How Yoga Changed My Life

895a0-santa2bmonica

It’s Sunday morning here and I have just done some yoga stretching which feels amazing after yesterday’s run. This has led me to feel compelled to tell you a bit about how yoga has changed my life (for the better!)

From the age of five I played violin, and from the age of eleven, piano. I took eighteen years of professional violin lessons (my first instrument) and four years of piano, one year of classical guitar, and many, many hours of practice on all of these. This led to playing music professionally, such as at weddings and Christmas concerts, and teach music (violin, piano, music theory, and voice) for over eight years. Music is one of the greatest pleasures in life – both listening to it and playing. I am very thankful for the opportunity to have performed in chamber music ensembles, orchestras, musicals, opera, and sung in choirs at school and university. I’m also very grateful that through teaching I was able to pass on my musical knowledge and enthusiasm to my students. It has been a truly wonderful experience. Through music I was able to travel from Australia to both the USA and Scandinavia to perform with my orchestra, and this was also a major highlight in my life. 


One of the only downsides associated with playing music is the physical stress placed on the body. The only other downside (which is somewhat related, considering the amount of hours of practice that goes into it) is the pressure of examinations and auditions and the resulting performance anxiety that affected some of the students at our specialist music school and at my university… but, like anything, it takes hard work and practice to excel at something, whether this is sport, academia, or music. You need to be both psychologically and physically healthy to be truly successful at it.


RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) was an all-too-familiar affliction that many of my peers experienced. Our school dabbled in Alexander Technique (meaning we had the occasional workshop) but personally, I was never fully “in-tune” with my body until the end of my music degree at university. It was at the end of writing my fourth-year music thesis that I decided I really had to do something about the back pain I was experiencing. I believe this was exacerbated by the hours of sitting at a computer typing, which is part of the nature of studying and writing a thesis (and as I went on to write more theses in psychology it was important I sort out my RSI and pain issues in order to have the endurance to sit at a desk and be productive). A big part of the back and also wrist, shoulder, and neck pain I was experiencing was obviously from the years of violin practice I had done (for example, even back in Year Twelve – final year of high school – it was something I did up to seven hours a day). 


The activities that I feel genuinely helped my back pain were: joining a gym and participating in aerobics classes, and taking my first ever yoga class. At the time the yoga teacher stressed to me how important rest is (something my teacher here in the USA also reminds me of). I have a couple of medical conditions (scoliosis and fibromyalgia) and this means I may experience higher levels of pain than is typical. Scoliosis was diagnosed early in high school (in my early teens) and this is a structural and genetic condition, no doubt made worse by the asymmetry of playing my main musical instrument, violin. Fibromyalgia was diagnosed much later (in my mid-twenties) and both of these conditions have been managed with visits to a sports medicine doctor, physiotherapists (including a physiotherapist who specializes in musicians), and also very important for day-to-day living, exercise. Seeing a specialist really helped, and the sports medicine doctor and physiotherapists I saw at hospitals and clinics were all excellent. And of course I credit any and all forms of exercise in being incredibly useful in managing these conditions. 


Forms of exercise I have tried that I enjoy: 


(Please always check with your doctor to get the ‘okay’)


Tai Chi, Skiing, Bike-riding, Roller-blading, Pilates, Walking, Running, Karate, Aerobics, 


Body Pump (definitely one of my favourites and an excellent way to get fit and strong) – this is a gym class primarily involving lifting weights, 


Body Balance (a combination of Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates) – 20 minutes of each in a one hour class


and last but not least… Yoga.


Yoga really is an amazing thing and one of the best activities I have ever participated in during my life, that’s for sure. I really can’t recommend it enough, for anything from physical aches and pains to stress/anxiety/depression issues. As I have previously mentioned, I truly believe any form of exercise helps; there is no doubt that exercise gets the endorphins going, but I especially love yoga for the wonderful stretching and the feelings of relaxation due to the breathing. It certainly helped me throughout my pregnancy, and I even (involuntarily I think!) imagined the calming voice of my yoga teacher during each labour contraction at the hospital. I feel such extreme happiness on my walk to, and particularly from, yoga class. When I take yoga classes, or practice yoga from home, it greatly reduces the tension and pain I experience in my body. Yoga is amazing for flexibility, strength, endurance, relaxation, breathing, confidence, general fitness, and both mental and physical health. It has now been twelve years since I took my first yoga class, and I can say for sure that Yoga, you have changed my life! 

2 Comments

  1. Hear, hear! Any movement almost always helps, but only yoga seems to give that rest and breathwork that counterbalances the movement to bring your whole self into balance. I love it, too, and it still changes my life every darn day 🙂

  2. Thanks, Marisa! You have been a truly wonderful yoga teacher too 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*