaching it made orgasmic noises throughout which pretty much terrorized my mind, so I cut that shit out there and then. The yoga was different also - laughing at others' misfortune was frowned upon, teachers read poems, spoke of ancient philosophies, and made you go Ohmmmmmm several times before kick off.
Fuck it though, we grow and evolve. Yoga started to take over, and a love affair was born.
The benefits were plentiful, and the more I practiced, the more I experienced. The only negative being that I was broke from constantly having to buy smaller pants. Seriously, if you want to lose weight; do yoga.
Its made a massive positive impact on my life. Below, you will find just a few benefits one can look forward to by incorporating a regular practice. Shout out to the Yoga Journal for the bullets. Feel free to skim over them or if you wish, I’ve provided my own little narrative below…..
Obviously. You’re bending every which way, and in time will eventually find yourself in positions you didn't think were humanly possible.
BUILDS MUSCLE STRENGTH:
I’ve done so many planks over the years, I’m sure if it came down to it, I could kick the shit out of The karate Kid. The Equalizer, however, should be avoided at all costs. If you ever encounter this innocent looking beauty below, under no circumstances should you cross him. You will live (if you’re lucky) to regret it.
The Equalizer. Fortunately we're friends but the bastard always insists I behave, and there's pretty much nothing I can do about it as guns are hard to come by in Canada.
BETTERS YOUR BONE HEALTH:
I actually have no clue how healthy they were prior to my yoga days. I’m assuming like the rest of me; they were fucked. I do know that high-stress levels are associated with lower bone mineral density. So sure!
DRAINS YOUR LYMPH'S AND BOOSTS IMMUNITY:
It pretty much drains everything from your body.
REGULATES YOUR ADRENAL GLANDS:
The fuckers responsible for the secretion of the stress hormone, cortisol, and the fight or flight response. Basically, that feeling of pure terror experienced during a panic attack when you could diagnose yourself with cancer, stroke, heart attack, and every other deadly disease on the planet without even consulting Google. Anything that keeps those bastards in check is worthy of an Oscar if you ask me. And the winner is…… (it would have to be female in a lead role. I just feel it's Leonardo DiCaprio's year).
MAKES YOU HAPPIER:
Unless you’re Bert, Ernie, or Mary fucking Poppins.
FOUNDS A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE:
Like a gateway drug, the results are profound and to a point, exhilarating. A feeling of liberation will come over you along with a new appreciation for life, and surprisingly, AIR! One begins to look at other areas of their life where they can continue to improve their health. Often through diet, and other types of alternative healing. It’s an adventure, a fun one. Roll with it.
RELAXES YOUR SYSTEM:
No question. Sometimes I'd go to class in the depths of despair, and with the exception of a sweaty nut sack interfering with my peripheral vision, I have ALWAYS left feeling more relaxed.
IMPROVES YOUR BALANCE:
MAINTAINS THE NERVOUS SYSTEM:
Not only does it maintain, It also repairs. I’d still trade what I've been left with on the black market but I googled it, it’s not a thing. Regardless, my current nervous system is Buzz Light Years apart from my past one.
RELEASES TENSION IN YOUR LIMBS:
Over the years, the tension my mind inflicted on my body was horrific, and they’re supposed to be buddies? WTactualF! The mind-body connection is very real. Stress originates in the mind (most of the time) and manifests in the body in the form of tension causing a self-perpetuating cycle where eventually you don’t know who the fucks responsible. Either way, if left to manifest over time, it can be a very destructive path. Yoga can certainly hit the pause button and lighten the load but depending on the severity of pain due to an emotional trauma, you should seek out treatment to address this in order to eliminate it from your life, and ensure you enjoy the full benefits of yoga. You owe it to yourself.
INDUCES A DEEPER SLEEP:
I used to lie in bed holding my head while simultaneously losing my mind, and checking in with my heart to see if it was going to attack, or simply pass out in a bush somewhere, which surprisingly, made for a more comfortable setting. Like a dysfunctional robot, I was in desperate need of a factory recall. I now sleep like a baby and wake up energized.
GIVES YOU PEACE OF MIND:
The calm after the storm, before my yoga days that storm was as destructive as Hurricane Katrina. Now, I look back and just think to myself - how in the name of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the entire crew did I let shit get so bad?
INCREASES YOUR SELF-ESTEEM:
GIVES YOU INNER STRENGTH:
I just moved to Bali on my own to pursue my passions and write a book. The only evidence I have that this will work comes from my gut and the realization that it’s easy to fail while doing shit you can’t stand, so you might as well pursue something you feel is worthwhile. That’s got to count for some sort of inner strength right? I’m chasing my dreams and even if they don’t work out, I know one thing for sure - while I have a shit load of regrets, this will not be one of them. Yoga helped carve this mindset within me. As I can't predict the future, all I have to do now is enjoy the ride.
CONNECTS WITH YOUR GUIDANCE:
I could hazard a guess, but I’m not entirely sure I understand exactly what "connects with your guidance" means.
HELPS KEEP YOU DRUG-FREE:
While living in Vancouver, I was experimenting with medicinal marijuana for research purposes. In Bali, eh - no thank you! That aside, I’ve only been tricked into taking drugs over the past few years a handful of times.
BENEFITS YOUR RELATIONSHIPS:
Interesting. I’m definitely a more positive, fun person to be around for the most part. Similar to the good old days. Still operating without filter, and getting blamed for everything. Not sure that should be celebrated but hey ho. Most people enjoy my company, and I’m not too concerned what others think.
