Yoga: A Process of Physical and Mental Recovery

Yoga: A Process of Physical and Mental Recovery

By Marcel Hernandez
Guest Blogger

One day, I had the bright idea of purchasing new running shoes (after not having run for a while), then breaking them in by hitting some 30/60s intervals the very next morning (sprint 30 seconds, walk 60). The pain in my right ankle and calf messed up my otherwise sexy waddle/strut (don’t you know who I think I am??) for weeks.

Lindsay said, “try yoga!” I laughed and wrote it off as some feminine crap, and remembered stories of Herschel Walker practicing ballet. Yeah…I didn’t want any part of that. Finally, she convinced me to go to an hour and a half Hot 26 class with Josh Thamm teaching the class. I made it about an hour and fifteen, then bailed because I wasn’t used to the heat, and kept getting chills. Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the experience, so it was another good six months or so before going back. I went, maybe a handful of times over the course of the next couple of years.

Yoga: a mirror of oneself

In 2014, Lindsay started teacher training. At the time, our communication was at an all time low and I was self-absorbed in a pattern of selfish decision-making. But…I decided to start practicing regularly, in an effort to show my support for her pursuit of what she loved. There wasn’t some “magical moment” where I began to love yoga or anything like that. Rather, the affinity for it grew over time, as I gradually improved on form and gained strength. I was always more into lifting and running, and I believe part of my frustration with yoga was in the fact it required me to practice patience and silence (two of the things I struggled greatly with at that time, and still do).

Lacking the selfless brand of spirituality, I practiced yoga solely for the physical benefits—I found it gave my body an excellent way of recovering and cross-training from lifting and running. I had no idea the mental benefits I would later experience. One day, at the end of Emily’s class, during savasana, I became overwhelmed with emotion, and just started crying…not the balling kind…but enough to be fucking embarrassed. Luckily…I was already dripping with sweat, so I could always just blame that. Unfortunately (in hindsight, fortunately) this wasn’t the only time. So…I finally realized I had a lot of “shit” to deal with…and that was of course scary on many levels.

My (abbreviated) story

bingeIn October 2014, I went on a crazy alcoholic binge…more so than my usual one. To make a long story short, it was a rough night. I fell backwards down the stairs, at one point I was unconscious for 30 minutes, I later lost control of bodily functions, and it was just an overall pitiful night. I had put Lindsay and the rest of my family in a difficult position, to say the least. Looking back over the years, I was lucky to be alive, yet, this wasn’t the first time I had experienced the dark side of my choices.

I had hidden my problems from most of the world quite well. I’ve always, for the most part, greeted people with smiles and goodwill. And quietly, I fed my anger and resentments with self-delusion and the liquid spirit. Only my closest friends knew the darkness I carried with me at all times.

The next day was a rough day. I felt like two trains had hit me, I had to change my jeans at some point, and all I could think to do was call an old friend…one who, without fail, was ALWAYS there for me at my lowest points. I recently wrote an article about him and his story. While I know I am responsible for my own recovery, he has played an integral part. He told me to sober up, and call him later that day when I got my shit together. And so I did.

That Saturday, after yoga class, I broke down with my good friend and teacher – the same one who led the first yoga class I attended. He didn’t give me the usual patronizing shit most people do, and he didn’t pity me, but instead told me that I was living what I need to live, and doing things for myself that I needed to do, but that it was going to take a lot of work. And I’ve found that to be true. But. For. The. Grace. Of. God. I have not found it necessary to take a drink since.

Replacing habits and striving to remain teachable

I continued my yoga practice, and even started exploring additional styles more. Everyone always talked about being in the moment, and I was never able to do that until finally – again, it wasn’t a single moment – but I discovered that by focusing my efforts on the physical challenges before me, I could shut everything else out of my mind. My balance improved. My strength improved. My mind became quieter and calmer. What peace! Granted, life was nothing like this outside the yoga studio. In fact, I discovered I had a whole slew of problems I never knew I had. What a sham this sobriety shit was! So. I replaced my obsession with fitness, and just dove into trying to better myself physically…because, well, the mental challenges were too much to take on at the time. There were a ton of people I relied on when it came to my fitness, without them even knowing it. They sustained me, in ways I could not sustain myself at the time.

