Nourishing Yourself & Your Yoga Practice

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Two of the many important lessons you learn along the way in your yoga journey are that everything is connected and nothing happens by chance.

These lessons were brought full circle for me in the last couple months.  To back things up, I’ve practiced yoga for 18 years now.  I began at the age of 16 as a means of helping me with back pain I’d had since the age of 8.  I found that it helped tremendously.  Then, by what I thought was chance, I discovered that it helped me find my center, study better and navigate the challenges of being a teenager.  Regardless of how my day went, I could always return to my yoga practice – it was always there waiting for me.

Over the years my life and my practice took many directions.  I found that I did best when I consistently practiced yoga and when I was doing well in life I happened to do yoga more.  It was all connected.

Fast forward to the last few months.  My yoga practice was going deeper than it ever had on a spiritual and intellectual level.  I was in full commitment to a daily home practice, taking classes and diving deep into yoga reading.  And yet, the physical aspect of my practice was stagnated and in some cases regressing.  The pain that yoga had relieved for years was staying constant and in some cases worsening.  I was at a loss as to what was going on.

Then I began working on an article for my website on calcium.  As someone who had taught nutrition for years and worked closely with nutrition’s effects on pain, calcium is a nutrient I’ve covered at length, however it had been awhile since I had created new content on it.  I’m a vegetarian who rarely consumes dairy, giving the article a special point of interest to me.  In doing review and research for the article it all came full circle.

99% of calcium is used in the structure and maintenance of the skeleton and teeth.  That is where we often focus when we think about calcium.  The other 1% is vital.  It’s needed for neurological activity, pumping our heart, blood clotting and proper muscle function.

I began eating more calcium rich foods using the list I created for the article and in addition began taking a supplement I had researched at length to meet my needs.  I was doing all that for my long-term skeletal health, but I had a surprise benefit that showed up far sooner than a healthy skeleton in my later years in life – my heels touched the ground during downward dog!  Then I gave utkatasana, chair pose, a try for the first time in a very long time and was pleasantly surprised when my knees were NOT screaming in pain!  In fact, I was able to sink lower and hold the pose longer.  This carried into each asana, yoga pose, in my practice.  The physical aspect of my practice was finally matching the spiritual and intellectual components of my practice.

This is not to say that calcium is a wonder mineral that can instantly transform everyone’s yoga practice or any physical endeavor.  In fact, too much calcium can make a person feel awful.  What this shows is the importance of nourishing ourselves in all areas of life: nutritionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, personally and professionally.  A deficiency in one area will affect the other area, because everything is connected.  In this case, it was a literal, nutrition deficiency that was a result of negating one aspect of my life while focusing on the others.

Nothing happens by chance.  The timing of the article was perfect and it helped me take better care of myself while helping others find ways to take better care of themselves.  I went further and shared the steps I took in finding a supplement that worked for me and how to make the best decision based on your own personal needs.

I kept my list of calcium rich foods with me and bookmarked the article in my phone to make sure I had it when ordering at a restaurant and for those inevitable moments I forget my grocery list in the car.  To satiate my inner math and nutrition nerd, I began tallying up an estimate on my daily calcium intake until I could visualize what consistently eating enough calcium looked like.

I focused on making recipes with calcium rich foods and adding calcium rich foods to the meals I was already going to make. I even made calcium rich appetizers to a part that I was invited to for myself and everyone else to enjoy.  I compromised and blended my favorite coconut milk that only has organic coconut and filtered water as the ingredients with fortified coconut milk as an avenue to get more calcium.  All that in addition to taking my calcium supplement daily when my phone reminder dings.

If you find yourself frustrated in your yoga practice, or in any endeavor in your world, look around to see what may be the underlying factor.  Remember that there is more to yoga than ‘nailing’ a certain pose.  Take care of yourself, both on and off the mat.

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