If you’d told me a couple of years ago, that I’d regularly practice yoga, let alone be an owner of a studio, I would have laughed myself silly. It’s not exactly how I’d imagined things would work out. But here we are!
To introduce myself, I’m a husband, a father to two girls, and I’m about to turn 40. And I love soccer. I love my wife and kids, but I love soccer. Love may not be a strong enough word. My love for soccer is the kind of love that will make you wake up at 2.30am on a Monday morning to watch your favourite team (Liverpool) play somewhere in Europe, and probably lose, so that you are too worked up to go back to sleep, and then you are grumpy for the rest of day. And then you do it again next week. It’s an irrational, obsessive, compulsive kind of love. But it’s love. I can’t help it.
My love of soccer has also traditionally extended to attempting to play the sport. At least it did until around 6 years ago, when I “slipped a disk” in my lower back (L5 for my long suffering back injured brothers and sisters out there). It all started with a lazy lift and twist (and before you criticise me, it’s not easy to get a lawn mower into the back of a Corolla singlehandedly OK), and resulted in many months of fairly intense pain. This was followed by continual pins and needles in my right foot, a loss of reflexes in my right knee and ankle, and the constant feeling of a “dead right leg”. I’ll be honest, there are far bigger problems in the world, but constant back pain isn’t that great.
I found that regular visits to my physiotherapist and a chiropractor for several months was working well to manage my pain levels but it became apparent that unless I could visit 1-2 times per week, my body couldn’t retain the benefits of each visit. And I couldn’t afford to do that. So, after some MRIs, X-rays and multiple discussions with a surgeon or two, my options boiled down to considering surgical intervention or radically improving my core strength. I thought I’d start with the core strength. So, on a recommendation, I tried yoga. Kaizen Yoga was close to home and my wife (Vanessa) had started attending, so that’s what I tried.
By nature, I’m quite an analytical person. Some might say even a little sceptical. I wouldn’t have considered myself a great believer in natural therapies of any kind, and trying yoga was potentially getting into some “weird” territory for me. I saw a chiropractor out of desperation, and yoga was a step further down the path toward some sort of hippy nirvana in my former eyes. I had no idea at all what to expect, and in hindsight I knew so little of yoga that in my mind I’d actually confused and combined it with tai chi. But I was desperate enough to try to get my back right to resume my glorious amateur soccer career that I bought a one week pass and tried a couple of different classes.
My first surprise was how different the classes that I attended were. From memory, I attended a Hot Flow class, a 26&2 class and a standard (unheated) Flow class. I had just assumed that yoga was one type of activity. I remember I talked a friend into attending the 26&2 class with me, and he wore a Fitbit. We checked out the heart rate reading after the class, and discovered that he was in the territory of some pretty reasonable cardiac exercise for a fair portion of the class. I loved the challenge. It certainly wasn’t just waving your hands in the air and wiggling your hips a little (which is what I think I’d expected).
After a couple of weeks, I found I was looking forward to the classes. I loved the challenge of 26&2. I loved that each flow class was slightly different. I loved that each class reflected the skills and personality of the teacher. The teachers were so accommodating and enthusiastic, you could feel their passion for what they were teaching.
After six months, I was attending yoga 3-4 times a week and it was one of my favourite parts of the week. Interestingly, my back pain had decreased significantly. I still had good days and bad days, but the pins and needles in my right foot and “dead leg” feeling had stopped. I’d gotten stronger, and a little more flexible. But the biggest surprise is what was happening in my head.
Probably like many of us, I find my job involves a reasonable degree of pressure. I help to manage a small business of 30 staff, and I am also a project manager responsible for delivering building projects. My work is very performance focused, and it has its challenges. The biggest surprise I found was that yoga allowed me to centre myself. My sleep improved. It’s hard to measure these types of things, but I believe my overall feeling of wellbeing has increased quite significantly. “Joy” and “peace” are words with a lot of connotations, but from my experience yoga is a pathway to both. I’ve since learned that (unsurprisingly), there is some interesting research that talks about the links between yoga and physical and mental wellbeing (https://www.yogaaustralia.org.au/about-us/research-studies/).
Over the past 18 months I’ve gone from not knowing a thing about yoga and being very sceptical, to being convinced enough of the benefits of yoga that I’d attempt to run a yoga studio. And what’s most interesting is that I’m not very “good” at yoga. I’m sure my down dog is all wonky and I bend my knees too much in plank and I know I cheat a bit in triangle pose by resting my elbow on my thigh when the teachers aren’t looking. But what is cool is that yoga does its thing on me anyway.
So, that’s my story in a nutshell. I now expect I’ll practice yoga until I’m so old that I can’t get out of bed. I still love soccer, and I hope to actually play this year (fingers crossed). But whether I can or can’t, I know yoga is something I’ll be doing until I’m so old my Zimmer frame can’t get me up the stairs to the studio.
If you are curious, give yoga a try. I’d say give it 3 months of regular practice, and then assess if it has helped you. And that’s not just an advert for Kaizen Yoga. We’d love to have you practice with us, but I think yoga will help you wherever you practice under experienced and caring instruction. Give it a go!
So, there’s a little bit about me! If you made it this far into the blog you’re a legend. Make sure you say hi when you see me in class at Kaizen. I’ll be the guy cheating a bit in triangle pose.