Yoga teaches me to listen; through this I have learned how to walk up and down stairs without pain, despite the arthritis in my knees.

I have been overweight my whole life. Well, since the age of three anyway. That counts, doesn’t it? So I don’t have any goal such as fitting into my high school prom dress. To be honest, I don’t have any end goal, any magic number as far as size goes at all. What I want more than anything else is to feel healthy. I’ve always been drawn to the woman warrior archetype. And I want to feel strong.

In the past, I’ve spent a great deal of time, albeit sporadically, trying to find my inner warrior – circuit training, various types of exercise. I’d often thought about yoga, but I felt intimidated by it. I couldn’t dream of putting my feet behind my head, I who have a hard time just crossing my legs!

Then my friend Kathie told me about the Yoga for the Larger Woman class. It took her telling me about it for about almost nine months, before I finally gave in and gave it a try. But being in the same room with the women in this class, it became clear to me right off that anyone, regardless of size, shape and age, could do yoga – even me. And although I was anxious about doing something as unknown to me as yoga in front of others, I found that this class provided a comfortable place where I could be who I am.

I’ve always been fairly flexible. But I have never had a great sense of balance. It’s one of the small things that others take for granted that I cannot. The ability to stand on one foot. To be able to lift my heels up off the floor and stand there on my toes. Nor was I able before to get up and down off the floor without making loud groans as my knees cried out in pain. Yoga has helped me immensely with such simple things. Yes, I still have my aches and pains. But I’m better. I can lift up to stand on my toes. I can more easily get up and down from the floor.

I am also bothered by arthritis in my knees. This had made going up and down stairs painful. Yoga has now taught me to be conscious of finding my center of balance. How, for instance, to evenly distribute my steps and refocus strength as needed to my core. I’ve learned that the impact of stairs on my knees can be greatly reduced if I use other body parts to help. Focus my strength in my core to relieve some of the impact on my knees. It’s crazy! But it works. And it’s amazing. So thanks to yoga I now can walk up and down stairs without pain, despite the arthritis in my knees.

But more than any specific physical improvement – however much appreciated – yoga has helped me to learn lot about myself. It teaches me to listen; to be aware of me and my body. I have learned to distinguish between challenge and pain. And, amazing as it is to me, I’m learning more and more when to say “that’s enough.” This is not to say I won’t ever go farther. Just that I know at that time, in that moment when I’m doing myself more harm than good.

Yoga also has introduced me to my own quiet joy. I never appreciated before the sheer, unadulterated pleasure I could find in myself, in just calming down, subduing all else and dropping into a bliss that may come in this way.

There is a freedom in knowing that I can affect, can direct what happens in my body. And in increasing my power, I see myself strong, a warrior, centered, focused, balanced. For this I thank yoga – and my friend Kathie who finally got me to try Yoga for the Larger Woman class.

- Cindy