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.
At the Hervey Bay School of Yoga, under the directorship of Polly, all of the teachers are trained to modify classical asana to ensure correct support and alignment. With their encouragement I continued attending 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.
Yoga is the lay persons neuroscience - Yogis have known for centuries that there are layers of mental activity that can be harnessed and directed. When attention becomes concentration and concentration establishes a pause between the rise and fall of thoughts, we arrive into a state known as meditation. The interconnections between the layers of consciousness create the conditions for wisdom.. it arises in the pause, in the interruption of habitual thought.
“As soon as there is stopping, there is happiness. There is peace. When we stop like that, it looks as if nothing is happening, but in fact everything is happening. You are deeply established in the present moment, and you touch your cosmic body. You touch eternity. There is no more restlessness, no more seeking.” Thich Nhat Hanh
As we hone our skills of discernment and tap into deep forces that pertain to balance, stability, heaviness, lightness, we are actually meeting fear and desire. We feel the tap of ignorance on our shoulder. Our perception of experience and the experience itself are not the same things. We know this in the very cells of our being… it is no longer a construct of understanding. It is an experiential truth. We can confidently and calmly accept that our mental faculty (memory and emotions) are bias. That our mental view is a construction that functions to keep our ego intact.