HELPS YOU SERVE OTHERS:
Sounds a little FENG SHUI! It certainly promotes compassion towards others which the world is in desperate need of.
This is an aside. I’m all for compassion but it can only go so far. I’m wondering if America should seriously consider putting Donald Trump down? A modern day Hitler. Death doesn't fear me anymore, but the thought of him in power scares the bat shit out of me.
It is self-care. If you practice on a regular basis, it’s a natural progression that you will find yourself become more health conscious across all facets of your life. Curiosity creeps in to gain a greater understanding of how your body can perform at it’s optimum level.
Self-care is expensive, but it’s also necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I like material goods, but don’t sacrifice them over a healthy mind. The healthier your mind, the more chance you have of acquiring the material possessions you desire. They can then become an emblem of your success as opposed to the villain responsible for increased anxiety arising from guilt.
USES THE PLACEBO EFFECT, TO EFFECT CHANGE:
From believing everything was killing me to pretty much, a feeling of immortality. I don’t actually think it’s a placebo effect as I believe I have this innate intuition within me, preventing me from being placebo’ed!
THAT'S JUST A SNIPPET OF THE MANY BENEFITS. HERE'S A FEW MORE OF MY OWN.
Hard to believe I used to be an angry bastard hey? God bless my parents, they deserve a knighthood. Thanks to yoga, and giving less of a shit in general (a skill that should also be taught in school), I can just laugh it off or pay little attention to all the nonsense going on around me. That’s not to say if some prick starts pissing me off for no reason; he won’t receive a slice of the middle finger….baby steps. Fuck you!
Like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t care what anyone says, we’re living in an oppressive society while being led to believe it’s a privileged one. How can one even argue with this when all you have to do is look at the epidemic of stress related diseases consuming the minds of so many. The stress I endured was unbearable, and could have killed me if I didn’t make some drastic lifestyle changes. Thank Shanti for yoga.
Confidence is a life long journey. Unfortunately, a panic disorder will obliterate it. It requires a lot of work to get a rhythm going again, and in my experience, shortcuts don’t exist. The only shortcut is when you shift your mindset from negative to positive and decide you’re going to tackle this motherfucker once and for all. It stands to reason that with reduced stress, and a healthier outlook, you will project greater confidence to the world, which is a pretty good start.
Some think yoga is easy like *Zumba, it’s not. Others believe they are nowhere near bendy enough; completely irrelevant and, even more reason to go. Some are self-conscious and think it’s a competition, the only person you will be competing with is yourself, and if you’re self-conscious? Worry not - most are. Marketing teams love to preach community; my definition might be distorted but for the most part, this a silent one. If you are searching for something more sociable, may I suggest Salsa, or possibly Zumba.
CHOOSE YOUR POISON:
In an effort to keep this somewhat concise, I’ll lay it out for you on a spectrum. On one end, you have restorative where you use props and cushions to relax and breathe. On the other end, you have power where you’ll probably spend the majority of the class looking on in disbelief. Stuck in amongst the mix you will find yin, hatha, and flow.
I've never actually tried Kundalini, which is going to change extremely soon. I want the crack.
As with every political system, there’s always one party way out there on the left where you'll find the Donald Trumps of this world. Enter Bikram, the anti-christ! My first experience left me pondering a question I’ve never pondered before, whether or not hell existed, and if so, was that symbolic of it? Was it a message from the big man to start believing? On the off chance that it was, I gave serious consideration to swinging by a church on my way home to repent for all my sins.
Many love Bikram. One of my good friends teaches it, and I’ve no doubt she’s an amazing teacher. However, I highly recommend if you suffer from a panic disorder to stick with the more traditional styles.
As with life, yoga is a journey and variety is the spice of life, so if you think you might benefit from it, get in amongst it and experience all it has to offer to draw your own conclusions. Don’t just settle on one style, mix it up. A little Yin, a little Yang. It’s a complex fucker and requires patience. Fortunately, patience will be instilled within you through regular practice.
You will discover many benefits through breath work, movement, and meditation. Yoga can indeed blow your mind, and massively impact the quality of your life. If you suffer from a panic disorder or depression, I can’t recommend it enough. If you suffer from social anxiety, Youtube has tonnes of videos where you can get a feel for it on your own but in time, challenge yourself to go to a class. It’s a safe environment, and this is where you will really reap the rewards through guidance.
Speaking of guidance. The teacher can massively impact your experience. One that’s funny, knowledgeable, takes the time to explain poses and makes inappropriate comments sporadically throughout is worth their weight in gold.
HERE ARE A FEW COMMENTS FROM SOME OF MY FAVOURITE TEACHER:
“Holy SHIT IT'S HOT IN HERE.........or is it just me?”
“I want you to get really low, I don't want to see anyone sitting on a bar stool. I was on a toilet in an elementary school recently, they're real low so that's what you should aim for……………….. Has anyone else visited an elementary school lately?”
“Everybody take a block and place it between their legs, now squeeze tight until it feels really hard!”
“I like to come around and make adjustments throughout the class. Most of the time they’re appropriate…… sometimes not!”
"Yoga makes you grow taller. Seriously, I'm not even lying - yoga makes you grow taller! Last year I grew 2 inches, so by the time I'm 80, I'll be like 7 foot!"
My love for yoga clearly transcends far deeper than a perky butt wrapped up in a pair of Lululemon's. The physical and emotional benefits cannot be ignored. Once you immerse yourself in yoga, over time you will reap the rewards. It becomes a life long journey. You can’t learn this overnight; it’s a slow process but most definitely a worthwhile one. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to start feeling and seeing the benefits. Stay at it, be patient and enjoy the ride.
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