Some of them are, in no particular order: Mona Overstreet, Dawn Cunningham, Roger Scruggs, Lindsay Hernandez, Lindsay Hackemann, Demian von Zaluskowski, Josh Thamm, Emily Lamb, Stacy Lontoc, Scott Herman, Shea Brakefield, Jennifer Shinall, Juan Hernandez, Stephon Strode, Janice Miller, Brent Coleman, Sam Chester, Jordan Pritchard, Craig Agule, Angie Kirk, Paul Garcia, George Walker, Joel Bolen, Elliott Hulse, Ivan Diaz, Alan Thrall, and Manuel Arellano.

You can save and change lives simply by focusing on being yourself and honestly sharing yourself and your talents with others.

 

These were all people who were (are) either my teachers, trainers, people from whom I sought advice for lifting/running/training, online coaches, and/or people I trained (or train) with. There are a multitude of others with whom I practiced yoga and/or developed relationships with (many of whose classes I still plan on taking), and followed online. There are still even others on whom I relied for my mental health/fitness/training. Those are the ones that makeup my inner circle – the poor souls who are tasked with hearing all my shit, the ones who loved me when I could not love myself, those that taught me to love myself, and the ones that challenge me to be a better person. This latter group of people are what I think of as my spiritual warriors…those that have either a unique understanding of me, of themselves, or of both. The efforts I make, now, when I am able – to be my best self, to be good for those around me, and to try and affect positive change, are a result of what these people have taught me and done for me.

The purpose for listing the people a couple paragraphs up, is because many of them are unaware of the salvation they have helped me to find. ALL of them (including those not listed), in some way, saved my life.  And so this means that you (the reader) may not always know the power of the life-sustaining effect you can have on the lives of those around you. It can be profound, even if you are not personally recognized for it.  YOU can save and change lives simply by focusing on being yourself and honestly sharing yourself and your talents with others.  This is a key realization in a world full of potential distractions.

marcel-chained

Not just a physical journey

In many ways, yoga is like music and ultimately like life: progress, not perfection.  Slipping, falling, cussing, and getting back up, continuously.  These days, I still enjoy the physical challenge, especially when the teacher calls a pose I’ve either never attempted or never been able to reach/hold. Trying them, in my mind, is excellent practice for life to…accept change, confront fears, and when I doubt myself, do it anyway. What I’ve discovered about life is that I put way more pressure on myself than what I perceive is actually there from those around me.

Another thing I enjoy about practicing in the studio is that everyone is there for their own reasons, and we all confront our fears as individuals, but with the quiet support of those around us. It’s a very…energizing experience. I’ve developed life-long friendships with many students and teachers, and I’ve found that we share not only common interests, but common goals and struggles. People are from all walks of life, and yet we find ways to focus on similarities – another great analogy for life.

This has been my experience. I encourage you to challenge yourself, both physically and mentally. I have found that doing so creates a synchronicity between body and mind, where, when applied regularly and habitually, allows us to recognize and diminish the fears we impose on ourselves. Then, it is simply a matter of understanding our plateaus (physically AND mentally) and finding ways to work past them. Today, I am encouraged by the fact that I have a lot more work to do, and I am grateful that so many of you are here to share this experience with me. Whether you have encouraged me to find my light (“helped” me) or confront my darkness (“hurt” me), I could not have made it to where I am today without you. Thank you. And thank you for letting me share.

 

marcel-meditate

  • Erik on Dec 22, 2015 Reply

    Remember that you are the guru. You know everything at your core. All that you and everyone else on the planet need to do, is peel away the onion. Each breath one breath at a time.

    Namaste

    • Marcel Hernandez on Dec 23, 2015 Reply

      It’s a process for sure. Thanks for the feedback, Erik.

  • Marcel Hernandez on Dec 16, 2015 Reply

    Thank you Megan. You are on my list of instructors whose classes I plan on taking soon. Even more so after you shared your philosophy/approach with me recently.This is a journey for sure – thank you for being a part of it!

  • Megan Lynch on Dec 16, 2015 Reply

    This is beautiful. It’s such an honor to read someone’s genuine thoughts on their journey. I’ve always loved the Hernandez crew but I’m just head over heels this week!