Positive affirmations are a big part of my yoga practice. In the traditional yoga language of Sanskrit, the word is mantra. Its root is the word man (which means to think) and the suffix is –tra (meaning tool or instrument). So, a mantra is literally a tool or instrument to help one think. I already know how to think negative and harmful thoughts. My mantras help me to focus on the positive.
The photograph above was taken at the studio where I am doing my advanced yoga teacher training program. I made this yearlong commitment to grow as an instructor when I decided to open Serenity Place DC. I wanted to offer the best possible learning environment for my students, and knew there were some areas in which I could further my own knowledge and practice. Additional training seemed like a great way to do it.
I am so glad I made this commitment to my growth. I meet once a month with a group of certified instructors like myself who are looking to elevate their personal practice and instruction of yoga. In between sessions, we read books focused on the practical and theoretical aspects of yoga and write papers that reflect on our learning.
Much of our focus so far has been on the healing potential of yoga. We’ve discussed how a restorative yoga practice can counteract the effects of anxiety and depression (both of which are struggles in my life). We also have explored the ways in which a gentle and supportive yoga practice can assist trauma victims, such as those who are emotionally, physically or sexually abused.
I have been reminded of the early days of my yoga practice, when my body was stiff and immobile, and I had no strength or endurance. I also had a hard time getting still on my mat and enjoying savasna (“corpse pose” or final relaxation). But there was something about practicing at home in my living room with the New Zealand instructor on my VHS tape that resonated with me from the beginning. He and I began our days together for three years. Over that time, I grew in my strength, flexibility, acceptance, trust and faith. I also found a way to manage my lupus symptoms and have been relatively healthy in the ensuing years.
That period of sustained health ended about two months ago, when I started to feel some stiffness in my knees. It grew into pain and inflammation—and spread to my back, wrists and ankles. After a while, it hurt to sit and to stand, bending my knees was excruciating. It also was difficult to lie flat on my back; my breaths were shallow and painful. As the symptoms worsened, I was forced to face the fact that my lupus was flaring, and I had to do something about it.
I began taking some medicine two weeks ago, and am feeling much better. In a few more weeks, I will be able to wean myself off of them and return to the holistic practices that have supported my wellness over the years. My yoga practice will be a huge part of my self-care. Ironically, I have been less consistent in practicing yoga during the years since I started teaching and training to be an instructor. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the stuff and invest your time in the planning, marketing and business aspects of being an instructor and studio owner that you neglect that actual personal practice of yoga.
Since I decided this summer to open Serenity Place DC, I had been going full blast. I probably didn’t take more than five yoga classes in the last five months—or practiced at home more than 20-30 days (out of 150). It’s no wonder that my immune system was weakened and that a lupus flare ensued. I hadn’t been cultivating the peace and calm that are so essential to a healthy and functioning immune system. I also hadn’t been listening to my body’s signals and tuning into the subtle symptoms that were letting me know something was not okay. If I had noticed them earlier, we may have been able to stem the tide with the acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs and massage therapy that have worked so well over the years.
So, I am back to the basics of my yoga practice. Each morning, I pull out my yoga mat and do a 30-minute practice. It’s about five minutes of meditation, 15 minutes of asana (movement), and then 10 minutes of restorative. I’ve chosen this combination to support my ability to concentrate and focus (meditation), grow in my strength and flexibility (asana), and calm my anxiety and depression (restorative).
My mantra with which I begin or end my practice is quite simple: May I be happy and healthy.
I wish the same for you.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.