Still Time for Change
Felicia McQuaid’s 3 Transformational Steps
Felicia McQuaid came to yoga the way so many people do: as someone in need.
“I didn’t know what to expect or even really why I was there,” she recalls. “But I’d been struggling with depression and with chronic back pain, and I was ready to give up. So I decided to try something new.”
During her first yoga class in a local gym, McQuaid felt herself transformed. “As the class progressed and we moved through a series of postures, I began to notice a profound change. As my breathing deepened, my pain was reduced, my thoughts slowed down, and I was able to be still. When I left, I knew I would be back again and again. It was the best I had felt in years. Fifteen years later, yoga is my way of life, my sacred space.”
While that first yoga class can be transformative, as it was for McQuaid, accessing the “stillness within” can be challenging in the real world, with its busy families, work deadlines and seemingly constant emails and texts. Learning to find inner calm in the eye of the storm takes time and repetition. Yoga is a “practice,” after all.
For McQuaid, finding peace through yoga involves three simple steps, practiced daily:
Step 1: Pause
There’s an important difference between a lapse in action and a pause, McQuaid notes: “A pause is intentional. It’s a conscious way of interrupting a habit of activity.” In the real world, she says, pausing means recognizing when we’re feeling rushed, pressured, anxious, frustrated or fatigued, and deliberately doing the opposite of what our instinct tells us to do, which is to hurry faster, worry more.
“Life can seem like one steady stream of activity without moments of rest,” she says. “Yoga reminds me to pause and realize where I am.”
Learning to pause is a simple but powerful tool, and McQuaid helps her students hone that tool at the beginning of each class. They create an intention, or reason, for yoga practice, saying, “Now I connect to the peace and stillness within me.”
The pause can also be applied outside class. “In daily life, insert a sacred and intentional pause between one place and another,” she suggests. “For example, the next time you get in the car to go somewhere, pause before you start the engine.”
Step 2: Breathe
There’s a physiological reason that proper breathing is a critical part of yoga.
“When you’re in a high state of stress, your breathing becomes shallow and short. When proper breathing is encouraged, the body naturally lets go of stress,” McQuaid says. Deep breathing floods the body with new oxygen and releases carbon dioxide and toxins, she says. In the process, the muscles relax, the heart and lungs grow stronger, pain ebbs and the mind becomes clearer and calmer.
And by focusing on breathing, we stay in the present—neither dwelling on the past nor worrying about the future. “Breathing is the built-in answer for letting go of stress and choosing peace,” she says.
Step 3: Be
McQuaid likes to remind her students that “each person is a human being, not a human doing”—an important lesson for all of us who define ourselves by what we do.
“Right now, right behind the chatter of the mind, there is a state of being that is as essential to life as the air we breathe,” she explains. “When you lose sight of this connection, you can feel controlled and overwhelmed by life and its many challenges.”
Yoga is designed to connect us with the spirit inside us—the quiet witness to all the chaos of the outside world.
Pause, breathe, be—three simple steps that can lead to a happier, healthier life.
“Yoga taught me I was not depression, anxiety and pain,” McQuaid says. “Through this practice, I have come to know the way of stillness, the way of peace.”
The Healing Clinic of Fort Walton Beach is located at 184 Brooks St., Ste. 1. For more information, call 850-217-2771 or visit TheHealingClinicFWB.com.