How Yoga Saved My Life – By Maree Frawley
In my first experiences of Yoga, I was 100% certain that Yoga was going to kill me – now I’m certain, it’s one of the handful of reasons that I am balanced, healthy and alive…..
If you were with me back in the late 90’s most of my family, work colleagues and clients would have thought I was playing an April Fool’s Day joke, if I had said back then that I would be a Yoga Instructor.
I was manic and extremely adrenalin driven! If I was awake I was moving. I could not sit still and there was certainly no balance in my life.
Here, I was an “Old School” (hard core) group fitness instructor, (I even had part of my career with the infamous g-string leotard generation of instructors!); I was extremely fit and was devoted to the movement of seeing people love moving to music, being fit and being happy. I was part of the pioneering Personal Training Movement – (before there was even a title Personal Trainer!); I was recognized as an Expert; consulting with elite athletes and getting amazing results with clients from youngsters through to my oldest client who started with me when he was 93.
My long blonde hair at the time and Brazil Sul Fitness wear were with me nearly everywhere I went. My odd coloured shoe laces and loud laugh were a strong identifying factor to the many people I would see day in and day out through my sessions, training and general environment. I deeply loved and had great inspiration for seeing people achieve their fitness goals. However, if you looked closely at my face, I was chronically tired, in constant pain and more than likely always depleted of nutrition and fluid.
Probably more importantly, the chronic pain and extreme physical demands took its toll on my emotions. A car accident from years before and my unwillingness to surrender meant that I would always be pushing through back and neck pain. Which then would lead to foot, ankle, knee, hip, shoulder pain and headaches/migraines depending on the day and the workload. I would wake up, hobble around like an old lady until a hot shower and then be too busy to take notice of my body or emotions until collapse time….. sometimes 18-20 hours later. I trained and worked hard! Very hard!
Looking back, the discipline and physical extremes certainly helped me strengthen my character, but at the time, this was truly tough. I created this image of strong and invincible, but as the wise out there know – it is they who are most vulnerable. I did not really have any time throughout the day to really focus on myself. The weekends still involved work. Often at social events, I would be so tired and almost coma like in social skills after ensuring people were comfortable in their conversations. With constant highs of working with groups and then depleting all energy, my physical demands certainly were my highest priority. So needless to say relationships, friends and family suffered.
I was a chronic over-trainer and my mantras were, “It is better to burn out than fade away”….. “No Limits”…. “Never surrender”. An average day for me during this time would be 3 – 5 group fitness classes (sometimes more if other instructors were away), 2- 4 personal training sessions, 6-8 hours in my work role, marathon training/weight training/kick boxing 1-2 hours, 2- 4 hours study (studying my Masters Degree at the time) and, 3-5 hours sleep.
For some reason during this time I developed a fear of not waking up in time for my work. Some days it was a 4.30am start. This led to months of insomnia and one strategy of sleeping in my work clothes, just in case I slept in – I share this to emphasise just how out of balance I was.
Physically for a female, I was fit. I had a resting heart rate of 42bpm and low blood pressure. My weight would fluctuate, but my strength was constant. My range of motion was restricted through pain and injury. My mind was really strong – set me a challenge and my mind would get me through.
This is the era before fitness ‘boot camps’. This was a time when people still loved the idea of doing a one-arm pushup and believe it or not they actually loved pushups. Activity levels were higher and there was a genuine buzz in the gyms of a love for fitness. In my character as an instructor people liked me because I was human. I would laugh and joke, but when there was an outcome people would achieve (within their limits). Even though I would be inspiring the regulars and more advanced to push through, the new person had my smile and complete support to do what was safe and most importantly with appropriate and precise technique. (I mention this because today there seems to be a little too much yelling and not enough focus on technique and the adrenal response of the body. Let’s save that one for another day!)
So, on field after “yelling”, (in those days I would have called it inspiring) at the athletes I was training (I was participating – I was not doing physical exertion), I was struggling to get my heart rate under control and to regain my breath. I could not tell if I was in pain because I was always in pain. The sports medicine trainer we had began caring for me, initially talking about asthma, anxiety, then mentioned heart attack and then there was the realization, that maybe my lifestyle was taking a more of a toll than a benefit. After that episode, there were lots of medical tests and then the conclusion of – physical and emotional stress.
I took it easy for a couple of days. I mean that I only taught my classes (3-5 a day) and trained a little less (maybe weights and a bit of cardio), but still worked in a challenging environment, loving my clients and managing my study. I needed a way to train in a relaxing way, so Yoga was an obvious consideration.
And here it was – my first Yoga class – I hated it!!!! Let me remind you of my chronic pain and limited range of motion. A few examples; Child’s Pose led to violent foot cramps, which led to swearing and then tears. Sitting on the floor was more painful than me completing a 42km run. I knew the instructor, he was a cool guy, relaxed and very intelligent. Let me emphasise – excruciating pain!!! For all the Yogi’s out there, body wisdom was not even a concept in my physiology at that point. There are many explanations of my discomfort and fundamentally, this was a reflection of me and my expectations of thinking I should push and be able to go in and out of postures easily.
After a few weeks I was more balanced emotionally and it amazed me. After about 8 months of Yoga and very little gym work except my teaching group fitness, I went back into the gym and after such a long break I was able to complete 90kg squats and more importantly feel good the next day. At the time this was a massive achievement for me physically. It took many more years to really balance my emotions and adrenal response, that Yoga can provide.
Yoga is an evolution of a journey.
Today, my everyday involves yoga. It is not always a physical practice, but there is always an awareness of mindful living and how to maintain balance in each day. I have taught flowing Vinyasa classes, physically challenging classes, more spiritual and emotionally focused classes, but now I rest very easy in this gentle nurturing pathway of Yoga – which any body can participate in.
There is no doubt that when it came to the next chapters of meeting my love, falling pregnant with twins, being a mother of twins, business owner and all the awesome challenges that life brings Yoga has certainly held my hand.
If you have not discovered yet – Yoga is so much more than physical poses. Yet, if it is just the physical rejuvenation you are after, then do not delay in finding a practice of Yoga that you are aligned to. The styles of Yoga and their delivery are diverse, so, continue to look and experience different styles, until you find the one that feels best for your needs.
Throughout this blog, I look forward to sharing how the practice of Yoga whether it is formal or at home can help you improve your emotional and physical health, as well as your relationships and time management. Regardless of your limitations, learning how to tune into the innate healing intelligence of your body to create and consolidate health and vitality is a life skill that each person should have the gift of learning.
For further information on my session times or rejuvenation mentoring, feel welcome to make contact via phone 0249811664 or email email@example.com.
MBA, B Comm, RYTA 500, (plus more), 21 years experience in fitness industry, 14 years as a business owner and a lifetime commitment to learning…..
Maree is a rejuvenation specialist who believes that every person can live an inspired life full of vitality with the balance of support and challenge.
As a Rejuvenation Specialist she utilises, high performance coaching, mind set techniques, superior implementation of biomechanics, yoga and over 21 years and diversity of expertise in the fitness & health industries.
As a mum of twins & business owner/manager she understands the necessity of having optimal health to thrive and live with inspired purpose. Maree is no stranger to pain and adversity and her experience with over thousands of clients will have you on your way to inspired vitality.
She provides simple pathways and outstanding nurturing support of how to find clarity amongst the confusion, how to decipher the best options for your personal vitality including nutrition, exercise & emotional management.
For information about Programs, Retreats, Mentoring, Meditation, Yoga Sessions & Key Note Presentations, feel welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Port Stephens Chiropractic & Yoga
112 Government Road Nelson Bay NSW 2315