12-Week Journey – Paul Matlock – The Conclusion Finds a Beginning

Coming to the end of these last 12 weeks, I have experienced such a drastic, personal change as a result of my yoga practice. It is evident that the conclusion of these last 12 weeks is merely the beginning of a continuous life-long journey that I have now joyfully set upon. I have rarely used the word "joy" on a daily basis, until now. Perhaps it is because I have been holding back. Perhaps I never really knew what "joy" could be, or ever feel like. This is not to say that I have been some grumpy robot, mindlessly going through life. I have always thought of myself "EN-joying" life, with my kids, my wife and family and friends, my work. The difference in the two words is subtle, but it is tangible. Only until now, did I ever recognize that true JOY only comes from within. It cannot come from external things or places, or even people. It is this same internal joy that allows me to appreciate the wealth of gifts that have been bestowed upon me throughout my entire life. It is that same internal joy that allows me to accept and appreciate the challenges that will inevitably arise. Regardless of the external circumstances (with which I have no control anyway), my internal joy allows me to live my life to its fullest possibility. I, and no one else, am responsible for my joy. Yoga has been my "joy conduit", "refilling the tank" each and every time I complete my yoga for the day, and that has been an amazing feeling.

I feel that I should give the particulars of my physical transformation first, in that is the reason why I started this in the first place. Looking back, however, that aspect is a mere fraction of the positive effects that yoga has had on my life. But, because that is the most outward sign of my success, I will indulge. In 3 months time, I have lost a little over 20 pounds and am pretty much at my ideal BMI for my age and build. My blood pressure has gone down, and my physician is quite pleased with my effort. I have had to purchase new clothes because of the change in my size. I have had to go with smaller size pants because my waistline has shrunk. Interestingly, I have had to stick with my same shirt size because while I have decreased in fat, I have increased in musculature. My shirts now have to be tailored to be narrower in the belly so as not to balloon out when tucked in, which is a nice problem to have. I have noticed that I am much stronger now than I ever was when I was going to the gym to lift weights. My balance is better and many people have noted that my posture has straightened. On the golf course, I have gained about 15-20 yards on my drives and have had a large increase in my accuracy. No longer is my back or my shoulders sore after playing 18 holes, it is definitely making the game much more fun! My vocal coach has also noticed a huge difference in the last 3 months. The muscles used to support proper vocalization are the same pelvic floor muscles that I exercise during yoga and pilates. The resultant strength that I have gained has helped support my singing and has changed my timbre (tone quality) of singing. He and others have described it to me as a much more rich, full sound that I never had before. Complement that with proper breathing techniques, and I have turned from someone who sings to a true vocalist. While all of these physical changes have been positive, I view them as merely a nice side effect of the much larger picture.

Over these last 12 weeks, I have frequently encountered the idea of the BodyMind-Spirit connection. As a health care provider, I am very familiar with the human body and how a patient's mental state can affect their physical state, and vice versa. The truly exceptional benefit of my yoga practice has been to calm my mind and thus enhance my focus. Like most everyone else in today's world, I am bombarded by sights, sounds, and stresses- work demands ( I run a very busy dental practice), family demands, TV, internet, etc. All of this mental hustle and bustle taxes the brain and makes it increasingly difficult to focus on anything. Yoga helps me tune out the din of sensory distractions and allows my mind to relax, akin to a muscle relaxing. Once my mind is relaxed and open, free of distractions, I can then focus on a certain intention, whatever that may be. Being able to focus on a singular intention, free of all the mental clutter, can thus bring about any desired effect. Those breathing exercises are now an excellent coping tool for real world stressors and I have used them in a great number of situations "off the mat."

It seems very trite and maybe even a little "preachy" to talk about these MindBody-Spirit connections and not give any real world examples. I have always been a firm believer that anything that happens in life happens for a specific reason at a specific time. Life's sometimes cruel irony never ceases to disappoint, as is my case. Towards the end of my 12 week yoga journey, life presented me with three very distinct, very different, simultaneous crises that truly tested me and everything that I had learned over the previous 3 months. The combination of a close family member being diagnosed with breast cancer, the ongoing crises of raising two teenage kids in today’s world, and a personnel change at my office all happened within a span of 10 days. Having faith that I started this yoga journey at precisely the right time, I vowed to myself to use the tools that I have been given in yoga to effectively deal with these issues. Looking back, I cannot help but laugh. When life was throwing challenge after challenge at me, I was able to face them head-on and, moreover, even prosper and grow in the midst of them. THAT is what yoga can do!

The third part of this process has been my spiritual journey. I have been and always will be a spiritual person. I have been raised a Roman Catholic and continually enjoy practicing my faith. The spiritual nature of yoga was the part that came easiest for me. The silence of the guided meditation was refreshing to my soul. The books that I have read regarding yoga and meditation continue to reinforce and strengthen my nature as a spiritual being and being a part of something much greater than myself. Speaking to a lot of my friends who know me, they have questioned whether doing yoga is at odds with my faith. I tell them, wholeheartedly, NO. On the contrary, yoga has been a tool to allow me to grow and develop my faith on a much deeper level. I have found that I can concentrate much better during my worship and that my prayers have much more intention behind them. This is something that, as I continue to move along my journey, I can explore and discover new levels of joy and love as never before.

To say that I am a “transformed” person, does not do these last 12 weeks justice. I feel we are constantly transforming and evolving, whether we want to or not. What I have accomplished over these last few months has been a discovery of what was actually in myself all along. The fact is that this ability is in each and every one of us, as long as we open ourselves to it. It also takes a very special person to recognize this in each individual. For that, I owe a lifetime of gratitude to Debra. She has a gift of helping people realize their own potential, and motivating them and guiding them along their journey, whatever journey that may be. The light of her joy burns brightly for all to see, and one cannot help but to be joyful in her presence. I pray that as time goes on, my experience can be an example of what is possible. Namaste.

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calendar May 6, 2013

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