How I started Yoga

It was a late week-night in February 2006. I remember waking up with excruciating pain in my head and neck, almost blinding pain and nausea. I woke up and found myself in the bathroom throwing up, having a brief relief from the ache, then more ache and more throwing up. Mumu, my husband woke up a few minutes later. After the last round of throw up I couldn’t stand up. He asked me a few questions trying to understand what was going on. I mumbled something like ‘I think the towels are pink’, something unintelligible. That’s when he dressed me up and took me to the emergency room.

Leading up to that night I had been travelling for work every other week, was in under constant stress to find a new work assignment, had finally found one that I liked and was working my butt off (I actually had worked until 9pm the same day the ‘pain’ happened). The truth was that I hated travelling for work, not eating well, hanging out in ugly hotel rooms and spending my whole day talking and thinking about work in every awake hour including breakfast, lunch and dinner. I constantly questioned the reason why I worked, talked to as many people as I could and couldn’t come up with a good answer. I had found my new assignment about two weeks ago and something magical happened. The person I worked for –for the first time- actually ‘cared’ about his clients and wanted to do what’s best for them instead of what’s best for our team and company. I had found a glimpse of meaning.

In the hospital, they gave me something very strong to ease the pain. I could still feel something but things were very foggy. Mumu sat down by my bed, eyes red and nervous and constantly stroking my hand. I managed to bring out a smile for him saying that I felt ok, which was mostly true due to amount of happiness-drugs travelling in my blood. They decided to do a spinal tap to check if I had brain hemorrhage. Basically if there is blood in your spinal fluid, it isn’t good news. I sat upright on the bed and they pushed a tiny needle through my lower back. It didn’t hurt at all, but little did I know that that would cost me 2 weeks of my mobility.

The blood test came back alright. No blood in the spinal fluid. Verdict: migraine. But I had no idea why the pain hit me so hard. That little word ‘migraine’ didn’t mean much to me. I thought people got migraine attacks when they ate cheese or something. Why the hell did it happen to me? I slept almost all day the next day. There was a fuzzy feeling in my head but I was ok, or so I thought. I wanted to get something from the kitchen and stood up. There was an instant pain in my neck and head, which seemed to ease up when I laid down. We went to see a neurologist that day, he told me that my spinal fluid was leaking from my back where they pushed the needle, leaving little fluid for my head and neck (that’s why it hurt so bad every time I stood up) and I needed to lay down in bed at least for a week. I did that, it actually took me 2 weeks to recover, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone though. I had to lay down on my belly since that was the only way to ensure things wouldn’t ‘leak’. I couldn’t lay on my back and watch tv since tilting my head only an inch up caused me a terrible headache. Going to the bathroom? Piece of cake if I crawled on my feet and kept my head down while I peed. If you know me, you know that I am a shower-freak, I have to have a shower every day. Well, it isn’t that much fun to do if you can’t stand up! Needless to say I had to compromise and take a shower only every 2-3 days and make sure to do it very very quick!

Finally, the pain slowly went away. I could at first raise my head a little bit with only slight pain. Then two weeks after the incident, I could stand up and walk! Let me tell you, that it is pretty exciting stuff ‘to be able to walk!’ when you just stayed in bed laying on your belly for 2 weeks! I was happy and ecstatic and sooo grateful. It was around this time that I decided to take better care of myself and my body.

Step 1: I found a local job within the same company. It took me a while, the first job I landed wasn’t exactly paradise but I finally landed to a great local team.
Step 2: There was this thing called ‘yoga’ that was supposed to be good for your body. I had a book about it and tried to do some ‘yoga poses’ on my own. Now I wanted to take a closer look at it and learn what it really is.
Step 3: I decided to (I think it was more of a feeling more than a decision) have a meaningful life, where I enjoyed what I did, did what I liked and chose to do, and was happy. The big surprise was that yoga helped me a great deal about this part. More than I could have ever hoped for or anticipated.

