by Marzena Wojcik, August 2019
"Yoga opened up my eyes to the mindful benefits and calming nature of the practice" Marzena
It all started when...
I hurt my back during a weight training session at a ladies only gym when I was 21. It happened while I was trying to put away a 45lbs heavy free weight, I all of a sudden felt this intense shooting pain in my lower lumbar. I knew instantly something wasn't right. All because I insisted on taking the heavy weight off, all so I could use the leg press machine, thinking I can lift this no problem, even though the weight was clearly way too heavy.
My stubbornness was unimaginable, and I was not self aware of my actual strength or lack there of, in order to avoid injuring myself. I was reactive, did things without thinking, rather than responding mindfully, slow and with ease. Reflecting back on that moment and who I was at the time, led me to hurt myself. I even stayed after hurting myself to finish my workout, as I guess at the time it was my back that hurt so I could still do curl ups, right?! My mindless, cocky and stubborn action lead to my herniating three discs in my lower lumbar (the L3, L4, L5 specifically), which I confirmed by an MRI 5 years post injury.
Immediately post injury, I was forced to take care as I had so much pain in my low back. I started going to Physiotherapy to treat the imminent pain I was in. I was given exercises to work on my core strength to help strengthen my injury. A side bar, my pain creeps up over a decade later from time to time, even more so when I’m not active or neglect core work. My full time gig is a desk job too, so it’s imperative I don’t sit for long periods otherwise my low back aches and the odd times I even get sciatica symptoms.
Back to my recovery…
MOVEMENT was the recipe to my discomfort. My main focus for healing and getting back to moving in a pain free way was working on my core strength. I learned a strong core can help protect the injured area and keep herniated discs from herniating more, especially the kind I had. My physiotherapist told me if I wanted to be pain free, I’d have to maintain a strong core, work on it daily and move more to help ease any sciatic symptoms that herniated discs can bring.
The advice was good, but I found some of the exercises offered for building up core strength weren't. For example sit ups and leg raises hurt my back, which discouraged me wanting to do any exercises. My new mission to mend was to find core exercises that worked for me, and that I actually enjoyed doing.
I knew yoga was going to be part of my life forever…
A few months post injury still struggling with pain, a friend of mine recommended going to a YOGA class near where we worked. Let’s try something new she said. I went and have never looked back since. I knew yoga was going to be part of my life forever, after just doing the one class. The activation of muscles I didn't even know I had, my whole back, my legs, my arms all felt activated. How my entire core fired up too! Weight training didn’t have this affect on me. All while the yoga teacher, is encouraging you to listen to your body, breathe and move mindfully.
I knew right then that YOGA would help me heal. The supportive environment in yoga that I felt, is something I needed at this moment, rather than to push yourself to the max mindset that came with weight training culture. The energized feeling, and muscle activation I got from doing just one class, I was inspired, motivated and hooked instantly!! Why?!
Well as I mentioned already the supportive environment. Rather than pushing ourselves, yoga encourages us to become aware of our breath, how we feel in a given moment, and learning to move to where the body goes, not where we think we should be going to. Yoga is all about taking the ego out of our practice. If I had this mindset while weight training I would've prevented my injury. I truly believe this, as now live it, I move and exercise mindfully.
What yoga has taught me is not to compare myself to others, or think that I can do it when maybe, what I should be admitting to myself is, no I can’t, and that’s okay.
The feeling of being challenged. For my first ever yoga class, I for some reason chose to go to a hot yoga class. Staying with the class and knowing once I finished what I actually endured - overcoming the heat, physical challenge and mental challenge of learning new movements, yoga re-invigorated my fitness.
The energized feeling, physical energy mainly to start. I was inspired and motivated by the teacher and other students energy in the room. The energy was contagious! The post class feels were profound too, as I felt more ALIVE, more focused and aware of how I was feeling and the feeling was great!! I felt more capable to face any physical challenge that would come my way, as if this weight was lifted. I thought to myself yoga was a physical exercise I needed to stick to, as I started to see progress in my body after doing a few classes. My balance improved. My core got stronger. I could do the sequences better, following the teachers cues got easier, and some of the postures felt better in my body. I started to see that YOGA would help keep my back healthy and strong longterm.
Of course I'm primarily describing the physical benefits that I experienced, but over the years of consistent yoga practice, yoga opened up my eyes to the mindful benefits, calming nature, and anxiety reduction I got from regular practice by incorporating breath work (pranayama), meditation and yoga philosophy into my life. I grew more and more interested to dive deeper, and eventually embarking on a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in 2015 and later took part in Yin Yoga training in 2017. My yoga journey continues with my own daily practice, and I am humbled and grateful that I can share yoga with others and maybe help them find skills and tools with yoga, so they too can use the practice to help cope with daily life stress or recover from injuries like yoga did for me.
Over a decade of a dedicated practice of yoga, it has been truly transforming or what others may call enlightenment. Yoga simply changed me and evolved me from the neurotic, anxious and high strung girl who reacted to the world around her. My practice helped me to become a better person, heal from an injury, I became less anxious, less annoyed, irritated by life, situations or people and this wasn’t over night, it was over time.
All because a regular yoga practice taught me and gave me tools to cope and become more aware. I learned to care more about myself and my wellbeing; both mental and physical. Not saying I’m not any of the things today as I just mentioned above, as I still suffer from anxiety and sometimes lose my cool, but at least I feel that I am more in control rather than my negative thoughts maybe controlling me, or negative people or certain stressful situations I may be in where I’m reacting rather than responding.
My intention of this website, and sharing my story about my continued journey and discovery of how yoga has helped me, is to inspire, offer tips and tools for coping with daily life stressors.
Through YOGA, I try to live more mindfully, and with presence. And I know that you can too!
The yoga practice has so much to offer. Even if you’re doing the practice once a week, consistency of even a week can help teach you how to bring more awareness to your life.
Breath work (pranayama), meditation, physical practice (asana) are a few ways yoga has helped me. I’ll continue sharing my journey with you…
Teaching yoga to me is giving back to the community in sharing a powerful tool to get out of our way, become more mindful, self aware and is a true passion of mine to inspire others to practice YOGA. And I’m not just talking about the poses. I love that I can teach others how to acquire useful, mindful, practical tools all through the practice of yoga.
Helping others live more mindfully, through creating space and awareness in both the body and mind by practising yoga!
With each breath, we can release tension in our lives through the body, with each breath we connect to our mind - come practice with me.