Keith Nathaniel Partington

Yoga in my personal life

Why I personally practice Strala Yoga and why Strala features prominently in my
stress management and mind-body wellness recommendations

Why do I offer Strala Yoga in association with my stress management / mind-body wellness work? Well, stress management became a very strong professional involvement of mine from very early days into my counselling training, working with my first clients suffering from medically diagnosed anxiety and stress disorders in 1999. I trained partly in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy because, at that time, it was the best that I thought I could offer for anxiety and stress. I also undertook adjunct intermediate psychological training in clinical hypnosis, and used this successfully with some clients early on. It was only later, when I began suffering from major stress issues myself, that I began to deeply explore the power of mind-body exercise for stress management. Let's wind back here a little though, to what came first.

In 2011 at the age of 59, I began my yoga self-learning from the internet, video trainings and books. Why? Because, as a sufferer of generalised sciatic / lower back and leg pain for years, in 2007 my pain had suddenly turned highly localised and severe. This was the result of a major lack of core stability / core muscular development in my body -- and a resulting trapped sciatic nerve -- which had evolved over twenty-five years of distance running. This was the one bad outcome of my, otherwise, great fun that I had from running four times per week to maintain cardiovascular fitness, yet, very foolishly, totally neglecting to develop my very, very weak core muscles for increased pelvic stability. Out of necessity, I ceased my running and used what exercises I could find to help me with becoming more mobile, and regain some potential for cardiovascular exercise.

After four years with some improvement, but with a plateau having definitely been reached, I followed some suggestion that yoga might help. I knew nothing of yoga, other than its vaguely mystical context, and its strict disciplinary requirements to submit to miserable suffering, none of which had the slightest appeal to my free-thinking mindset. However, what if I modified it for myself? Why not? Medicine and other traditional exercise had nothing to offer, so what harm could there be in trying yoga? Right? Tentatively, I began to explore what yoga had to offer, but very sceptically, and with no honest belief that it would succeed.

It was obvious to me that a regular yoga class would be way beyond any common sense to attend, and I didn't trust in any average kind of teacher since they could inadvertently, and very quickly, add to my pain and incapacity. So, I selected some obviously gifted yogis on YouTube from which to begin, and then later on found videos from Tara Stiles, creator of Strala Yoga. Carefully, I picked areas of pose and movement that looked vaguely useful to me, modified these movements/poses tremendously until they didn't, by that time, resemble anything like "proper" yoga. Then I just, very slowly and carefully, got on with it. A few years earlier I had also developed very serious stress levels that increased my blood pressure from its previous optimal level into stage one hypertension. So, here I was, lean, slim and medically healthy in every other respect, with fantastic lung capacity, but with primary hypertension and a body as rigid as a wooden plank (even as a teenager I was never flexible).

At first it was not easy, but -- somehow -- it felt worthwhile, especially the Strala videos. I persevered! Within three or four months of daily yoga (fifteen minutes per day) my abdominal muscles were becoming stronger, and space was being created along my vertebrae, there was less pain in my leg and back. Months went by, and I realised that my previous very youthful lifestyle was starting to return...bit by bit. Pelvic stability and strength were being created. I was thrilled, of course, but this was only the beginning.

By 2013 I was back to living like a thirty year old, on thirty minutes per day of yoga by now, with not a trace of sciatic pain or lower back weakness at all, and with a wide range of pain-free physical movement like I'd never experienced in my entire adult life. Still on hypertension medication (since 2004), I was on a regime of taking daily blood pressure readings. Pleased with the yoga which had become an indispensable part of life, and by now using mostly Tara's Strala videos from YouTube, I increased my daily yoga to 30-60 minutes per day, and began to really focus on integrating my psychological knowledge of deep, calm breathing with my Strala Yoga, for extra calm and relaxation. Maybe this combination could help my hypertension? There was some research suggesting that it might, but at that time most of this research was methodologically questionable, and not widely accepted in my professional psychological world yet.

Within three months, despite my scepticism, the blood pressure readings began to drop. This was confirmed by my doctor during consultations. By 2014 my home readings were averaging way too low and so my medication was reduced. Success! This pattern continued until, in 2014, I left medication behind completely. Today, virtually stress free and involved in frequent daily deep breathing exercises, and Strala Yoga for an absolute minimum of 30 minutes every day, but often much more, my home readings now average out within a range between optimal and normal. Excellent readings, even if I were in my twenties! Now, there's no guarantee that everyone will attain these same physical and psychological results, but much more rigorous evidence-based research is now showing that worthwhile results are obtainable for most -- if not all -- people from yoga and tai chi. And even a small reduction in blood pressure is potentially a life-saver (to say nothing of the physical range of motion increase benefits).

So, where does Strala Yoga now fit into my life? Well, because of my personal success story of using Strala as one of the main mind-body areas to create psychological and bodily wellness in my life, combined with Strala sharing a similar philosophy to my own, and its non-conformist origins that I can so easily relate to, Strala is the mind-body exercise that I find myself drawn very deeply to.

Professionally, Strala Yoga is a perfect adjunct mind-body approach for me to combine with my psychological knowledge and practice, as a vehicle through which I can help others to activate their relaxation response (Parasympathetic Nervous System). Having completed adjunct training as a Strala Yoga Guide this also allows me to use Strala in guiding clients to engage in mindfulness. An extra client bonus here is that Strala Yoga also releases their bodily tensions in the process, thereby resulting in further reductions in stress dynamics, as well as greater flexibility, balance and ease of movement.

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