Written by: Shazna Jai
Being a dancer for 40 years takes a toll on the body but when you are young you don’t realize it, you don’t feel it, you just keep going. Pushing, strengthening, and motivating yourself to perform at a level that is beyond what you feel your capacity is for your own body.
Performance training is the same as being an athlete. Your endurance level and your tolerance level for what your body does and can do is different than when you are spending your day working 9-5 and have a job and kids. This is to draw the contrast of what I want to share with you.
I make it my practice that everything that I share comes from a place of experience and my testing out what the capabilities of the physical body can be. After 40 years of dancing, I’m now an elder. I notice that I am choosing a slower pace in my life. I really don’t want to do the ambitious performing type of push, I feel like I’ve done that. What I do want is to stay physically active, activity that creates a more peaceful and well-rounded environment in my body.
Through the years, I have balanced my workouts and performances, with yoga. In the early days, my yoga was very active, it was lots of warrior poses and difficult balancing poses and getting my flexibility to the point where I could do poses like crow, full plow, and headstand - that I thought were beyond my physical reach.
At this stage of my life, what I want, is to have health and what I want is to have peace, so I look for different ways to do that rather than to force and push my body. I’m not sure but it could be that the body itself just wants to slow down and I’m getting the signal. My body is saying it’s time to slow down.
Here’s what I’m finding with yoga that is really exciting. I’m finding that there is a space and a stillness in my body that when I was performing and actively dancing, I was not aware of or even imagined that space existed. Changing my physical activity to include peacefulness, lent itself to this place of discovering a very sound physical practice, yet it’s calming to my nerves. Parasympathetic systems are much calmer and I can say that I live in peace. Now, it’s not just because of the yoga I also do a lot of meditation as my spiritual practices have been very strong for many years and so it is a mixture, but here’s the thing.
In the contrast of looking at my youth and how I worked with my body and now being an elder what my choices are now and the ability to do a spiritual practice and yoga the combination of choices, makes the quality of my life!
The quality of your life comes from your choices! Making your choices that support others, the growth of humanity, and a goal for peacefulness and living in grace, that has to become first, and makes for a well-rounded life.
I know this is a good choice, so the choice itself motivates me to do it every other day, that is my choice right now. I’m not an everyday practice kind of person except for meditation, I like my choices for yoga every other day, though I could change my mind at any time. But for now, the fulfillment that I get from waking in the morning and noticing the aches and pains in my body, sore back, hip or shoulder, and using restorative yoga, those literally disappear in minutes! I choose my yoga practice based on my energy when I wake up. Some days I’ll do lots of warrior poses (more active) and other days I prefer restorative. What other practice does that, where your pain and discomfort disappear in minutes?
For example, this morning’s practice was restorative, because when I woke up my shoulders were tight, so I must’ve been tensing them up during the night, my neck hurt, and I had a headache when I woke up. The instructor asked to sit in cross legged position and make clockwise movement with eyes closed and the middle of your body, then she said the key phrase for me ‘imagine that this movement is unwinding all the tension in your back and neck and shoulders and head, and literally within minutes my aches were gone.
There is a lot to be said for yoga, there’s a lot to be said for tuning into your body, and there’s a lot to be said for taking your practice so seriously that you end up being able to fulfill your purpose and mission. Because if you feel well and you want to share that wellness and peace with the rest of humanity, it is the greatest gift you can give.
After one memorable yoga class, I ended up having the best work day of my life, witnessing miracles, watching people be kind and helpful to others, and making money. Most of all - at the end of the day as I was driving home, I was reflecting on how happy I felt all day long and pulled up to a light and the car license plate in front of me said “HAPPEEE!”
Never doubt the difference you make . . . so make a difference for yourself with honoring yourself and your practices.
Stillness in yoga as a contrast, you have an opportunity to see how your life is affecting you on an emotional, spiritual, and physical level. I’m an elder and I have not been doing yoga all my life, but I have been very active in other physical pursuits. Since I started doing yoga I can sense the difference between the stillness that yoga offers, the peace, the connection to my inner body, the connection to my muscles and my own psyche and what that does for me during my day. When I start rushing around, or I am involved in too many things at once, all I must do is remember my yoga practice from the morning and it brings me back to the stillness, if not the fullness of the stillness at least some part of it that will serve me in the rest of my day. Yoga provides me with many benefits and gifts and I hope it does the same for you.
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