Off the mat: How yoga helped with health, life

Published on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 23:50 - Written by Stephen Boothe, Guest Columnist

Over two years ago I walked into my first yoga class. I was ready, for what I didn’t know for certain, but I was ready.

The previous 15 years of my life had been, well ... not exactly what I would call ideal.

I fractured the fourth, fifth, and sixth vertebra in my neck, resulting in two surgeries.

I spent a year or so re-learning how to walk properly and gaining back most of my fine motor skills. Then a few years after that I developed Meniere’s Disease, which has caused me to lose practically all the hearing in my left ear and, oh yeah, there’s those attacks of vertigo lasting for hours.

I’m not complaining; I’m alive, and that’s a wonderful thing. But between the rehab and trying to cope with staying vertical while doing my best to be a functioning part of society, I also managed to gain nearly 40 pounds.

I don’t remember exactly why I decided on yoga, but I do remember thinking it might help with my balance. Did I mention that I had lost about 25 percent of my ability to balance?

I’m talking close my eyes and fall over, bouncing off door jambs every time I went through them and loss of balance. Of course, there’s that extra poundage I was hauling around, which I didn’t mind shedding since I felt horrible, had no energy and was going down fast.

OK, so first class I’m thinking, “How hard can it be?” I mean, don’t they just bend over, maybe stick out an arm or a leg or something?

After the first 15 minutes, I’m like “What! This is hard!”

Here I am, arms and legs trembling just to stay erect. To add insult to injury, all these little thin women in class aren’t weren’t breaking a sweat!

Well, I stuck it out and made it through class, and then I made it through another one, and another one, and another one. Then, an amazing thing started to happen: I started feeling better as in my attitude, my outlook. Things seemed brighter, cleaner and clearer. I realized I was starting to feel happy ... for no apparent reason.

It was then that I started to discover that yoga is more than poses and breathing and standing on one leg. Yoga is about discovering one’s self. For me, it has been about getting back to the person I knew many, many years ago. It was a revelation to find I had lost myself so long ago and either had not realized it had slipped away or had forgotten how I once was when I was younger.

And yes, I have benefitted physically from yoga as well. My weight is down from a high of 195 to around the 160 I’ve maintained for the better part of the past year, and my balance is much better.

I don’t ricochet off doorways as I pass through them.

But that’s not the best part of this continuing yoga journey. The best part is that what I learn on the mat stays with me whether I’m on or off.

 

Stephen Boothe is a Tyler resident.