Have you ever tried to explain that blissful positive feeling you get from your yoga practice? And how did that go? Or is yoga is still an enigmatic phenomenon – something great for your bendy friends but nothing that’d do you any good?
I have been practicing yoga for five years and although I recognise the profound effect it has had on my life, I have always struggled to articulate how this practice has shaped me. Despite its physical rigour, it has been the philosophical and psychological aspects that have made an impact with their gentle but steadfast presence.
When I learned that my yoga instructor – Darlene Kyte explored the effects of yoga on teenage girls during her PhD study, I knew interviewing her would be a great opportunity to learn more about the healing powers of yoga.
I began practicing yoga under Darlene’s instruction a couple of years ago at the YMCA in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada-a rugged island on Canada’s east coast. I was immediately drawn to her calm voice that shepherded and steered us through our practice.
The kindness and genuine joy she exhibits not only encourages one to enjoy their practice, but is also contagious and led me to wonder how I can be a kinder version of myself.
DARLENE KYTE’S JOURNEY
As mentioned, articulating the transformative power of yoga is complicated; however, that is exactly what occurred in Darlene’s study.
Darlene is someone who identifies as a lifelong learner, not only with the accolades that accompany multiple degrees, but in her approach to everyday: an opportunity to gain knowledge. Thus, when she noted that “in all the things that I’ve done…in all the courses I’ve taken, studies I have pursued, it [the study] was probably the best thing I could have ever done,” it is clear that yoga’s effects are far reaching.
When trying to decide upon a topic, Darlene searched for something meaningful and asked herself, “what has changed my life and brought me forward?” Yoga.
Darlene’s own yoga journey began when she was a teenager. At age 16, her father took her to a meditation seminar where she was given a mantra and then she tried her first yoga class. Although she missed a couple of years of practice during stressful university days (which she notes with a chuckle that those were years where she needed yoga), Darlene has been practicing yoga for about 26 years.
Because of the transformative and healing effects yoga has had in her life, Darlene had hoped that her study would yield similar results but of course remained objective throughout the study.
She noted that during difficult times, a small connection to yoga will make things better and in particular, during one of the most trying time of her life, she found refuge in yoga:
“I spoke a little bit in my study about being diagnosed with cancer as a young woman and utilising yoga as a path to healing, a part of the path to healing. The transformation that it had in my life.
When I think of the difficulties that I have experienced in my life and the defining thing that assisted me above and beyond (besides love and support of my family) a defining being that assisted when I was having a very difficult time, was yoga.”
Working as a high school guidance counsellor, she sought out teenage girls for her study because they frequented her office to discuss a lot of issues in terms of:
- Sense of self
- Knowing oneself
- Finding voice
- Body sensitivity
- How they viewed themselves
- Body image
- How they believed others viewed them
and in turn the acted and reacted based on that.
PROVING ITS POSITIVE EFFECTS
Darlene was able to find 10 girls for her study and over a 12-week-period they practiced yoga and learned elements of its philosophy. She observed the girls becoming more comfortable with the practice and in turn, with themselves.
Movement was a crucial aspect of the study as the girls learnt to interpret themselves as moving beings and question how that can change one’s sense of wellness and health.
Darlene watched them grow in the “fluidity in their movements…not only their physical practice but watching them become more open with the experiential ways of knowing and being.”
Kyte’s hope of using yoga to help young women gain a better sense of themselves was realised when she conducted a focus group and individual interviews after the 12 week session had been completed.
“What the focus group indicated was that it had tangible changing results in terms of how they were able to feel more relaxed, calm, take what they had used in their practice and utilise it in other aspects of their lives.”
For example, some noted that they practiced their ujjayi breath when they were anxious prior to a test or just for their general sense of well being.
Some girls indicated that the practice had been life altering and even described it as “transformative”. Whereas, other girls simply acknowledged that they were calmer.
ACCEPTANCE AND HEALING
Kyte explained that despite their enthusiasm, their lives did not suddenly become perfect “because we are all human beings and we all struggle with our personal insecurities, but they were living the yoga in the sense that they were able to see themselves differently after engaging in the practice.”
In accepting imperfection one can heal.
Darlene’s explanation as an interviewee and also via her teaching methods that we must accept our present self, distinguishes how yoga can help us to heal and move forward.
As Kyte said we “have to allow ourselves to struggle, to be sad; allow ourselves to be happy, knowing that it is temporary.”
These principles continue to aid Darlene and her students as she works as a guidance counsellor from a yoga perspective. She draws awareness to her students that there will be good days and bad days and that “time will move forward and our lives will change. The key is to be in the present.”
Do you recognise the healing power of yoga that Darlene talks about on your body and mind? How is it affecting your daily life? And for the non-yogis amongst you, will you give it a shot after this article? Please share your insights in the comments below!
You can read more about Darlene and her insightful research here.
Photo Credit © Bobby Burns via Stocksy