Caregiver Yoga & the Divine
Before I left the corporate world, I was continually in a mental space of fight or flight from juggling demands around the accounting cycle with the needs of my family. I kept thinking there was not enough time in the day for everyone in my life so exercise was pushed off day after day. As my body ached more and more from sitting for too many hours in the day I knew I needed to find an alternative to pain medication. Not just because I wanted to protect my liver but I am a lightweight when it comes to drugs and alcohol. It does not take much to induce brain fog.
When I decided it was time for my demands from the corporate world to end I traded it for the demands of caregiving instead. Even though I went from one set of stressors to another I still needed to exercise. At first, Yoga was suggested to me as an alternative to pain medication to help relieve unbearable pain caused by sciatic nerve damage. As a beginner, I decided to start with Vinyasa Yoga, which means "movement, the position of limbs." This form incorporates movement with breath to help build and maintain strong bones, muscles, and connective tissue. Vinyasa flow also helps to maintain a high metabolism, healthy posture, and keep the body active, which is what I needed.
The more time I dedicated to Vinyasa I felt incredible relief from the sciatic pain but I also improved my flexibility and muscle tone. The one thing I was not expecting with Vinyasa was the ability to connect to the Divine during my workout sessions. Over the earlier years of caregiving, I felt as if it was some sort of punishment for being the difficult child to raise but God used this time to allow the Spirit to flow more freely as my stagnant negative energy in my body was unblocked through breath and movements. I began to depend on my morning routine of meditation and yoga for my sense of calm, sustainable energy, and physical stability during the days. What began as a pain reliever turned into a healing relationship with God.
My next guest, Dr. Sarah Jefferis has mastered another type of flow-through word, both written and spoken as an editor, writing coach, speaker, and author of Forgetting the Salt and What Enters the Mouth. She has been praised by Ansel Elkins, author of Blue Yodel, who wrote "these are fearless poems-a reckoning of the violence of girlhood rendered with grit and clarity." She won the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Prize for her poem “Motherhood.” Her poems and nonfiction have appeared in The North American Review, Rhino, The Mississippi Review, The American Literary Review, Stone Canoe, Icon, The Hollins Critic, The Patterson Review, The Healing Muse, and other journals. She has been both poetry and fiction fellow at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in California and held residencies in poetry and creative nonfiction at the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts in New York, and at The Studios at Mass MOCA. She has completed her first novel, entitled Franny and John, as well as her third collection of poetry, After Marriage.
Sarah holds an MA in Creative Writing and Literature from Hollins University, an MFA in Poetry from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from SUNY Binghamton. Through her consulting business, Write. Now., Sarah serves as a 1:1 writing coach for academics who are seeking Higher Education, and for writers/artists/educators who need assistance at any stage of their creative project. She designs writing workshops on race, equity, and inclusion, and generative workshops using the writing process as a healing modality. Sarah offers poetry readings and presentations on surviving sexual assault. She has over twenty years of teaching writing and literature in Higher Education. She is currently enrolled in a Yoga Certification Program. Taking the mastery of the words up a notch to learning the mastery of the flow of movement.
I did not see my corporate sedentary routine as a problem until my back began to spasm during the day. Even though I finally took short breaks during the day to walk outside briefly the spasms would continue shortly after I sat back down to continue where I left off. Later I watched Mom wince with pain as she stood from our recliner and I knew she had also become too sedentary. She tells others that she has arthritis in her back. She has not been seen by an orthopaedical doctor so I could not figure out where she came up with that idea. A body at rest will remain at rest while a body in motion will burn more calories, improve body and mind awareness, and enhance movement pathways which enhances agility, mobility, and provides grace in motion.
Sarah's poetry in What Enters The Mouth is a powerful example of the type of experiences that can also cause emotionally blocked energy in our bodies. After attending my own therapy sessions I learned how PTSD can also create physical pain symptoms. Sleep disturbances, hyperarousal, and anxiety can all create physical tension and stress. The reason I mention this as well is that many caregivers may have experienced sexual assault or other traumatic moments which create PTSD resulting in blocked energy. Caregiving forces an intimate level of connection when we care for our loved ones which may become an emotional trigger to unblock memories in addition to stagnant energy. Unblocking these emotions or memories is not enough. As you strengthen the physical body then we also need to aid the body in allowing the flow of emotional pain a way out. Inhale peace, exhale pain. Inhale joy, exhale fear.
Vinyasa yoga works the physical body and provides a complete workout. You may experience soreness in places you never imagined possible as you gradually stabilize your body. Every breath and movement is cued which is why it is often recommended for reducing stress, anxiety, or burnout.
I recommend doing your own research to see which form of yoga resonates with you. As you begin consider rest days in between so your body can adapt and your heart can begin to express whatever begins to surface. Nothing may surface emotionally at first because like me, I was skeptical but also guarded and afraid at what would surface. Knowing the Spirit was there with me in the dark morning hours as I meditated and then asked questions I became less afraid and more curious. The stress of caregiving was released each day as I exhaled the anxiety and worries.
What you can expect as you continue to build a routine with Vinyasa yoga:
Because it releases tension in your body and helps to reset it you will sleep better. Creative movement exercises the body and tires the brain.
It will begin to create a new space in your mind to have greater emotional stability. Moving from posture to posture helps to see no experience, positive or negative, is forever.
Vinyasa is good for the heart so it lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
It will improve your posture. This is something we do not notice when sitting all day and how we are usually are sitting wrong. You will feel the difference and correct yourself.
As you breath better then your energy will increase which will also change how you feel throughout the day.
You will begin to become more aware of your body and mind. Understanding your body will aid you in better lifestyle practices because you will want to protect your body and be mindful of the need for protection from burnout.
It improves your body image. There is no need for weights in the gym for toning when you are using your own body weight from pose to pose.
You do what feels good for your body without any competition or advancing before you are ready so it becomes a journey of self-discovery.
Vinyasa is a good strategy to help control emotional eating as you train your mind to be more present and aware of your thoughts and feelings. Being more mindful will help you to appreciate the food you eat, why you are eating it, and which leaves you more satisfied.
Vinyasa improves your focus so you will begin to make better decisions. Learning how to avoid unwanted thoughts or letting them go to relax will help in understanding what your body needs, in a safe way.
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Thank you for joining in and listening with us today. You can find more about this topic on the blog at www.jessicalizelcannon.com. I hope this gave you more food for thought and until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise