Martha Di Loreto’s Life Changing Experience with Yoga
I am humbled and grateful that Marina has given me this opportunity to share my yoga journey with all of you. Thank you, Marina, for your grace, beauty, wisdom and sincere kindness!
My first discovery of the physical practice of yoga began in 1972, when at the age of 13, PBS began broadcasting the long-running series, “Lilias, Yoga and You.” I must have stumbled upon the show while changing channels (yes, literally changing!) after either “The Brady Bunch” or reruns of “Lost in Space.” I was riveted as Lilias Folan’s silhouette moved gracefully through surya namaskara, sporting her trademark side-striped leotard and long braid. My loving family thought I was a bit weird for copying Lilias and contorting my body in these strange positions, especially simhasana, lion’s pose. I did not care; I have always loved dance, movement and the human body and found it all quite fascinating!
Fast-forward 30 years to my mid-40’s: living in the suburbs, and together with my husband, raising 2 children and working full-time as a high school counselor. I exercised and led a healthy lifestyle but was fooling myself into thinking that I was in shape in any way. Yet, something inside was tugging at me to keep at it. Once again, I gravitated toward yoga by trying a 6-week class through Williamsville Community Education. I learned more basics there and rediscovered my enjoyment of the physical postures and relaxation. I then purchased 2 DVD’s: Baron Baptiste and Bryan Kest, and practiced with those on and off for years. In 2008, a co-worker, who was 200 hour certified, offered yoga after work, just for fun. Once again, I remembered why I was intrigued by yoga and how good it felt to challenge myself. I wanted to learn more. I began a regular practice at East Meets West Yoga and Mind Body Flow Yoga and continue to this day!
Yoga has certainly not been a quick fix or a panacea. It has been a long journey, with ups and downs, just like life. During my “on again, off again” phase of yoga, and sometimes in the last 7 years as I practiced more regularly, I did not feel “enough.” What do I mean by that? Well, basically add the word “enough” to any number of mental, emotional or physical states of being and you will get the idea. I did not feel good enough, strong enough, physically fit enough, loving enough, womanly enough, helpful enough and confident enough. I also compared myself to others, and in my mind, I never measured up. For many reasons, I thought I “should” be or look a certain way, and have everything be perfect. These toxic thoughts interfered with how I viewed myself as a wife, mother, family member, friend, counselor, woman and person. Perhaps what I have described resonates with you. In a general sense, by listening to myself, to others and practicing regularly, I have come to realize, albeit slowly, that all of that negativity did me no good whatsoever. I reflect on those years and instead choose not to think that the needless anxiety was a waste but a gift. Nothing in life is a waste if something is learned. I choose to accept both my strengths and limitations. I choose to be non-judgmental. I have learned to live these powerful statements through the practice of yoga.
At times, it can be a struggle for me to get on the mat. However, once I am there, I welcome it, and appreciate the many benefits that yoga provides. The wonderful community of yogis and teachers with whom I practice invigorates me and gives me encouragement and emotional strength. I know that I am stronger physically and emotionally than ever before due to my yoga practice.
When I challenge myself sufficiently and find some measure of internal and external accomplishment, I feel happy. When I lack emotional or physical energy and/or experience tightness, I work extra hard to overcome those barriers, not judging if I do or do not overcome them. Thus is the ebb and flow of yoga/life. Yet, wedged in between that shift is this truth: I always feel better after yoga, in every way. So I keep coming back, and will continue to do so for as long as I am able.
Regular yoga practice has without a doubt, transformed my physical body and increased my strength, flexibility and balance. However, I have observed that the real “hidden gems” of my yoga practice are the sweet emotional refinements: deeper acceptance of myself and others, mindfulness, openness to all of life’s changes, increased capacity for love and forgiveness, and a heightened awareness of both the brevity, and the beauty of life.
-Martha Di Loreto
Leave a comment below. What breakthroughs have you experienced in your yoga journey? What initially held you back?
What’s Martha’s Pose About?
This is a pose, which opens and strengthens the hips. The resulting shape is a deep opening and stretch in these areas, as well as the legs and ankles. Watch Martha enter into this asana from Mountain Pose (Tadasana). She will exit the pose and land back in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) as well.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to try this yoga pose, or if you have already started to experiment and play around with it.
- Stand in Tadasana.
- Take a point on eye level to focus on with a soft gaze.
- Exhale bring the weight on your left foot and lift your right knee up. Reach with your right hand along the inside of your leg for your big toe. Fold your thumb, middle finger and thumb around the big toe. Make sure that you stand keeping your back straight.
- Keep the upper thigh pressing back of the standing leg. As far as possible on an in-breath extend your right leg out to the front, hold for about 5 breaths. It is more important to keep your back straight than it is to straighten your leg fully.
- Keep the shoulders on the back, your chest open and both hips the same level.
- When you are steady, inhale and bring your leg out to the right and look over your left shoulder.
- Stay here for around 3-5 breaths, concentrating on the breaths to help focus the mind.
- Than on the next inhalation bring the leg and head back to the centre. As you exhale lower the foot back to the floor.
- Return to Tadasana.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Opens and strengthens the hips.
- Strengthens the legs and ankles.
- Increases flexibility in the legs.
- Improves concentration.
- Improves balance.
- Seek advice or supervision with this pose if you are pregnant, or have any injuries to the lower back or ankles.
- Your ankles – this yoga pose requires good balance and you can really feel it in your ankles. Try doing some simple ankle rotations after coming out of this pose if you feel the strain.
How has your yoga practice changed your life? What initially held you back?