Mindfulness and the Modern Woman


This is a guest post written by Emma Haylett.

During my time as an undergraduate, I remember staring at the early morning yoga-doers as I burned time on my elliptical. I knew that my body didn’t bend this way or that, and as I yearned for the clock to tick faster, faster, until my workout was done, I thought I’d never be brave enough to try yoga.

And I wasn’t, for a long time. I should pause to note that I am not a coward—in my life, I’ve watched my father struggle with (and overcome) a meth addiction, I’ve learned to manage life with two alcoholic parents and I am the older sibling of two sisters who gave birth in their teens. I’ve been a kind of parent, a 40-hour-workweek, full-time-first generation college student, and a writer. These, I think, are brave things.

But yoga—well, it was another thing entirely. When I finally decided to give it a go, it was because I knew that I was lacking something in my life. While I’d worked to overcome many obstacles, or so I thought, I’d neglected to develop and maintain a sense of self. I’m not an addict, but I come from a family of them. My mind and body were functional and (mostly) healthy. My spirit was not.

I’ve never been a particularly religious person, so I found little solace in church or youth groups. I don’t exactly pray and I’m not particularly interested in religion, except as a course of study. So, in graduate school, I found myself neglecting my spirit, and deeply depressed because of it.

As a student, I got a free subscription to Amazon Prime, which offered a lot of instant videos. In my studio apartment, I did some basic yoga. I found myself struggling because it lacked any sense of community and left me sweaty and sore in my home. Was I performing the moves correctly? The absence of another person (or even a person-sized mirror) made it impossible to tell.

So, I wandered into a class called “Yum Yum Stretch.” I was a little hesitant. My yoga pants were too tight. My shirt was too loose. My toenails were unpainted. But I found a group of woman and men who were extremely varied—in age, body type, and flexibility. I sighed in relief. We stretched.

What I loved about Yum Yum Stretch was the soothing voice of the instructor, the guided stretches, and the snacks afterword. Maybe it isn’t even yoga, exactly—but the opportunity to join a like-minded group of individuals devoting time to themselves in such a tangible way was exhilarating. We stretched and strengthened our bodies, and (at least for me) our minds. Our mindfulness.

For me, yoga provided a way to deal with my anxiety, depression, and feelings about the behaviors present in my family, perhaps lying dormant in me. For me, this sort of “treatment” is more about prevention of addiction than the treatment for addiction—insurance, you could call it. For others, it is just another piece in the puzzle of addiction treatment.

Running, Pilates, hard-core yoga aren’t for everyone—they certainly aren’t for me. But they represent a dedication that is both selfish and selfless that has nothing to do with any substances, except maybe adrenaline.

Emma Haylett grew up in a state with no sports teams so she picked her own. This is and isn’t a metaphor. Now, she helps treat addicts and families of addicts with non 12 step rehab programs as a graduate student and Certified Prevention Specialist Intern. You can reach her on Google+.

Photo courtesy of kakisky.

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