Nicole Muchowicz provides us with her story into yoga as a daughter of a Yoga teacher. She folds her story into the story of yoga itself and how it works and helps us. A wonderfully done story that will open your heart to the endless possibilities created by Yoga.
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In 1991, Shaka Senghor shot and killed a man. He was, he says, “a drug dealer with a quick temper and a semi-automatic pistol.” Jailed for second degree murder, that could very well have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t. Instead, it was the beginning of a years-long journey to redemption, one with humbling and sobering lessons for us all.
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I was never the athletic type and I grew up convinced that sports & me just weren’t meant to be. At school I never joined a team, I was never into after school activities and when I started college all I did as an effort to beat the laziness was to get a membership at a nearby gym -of course that didn’t last long. So as I got older (and based on previous experiences) I started to see myself as the anti-sports girls who even took pride in saying she was bad at any athletic activity!
Looking back I can now confess that it was sort of hurtful to acknowledge the fact that I was REALLY BAD at something and to have the hopeless feeling that I was never going to succeed. I am sure that had a negative impact on my self esteem.
One thing I liked from the gym is that they had yoga classes and I started joining them every day I could. The classes were pretty basic and the teacher didn’t explain much of what was happening but I liked the personal experience I got from it (i.e. not having to compete/race/beat anybody). But the classes didn’t justify the gym membership so I quit a few months later.
It all changed when I tried running and long story short: running changed my life, it changed me and it changed how I saw myself as I wasn’t the less then average girl anymore! Instead I became the -I will make myself run this far today- girl.
Needless to say I am still an average runner (more on the slow end) and nowhere near to considering myself a professional athlete but I no longer have the hopeless feeling of never succeeding. It was hard for me to get into running and as I started to get more serious about it I became prone to injuries -shin splints to be specific. The first time I got shin splints I couldn’t describe the pain I felt making it impossible for me to google it! It was sort of an electric shock inside my calves but behind the bone…it was scary!! I went to the doctor and he gave me a proper diagnosis. Since I got them the first time I tried changing shoes, stretching before and after running, icing and even therapy when it got really bad. The worst part about getting shin splints is that they slow me down in my training and there was also the psychological battle where I thought if I stopped running I would lose everything I had accomplished.
Dr. Baxter Bell
I should start by telling you what my life was like before I discovered yoga in 1994. Wow, where to start?! Let me encapsulate my schooling and work history in this way: I was always a studious kid and did well in my grade school, junior high and high school studies. I attended a college prep high school in Toledo, Ohio, St. Johns, run by the Jesuit order. I mention this because not only was it rigorous academically, but we also had religious studies as part of our curriculum, which at the time was of only nominal interest to me. But when I got to college and was studying pre-med, I decided to use some of my electives to take a course on the literature of the old and new testaments. This turned out to be a captivating set of courses that looked at how history and circumstance influenced religious texts. These exposures refined my feeling that I was more of a spiritual seeker than a member of a particular religious tradition.
From college, I went straight into med school and then into my family medicine residency and finally into a busy family practice, which I had been at for 5 years when I took my first yoga classes. Needless to say, my busy life was reflected in a busy mind! I recall having a classic “monkey mind” that was constantly reviewing my work decisions, and worrying about them, or dealing with the immediate intense decisions of the present day, or planning my next short and long term adventures. I worked a lot of hours, taking call on evenings during the week and every few weekends, so my free time felt precious and I tended to load it up with activities I enjoyed.
My relationship to my body at the time was not what it is today. I was relatively healthy, so I tended to use my body intensely in physical activity. I ran regularly, biked regularly, was an avid roller blader for a number of years, only to add in indoor and outdoor rock climbing, with the occasional winter ski trip thrown in for good measure. I was modestly competitive, and suspect I used these activities to deal with the stress I felt from my work. On the purely physical level, I was always of slender build, but I built muscle quickly, felt strong and had good stamina. But, I had always felt stiff and inflexible, ever since high school cross country.
At 30, I found myself with an autoimmune disease, overweight, and confused.
At my peak I was 100 pounds heavier than I am now. I had gained the weight slowly over ten years or so. I’ve always loved food, but I was disconnected from how it made me feel. And, looking back, I had many obsessive food behaviors. I ate when happy, when depressed, when bored…
I’d eat cheese as a snack before going to bed and wondered why I burped so much.
I drank a lot of coffee and twitched in my sleep.
I ate a lot. Some good food, some bad.
I tried to lose weight through exercise—I ran 4 times a week or so while smoking 3-4 packs a day.
My weight bobbed up and down.
My knees hurt.
My sickness landed me in the hospital for a couple of weeks, followed by a few months of recovery. My near death experience highlighted my need for a spiritual life—at the time, I had none. My legs were weak and I was completely out of shape. I needed to do something. I was grateful for being alive and wanted to continue that condition.
A friend suggested I go to a yoga class with her—so I went. I had no real desire—no expectations for myself. The only thing I had on my mind was that a lot of women did yoga, so I probably would be out of place. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was completely unattached to the result. I just did it.
It was fantastic.