My yoga journey: strength, flexibility and courage unite

By Donya Rawlings

I remember the exact day I made the choice to make yoga a priority in my life. It was the day I took an online balance-based age test.

As I stood in the middle of my bathroom floor, gazing at my reflection, I closed my eyes and lifted one foot. Three attempts later and a little easy math, I discovered that my balance was that of a woman 20 years older than I really was. It was in that moment that I became aware I needed to make some changes in my life, and preparing for retirement was not just about building a nest egg, but also maintaining a healthy mind and body in order to enjoy it.

I discovered “doing yoga” can improve your balance, core strength, and flexibility and “living yoga” enhances your energy level and mood.  

I was first introduced to yoga as a new nurse in my twenties.  My instructor was an amazing woman who passed on her wisdom through movement and words.   

Ten years later I re-started my yoga journey. It immersed me into a new community that offered friendship and support.  It introduced me to a healthier way of living.  My diet changed and so did my posture.  It led me to go to yoga teacher training. 

At first my intention was to deepen my practice and not teach because I was afraid to speak to an audience. Without realizing it, yoga not only made me stronger and more flexible, but also less anxious.  Once I completed my certification, I began hosting classes at my neighborhood clubhouse. 

In 2017, my husband Rob survived a massive stroke. He lost all feeling and use of his right side. Yoga has played a significant role in his recovery. 

Muscle, bone and collagen loss occur naturally with aging and contribute to decreased mobility and instability. Practicing yoga can reduce the incidence of injury and help you realize that at any age, regardless of aches and pains, it is possible for your body to feel and move better. 

The wonderful thing about yoga is that it can be modified to individual needs. If you are new to yoga but physically fit, try a beginner yoga class at a local studio or on line. If you are just beginning an exercise program, look for gentle Yoga classes. 

Mountain pose was one of the first poses I learned in yoga teacher training. The pose offers numerous benefits though activation of muscles, balance and concentration.

Begin standing with your feet hip-widths distance apart, pressing all four corners of your feet into the floor, lift your pelvis, close your lower ribs. Lower your hands down to your side, turning your palms facing out. Drop your shoulders away from your ears drawing your shoulder blades down your back. Lengthen through the spine and neck. Relax the muscles in your face, close your eyes and begin to control and lengthen your breath by inhaling and exhaling to the the count of 3 or 4.    

Donya Rawlings is a registered nurse and part-time yoga instructor.

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