The past year of my yoga journey has brought challenge and change . Previously I was committed to a determined “physical”yoga practice as I worked hard to become stronger and more flexible. I measured my “progress” by my ability to perform more advanced asanas.
However that all changed quickly as long standing back problems surfaced and brought with them chronic pain. The emotional response was intense....I was plunged into frustration, disappointment and despair about the future. The active life which I loved was now significantly limited and dictated by pain. I went through the usual medical investigations and tried a variety of conventional and alternative treatments to little avail. With Polly’s encouragement I continued classes and home practice although it bore little resemblance to what I had previously done. In any position my aim was simply to feel the connection between my base and the earth and to feel the flow of the breath.
I reached a low point and realised my only way back was to truly accept my situation and find a way to get around this obstacle instead of trying to beat it down. Letting go of the fight response and understanding that the mind can influence the pain response was the first step. Appreciating that my body has served me extremely well through 60 years of exertion and should not be expected to perform like a 30 year old, came next. That meant accepting my limits with a new calmness and humility rather than anguish and stress. The next step was being open to change in all aspects of my life. I began to let go of my ego driven “physical” yoga practice and to find value , satisfaction and joy in a gentler more sensitive practice. Similar changes began to occur in my daily life too as I had to be realistic in what I could physically achieve. I needed to recognize and act on the warning signs from my irritable back.
This has not been an easy process and it has taken almost a year to be able to reach this point. Now the focus of my yoga practice is to maintain a strong and injury free back not at achieving more advanced asanas. I need to give time to recuperate. I can now see that this situation has offered me a wonderful opportunity to take a different yoga path to the one I was steadfastly taking – one that I now know will be more rewarding and sustainable. In being more tolerant and kinder to myself I hope that ultimately, I can reflect that back to others.
Practically speaking, when we are stiff in our hips and hamstrings our knees and ankles are ‘punished’. At some stage it is better to be accountable/aware of how to work with our hamstrings and hips so that the knees and ankles are able to get on with their work. It’s also the case in twisting poses that people twist into the flexible areas of their spine and in doing so completely miss the area that needs to be ‘accountable’: we are slipping around a stiffness and there will be consequences.
Our yoga classes for children have been running for 4 years and some of the feedback we get from parents and also teachers is amazing and encouraging. Children experience stress for lots of different reasons and yoga helps them to 'discharge' it through physical movements and also through breathing exercises and meditation.
When we go camping, we sit in awe of the magnificence of the mountain, the oceans, the sky. We go there because we recognize that some thing changes within us when we sit quietly within the wonderment of nature. We say "I am different", "I am happier", "I am energized", "I am more content". When we practice yoga we learn to sit in the wonderment of our embodiment. It is our microcosm of the macrocosm of nature. We recognize that being in the power of our own presence is a practice of being at one with the forces of nature.