Hey everyone! This is Matt, and I wanted to take a moment to share with you the benefits of yoga that I’ve personally experienced. It’s easy to cite study after study that report the health benefits of yoga (this article is well-written with an extensive bibliography), and we’ll continue to post info like that here and on our Facebook page. Yet, sometimes it’s better if you can personally relate to the benefits, so I wanted to share my story with you.
As far as athletics go, I grew up as a distance runner and a wrestler. As a kid, my summer weekends were usually spent mowing lawns and running road races at summer festivals and fairs all over north central Indiana. In junior high and high school, I excelled in cross-country, wrestling, and track. I went on to compete as a collegiate wrestler at the U.S. Naval Academy, and even earned All-American honors as a boxer.
That athletic background proved to be the ideal foundation for my career in military special operations. I served all over the world as an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer; conducting missions alongside some of our Nation’s most elite warriors from the SEALS, Marine Recon, Rangers, and Green Berets in some of the worst places our Nation could send us. Despite the arduous duty (or perhaps because of it), I thrived. I had a blast climbing mountains, jumping out of airplanes, and deep-sea diving in some of the coolest parts of the world. And, yes, those assignments took me into combat numerous times.
I had tried yoga once or twice, mainly to try to impress my girlfriend (now wife). I wasn’t in it mentally, and the physical elements were not as challenging as my own workouts. (It’s amazing how resourceful you can get, when you’re deployed to the desert, and all you have is big armored truck tires and sand bags. That was back in the day, before CrossFit was a thing.) So, I didn’t get into it right away.
The pivotal point for me came after one of those very long, and very stressful combat deployments. I got home in the middle of the night, and my wife convinced me to wake up early and go to one of the hardest yoga classes she could find. At the time, I was in peak physical shape, and I would’ve signed up for anything my wife wanted to do. I was just happy to be home and able to spend time with her.
I wasn’t prepared to like it so much. I got my butt kicked in that class! Not only did it push me physically, but what I liked the most was that it pushed my mental focus to a whole new level. On top of that, it was something my wife and I did together; exercising some demons, working it out silently, sweating, side-by-side in a group class.
We stuck with it, and as my practice continued, I saw the personal benefits to restore my body from injuries. As it turns out, doing pull-ups with full body armor isn’t so great for your shoulders, and training for the Boston Marathon without properly stretching isn’t so great on the knees. My body healed and got much stronger.
Practicing yoga with my wife also made our marriage stronger, and helped us cope with the stress and strain of a military lifestyle. Without a doubt, I chose a high-stress career. What I came to realize is the small, deliberate movements on the yoga mat, were reflected in my actions in my personal and professional life.
As a competitive athlete and military officer, I was accustomed to self-discipline. But, Yoga helped me to practice self-discipline in a new way, in a room surrounded by others, where alignment and flexibility of the mind and body are immediately obvious. In the purest form, the mirrors in the room revealed the clearest reflection of my own level of stillness. When I learned to silence the chattering mind, I could focus on the stillness and create new space for healing. Personally, I haven’t experienced anything else that helps still the mind, rejuvenate the body, and cultivate the soul.
My yoga practice has been a tremendous gift my wife shared with me, and I’m so excited that we are finally able to share that gift with you. I can’t guarantee you’ll find exactly the same benefits that I have – every journey is unique. But, I will personally guarantee that you won’t find anyone else who leads a yoga class like my wife, Sky.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my journey, and we look forward to hearing your stories and sharing a new path together. If you’re ever in the Indianapolis region, we hope to see you on the mat.