April 24, 2021

Staying Connected And Balanced In The Most Trying Times

Joanne Silatei

I grew up a competitive dancer who trained hard and didn’t have much time for anything else other than school. During a summer seminar, an instructor suggested that I start practicing yoga to improve my balance and alignment. While improved performance was my goal, and the outcome, I found so much more.

Maybe you feel now like I did then, I didn’t think yoga was for me. Although I had heard of meditation, I wasn’t sure what it was about. I found an evening class on the weekends that didn’t interfere with my dance schedule and gave it a try.The competitor in me tackled each pose and flow with the mindset of mastering it and being the best in the class.

The first few months I spent most of my yoga classes totally in my head, but I couldn’t deny that by the end of the class when we laid in Savasana I always felt calm and relaxed. My yoga teacher Ray was patient and kind always encouraging me to bring my attention back to my body.

Not only would I feel relaxed by the end of class, but I would often fall asleep during Savasana, if only for a few minutes. This stood out to me because it used to take me forever to fall asleep. If you are like I was then, your brain turns on at night and you start working through all that you need to accomplish over the next few days. So, I started doing a mini yoga flow before bedtime which would help me turn my brain off and rest. This improved the quality of my sleep and in turn the quality of my day. I went from waking up feeling exhausted and stressed to waking up feeling rested. Finally!

But it wasn’t just that. One day I had a splitting headache. Nothing in particular was the cause, but I’d had the headache all day, and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever did nothing. I almost skipped my yoga class, but with my schedule so full, I didn’t want to miss out on my weekly class. I walked in not sure how well I’d do in class and walked out with my headache 100 percent gone. An entire day of a pounding headache and 30 minutes into class, nothing. Now when I have a headache, yoga is my go-to. If I’m out and about I at least take a few minutes to alleviate tension.

Yes, my balance and alignment improved too, empowering me to remain centered in pirouettes and turns, but yoga quickly became some much more. Yoga remains an essential part of my daily routine. With the freedom to stream classes, I almost always practice at home, starting and ending most days with a custom yoga and stretch routine. If I rush out of bed and into my day without a bit of yoga, I feel the difference. I’m not as balanced or centered. I’m not as clear and focused. If I have a late night and go to bed without at least a bit of stretching, it’s not as easy to wind down.

Yoga was a stepping stone to exploring a variety of self-care modalities. It introduced me to aromatherapy through incense and essential oils, which I use at home to create the desired atmosphere. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would do without my essential oils. They lift me up, help me relax, open my heart, and mind, and make my home smell amazing. Loving the vibrating sensation of the gongs and chimes that some yoga instructors use at the beginning and end of each class, I started exploring full sound bath classes, binaural beats, and ASMR.

In the last few years, I’ve tried several meditation and relaxation apps, of which Calm is currently my favorite. I often listen to their mini 10-minute guided meditation during my morning yoga and stretch session and head to bed listening to one of their sleep stories. Yes, I still have nights that I lay awake tossing and turning because I am stressed or overthinking things. We have all had a few challenging months. First, the uncertainty and full-scale disruption caused by the global pandemic.

Then, the heartbreak and inhumanity of the ongoing racial injustice in the United States, which still too many deny. The stress and anxiety impact me too, but I have outlets that I know will help me remain connected and balanced. It’s not perfection but my self-care routine helps me balanced and connected.

Beyond my preferred healing modalities, I have a strong network of loved ones who listen, empathize, and love. Perfection isn’t the goal and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but you must keep exploring self-care until you find the modalities that have the most positive impact on your mind, body, and spirit.

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