Sweeney Yogini – My Very Personal Yoga Story

Hi All! This blog contains my very personal yoga story.  I’ve been nervous to share it but here goes.

I just took a yoga business course with two yogis – Chuck and Chris – those guys are great.  Anyway, the course was about how to run a yoga business and make it a big success – I hope.  🙂  I want to be able to offer you all really great value for your money.  I know yoga isn’t cheap but it’s so worth it because it really does change your life.  Why do I believe that?  Well this week, Yogi Chuck and Yogi Chris encouraged all of us to tell our story of why we believe in yoga.  I have really never told mine.

Erin Full Wheel

Back bends should feel like a release, like a celebration of life.

Basically, five years ago I was pretty depressed.  I was emotional.  Crying a lot, up and down, just not feeling well.  I really felt stressed out.  I think the reason, though I’m not sure, is that I didn’t have a career outside the home and I really wanted one.  I wanted to have something that was my job separate from my kids and husband .  At the time, I was trying very hard to become a professional writer.  I was working on a novel – an entire series honestly – that was science fantasy.

I couldn’t seem to make a product that was very good.  When I shared my writing with others, they were supportive in some ways but no one seemed to love it.  No one seemed to be able to connect with my characters or get into my story.  I just wasn’t a very good writer yet. I really wanted to make it a career anyway.  I worked probably 10 hours a day on it.  My kids had goldfish for dinner some nights.  My husband was saying, “We need you, Erin.”  And I was just totally gone into my writing.  I got to a point where I finished my first novel and was really excited about it. Then I started to share it and the feedback wasn’t that good.  It was clear that it just wasn’t good.

I went to a doctor and told him about my problem with depression.  It was especially bad during PMS time.  He prescribed me zoloft and told me I had PMDD (which is some medical way to say really bad PMS).

Anyhow, I’d always wanted to get yoga certified.  At the time I was working part time as a fitness instructor.  Yoga certification costs thousands of dollars but one day I told my husband that I really wanted to do it.  I signed up.

I was taking my zoloft every day and feeling alright. I had gained a little weight on it and had some other symptoms, minor, but mostly I was doing pretty well with it.  About halfway through the yoga teacher training I signed up for an optional yoga workshop with Kevin Gardiner.  He is one of my favorite yoga teachers.  Something about his metaphorical way of describing things really speaks to me.  He’ll talk about the groin as the layer cake, things like that.  Anyway, he was building us up for pranayama – which is breathing exercises.  To do these, you really need to be able to open your chest – this way you can get plenty of oxygen into your chest cavity.  To open the chest, you do back bends.

Cobra Erin Sweeney

Cobra is a back bend. it strengthens your upper back and opens your chest. It is important to keep your shoulders down your back and not to do the bend from the low back.

Many yoga students don’t know much about back bends.  Some people can hardly even do one at all, actually.  This isn’t so good.  Your spine needs mobility but also being able to bend back helps to relax your mind.  It’s true.  I know it is because it happened to me.  In this class he had us doing back bend after back bend for three days.  It culminated in the full wheel – we must have done around seven of them, which is around six more than I’d usually do.  Anyway, I felt something just release.  It was like a “Zwinggg!” feeling. And boom, I was different after that.

The next day I forgot my medication.  And I didn’t feel bad or upset at all.  And each day that went by I kept forgetting and I still felt perfectly okay.  In essence, I believe that those back bends cured my mood disorder.

I’m not saying that everyone can get the instantaneous payback that I got in that one workshop but I do believe that if you get locked up in the upper back and chest (as I was) you close down your spinal pathways that connect the brain and body.  Not only that, but you also lock yourself into the stress response.  The body posture of hunched shoulders and a tight upper back is the same posture that one takes when they are startled by a gunshot or frightened by an attacker.  This posture tells your brain things are very serious, things are bad, life is dangerous…  this isn’t how we should view every moment of every day.

Restorative Back Bend Erin Sweeney

Not all back bends are challenging. This one is restorative. It involves a blanket under the back (though you can’t see it here) that gently opens the chest. It is friendly to folks with spinal issues and delicious to pretty much everyone.

We should spend at least some of our day, most of it, I dare say, reveling in how beautiful and amazing life is.  The open chest, the back bend, this is that.  The person that exposes her underbelly and chest feels safe and joyful – she is having a party, a celebration of life.  We should do this every single day as much as we can.

Life is a gift, make sure to let your body say this with posture and movement as much as you can and your brain will get the message.




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