Yoga cured my........

I was teaching my Monday night class. I always check in with my students, and I asked everyone how they were doing, or if they had anything they wanted to share before class started. My regular student said she had read an article about a man who healed his back through yoga.

Immediately I went into a discussion about how yoga didn’t heal this man’s back, asana did. I mentioned in our culture we often mistake the physical practice (asana) as “doing yoga.” I reminded her that yoga isn’t something you do, it’s a state of being, and the physical practice is only a small part of the practice of yoga.

I do my best to emphasize all eight limbs of yoga to my students, especially the Yamas, Niyamas, and the importance of Meditation and Mindfulness.

When class was over I had asked my student if she could remember where she had read this article so I could read it, but she couldn’t remember the exact one. That night I spent at least an hour sifting through the tons of “Yoga Cured My……..” articles, blogs, and posts online. All this reading about how yoga had helped so many people got me thinking about my own healing through the practice of yoga.

I was a Massage Therapist for over fifteen years before I decided to begin teaching yoga. About two months before starting my Yoga Teacher Training I had bulged my L5/S1 disc. At the time of my injury I was working for a chiropractor, and a really good friend of my was in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UVM. I have a really strong understanding of anatomy, and knew exactly what was happening in my physical body, thanks to all the years working as a massage therapist.

I attribute my friend in the DPT program to getting me through the acute stage of my injury. I utilized massage therapy, chiropractic care, and used an inversion table, but I was nowhere near being recovered when my yoga teacher training began. I was in such extreme chronic pain that I wasn’t sure how I would get through the program.

Through my yoga studies I learned how I could utilize many of the poses to assist in the healing of my back. Not only was I lengthening my muscles, I was strengthening what was weak, and stabilizing what was unstable. I studied the breath and its functioning on the body and the mind. I studied some of the ancient texts of yoga and yogic philosophy. I started to study the energetic body in depth, far beyond what I had studied during my time as a massage therapist. I learned how to approach my body as a whole.

I always moved through full range of motion in my work and recreational habits outside of work. Through the teachings of yoga I learned to move dynamically, but with much more focus and control. I learned to support my body when I wasn’t getting around very well. I learned to slow down and be gentle with myself. I learned how to connect deeply with my breathing, especially when I was in a lot of pain. My back eventually healed.

This injury hadn’t been in the forefront of my mind in a long time. My student sharing what she had read made me realize I have come a long way in my healing. It has also made me realize I have a long way to go as a student of yoga. Instead of taking the time to do my research before commenting, I spoke before thoroughly understanding what was in the article, or how my student had processed what she had read. I assumed the gentleman in the article was saying the physical practice of yoga had cured him. Who am I to say that yoga didn’t cure him? What if someone approached yoga solely as a physical practice?

With a knowledgeable teacher and a lot of props, asana practice is accessible to any body.

Students can learn to move dynamically. They might become aware that they are holding muscle tension unnecessarily in a particular area, or they might come to the realization they push too hard and could ease into a pose gently.

They might become rigid when they feel a sharp pain, and realize they forgot to soften once the pain has subsided.

They might become aware of holding patterns in the breath when they feel discomfort and remind themselves to breathe deeply. They might remind themselves to remember to breathe when they are getting out of the car, or into the tub for a soak.

They might learn that the chronic pain has caused them to be harsh towards others. They might realize they are saying negative words toward themselves because of constant discomfort. They might then choose to be more empathetic and compassionate toward themselves and others.

They might start to practice asana regularly just for the few hours or minutes of relief they feel right after the practice. They might start to show up onto their mat daily.

They might just become much more disciplined in their movement, thinking, and breathing simply by approaching yoga as a physical practice.

I can see many of the teachings of yoga in the few examples listed above. The beautiful part about their healing and utilizing asana for that healing, the teachings of yoga will still show up organically.

In love and light,
Shannon

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