In my first ever yoga class, I didn’t know what to expect. I went to a studio in downtown DC, just because I had seen the name ‘yoga’ on their window walking by, and I just dropped in to a class as some studios allow you to do. I didn’t know that I needed a ‘mat’ (a plastic rug) to do yoga. Luckily they were renting mats in the studio, unluckily my mat smelled of feet! In a lot of the yoga poses you have to put your head down to the mat (yikes and yikes again!). At that class, I refused to take my socks off fearing that I would get a disease from this place. On top of it everyone put their mats 1 centimeter away from each other and they started to breath heavily and sweat heavily! I must have had such a terrible expression on my face, the instructor couldn’t take it anymore and asked me to please take my socks off. I replied that I was very comfortable thank you very much. She didn’t insist. It was for me to learn later that you are recommended to do yoga bare foot on your mat to avoid sliding and injuring yourself. I got out of the class with mixed feelings. On some level I liked the way yoga made me move my body and stretch some stress away but it was very overwhelming especially since I didn’t know the ‘yoga lingo’. All these poses had special names and everyone in class except for me knew what they meant.

I decided not to give up and try some other studios. And most importantly, I purchased my own mat! J. In April of that year, Washington DC was hosting a ‘yoga week’ where about 20 studios offered free or $5 introductory classes. It was the perfect setting for me to see what these places had to offer. I visited about 5-6 studios and finally decided to stick to one of them due to location and type of the class they were offering. Before I knew it I was going to this studio at least once a week, searching for yoga books on the internet, sitting on the floor in the yoga aisle of my bookstore and reading everything I can find about yoga. It is hard to say which one fed which, as I did more yoga I read more about it and as I read more I wanted to learn more and practice more of the ‘asana’ or the physical poses of yoga.

I was feeling extremely relaxed and somehow ‘lighter’ after each class. Going through down and up dogs, twists and warrior poses started to become like second nature to me. All the while, the instructors would remind me to breathe and be with my body, which in all my childhood and adult life I didn’t have to do. I was always asked to perform with my brain but never with my body. I didn’t play any sports growing up and neither did I practice any form of physical exercise on a regular basis. I tried a couple of things but none of them stuck with me, yoga did. One particular yoga instructor asked the class to think about life and the moments we don’t stay with the moment and asked us to think about that and try to stay with our bodies when we feel uncomfortable and want to come out of a difficult pose. And I said to myself ‘Oh my God! This is the story of my life’. I started to do better at my work and get recognized for it. I had finally realized: we are given some situations and circumstances that we cannot change (like a stiff back or hips) but we can still make the best of it and there is beauty in it.

I started to go to yoga workshops, where they talked about yoga being about the connection of body, mind and soul. I started to learn more about yoga philosophy. One particular idea struck a high note with me (again!): ahimsa, meaning non-violence in our physical actions, words, thoughts and intentions. So it isn’t only about the down dog pose I thought, I have to be kind in all aspects of my life including my intentions? And not only that, I realized that I needed to be kind to myself in addition to everything else in the universe, in my actions, words, thoughts and intentions. What an amazing concept! I thought. I had finally found the missing piece in my body-mind-soul triangle: yoga to connect it all. And I felt the transformation in every aspect of my life: my work, my marriage and my well-being.

At the end of the classes, the instructor would put us into savasana or corpse pose, which basically is laying down on your back with your eyes closed. I think savasana summarizes all that yoga means for me. After you go through all the hassle of the class (like you do in life), the bending, folding, standing upright, reaching and all the frustration (believe me, it can be oh so frustrating at times, especially if the lady next to you is all bendy and you can’t even touch the ground) and the sweat, it is the feeling in my body that I love to come back to at each yoga class. The indescribable sense of calm, being with yourself, the feeling in your spine, the tiny movements of blood in your body, hearing the sound of your heart and knowing that at this moment, I am closer to being one with whatever elements I am made of and feeling the thankfulness in my body for my taking time to listen to it.

I am now a dedicated yoga student, last December I started a journal to note down my daily yoga practice. Yoga helped me and continues to help me grow as an individual. I have become much more respectful to my body’s needs and more mindful to other people’s needs and circumstances. Life is still a struggle but doing yoga helps. I have even set myself a goal of becoming a yoga instructor one day, to be able to help others the way yoga helped me.


Anonymous said…
selam ben senay, gercekten super bir site, eger facebook veya twitter varsa eklemek isterim...
Merhaba Senay, cok tesekkurler. Bu blogun facebook ve twitter sitesi su an icin yok. Fakat sag taraftaki 'follow' tusuna basarak yeni yazilarimi takip edebilirsin :)
Bir de yoga websitemin facebook sitesine uye olabilirsin dilersen (
:) Damla

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