Monday, June 8, 2015

Effects of yoga

I started taking yoga classes about three months ago. I have never taken a class before but true to how I tackle most projects, I started with a commitment to three classes per week. I know that that's the best way for me to learn something and develop the muscle memory which will help me sustain the activity.

As an instructor I am committed to remembering what it feels like to be a novice. The first six weeks of yoga classes gave me a good reminder of the emotions and struggles a newcomer encounters when trying something completely new. I now feel like I understand about 80% of what goes on in class and that's enough to make me comfortable. Note that I can't necessarily do all of the poses, especially the ones that require good balance, but I am getting better week by week and that's my only goal.

After about a month of classes I noticed a big change in my sleep patterns. I have never slept well - I usually woke around midnight and had difficulty falling asleep again until 4:00 am. Since I get up at 5:00 am that didn't leave me many hours of sleep.  For the last few weeks I have been sleeping many more hours at a stretch and am usually able to return to sleep when I wake. Someone recently asked me what I thought contributed to the yoga effect. I had, of course, been thinking about that. And my conclusion is that yoga has given me the confidence that I can relax enough to return to sleep. Savasana has been most helpful in that regard.

One of my instructors uses a three part phrase during the start of savasana. I started to use that when I woke and it was helpful but not quite right. Since I am fascinated by the development and use of short phrases to summarize effort or meaning for my students, I decided to develop my own hendiatris to help me get back to sleep. I think I have perfected it: Settle, focus, surrender. 

I have learned something interesting that I had never noticed before. It turns out that I clench my fists when I am struggling to get back to sleep. Once I made that observation I started to open my hands in the same way I do in savasana. That is often the last thing I remember doing - I go back to sleep almost immediately.

Right now I am at the point where I miss the 'awake' time because I used to accomplish a lot of things at night - drafting articles, making lists etc. But I recognize that sleep is healthier for me and I am starting to notice changes during the days. It seems like I have more resilience - I am able to stick with a single task for longer. I don't think my overall productivity has changed but I accomplishing more in fewer hours.

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