December 17th, 2010
By Denise Cook
When I first came to my yoga mat many years ago I was in pain, but didn’t realize it was more than physical. Resistant and physically stiff I kept my teacher’s suggestions at arms-length and muttered every time she said something that actually made sense to me. The next day I showed up again, I was on a journey, so for thirty days I was committed. I didn’t realize how many facets of pain I would begin to actually unearth on this new journey. It was a new beginning, a “you had had me at Namaste” moment.
Over the next few years the practice of yoga kept coming in and out of my life. I tried several styles of asana and gravitated toward Ashtanga Vinyasa. For a few years it was heaven because I could muscle in and leave feeling rejuvenated and although not knowing why, just loving it.
Then one day on my second day at an ashram, it happened, I went down in chatturanga, and I could not physically push myself up. A voice inside cried, “Stay down, surrender.” I did. I lay there for an unknown amount of time until the urge to finally move crept into my body. When the tears passed I began to breathe. Not only did I begin to breathe, but I began to breathe deep. I felt as if I were breathing for the first time. Something I had been holding onto let go and the pain was startling, but when it passed there was peace, and I could breathe.
It is so true what the Buddha said, “This too shall pass.” Pain is no different. This past Summer I was Rollerblading behind my daughter and fell hard. A passer-by stopped and called 911, but held my hand and reminded me to breathe; if she only knew.
December 10th, 2010
Sometimes, things can happen to us that test our inner character, along with a lot of other virtues we think we have.
Over 18 years ago, I had a surgery performed — soul surgery.
I received a phone call that would change my life forever. My brother Ryan had been in a car accident and he was still alive on the Flight for Life helicopter that was on its way to Madison. His vitals were barely detectable, but he was alive.
In this time of crisis, I discovered who I really was. I walked into that hospital fearful of the monumental decisions I could be facing, yet determined to handle the situation. I was the only family member in town, my parents were away on vacation.
I didn’t have to face any decisions though, because Ryan did not make it. I was left with the ugly job of having to call my parents and inform them of the bad news.
As devastating as reality was at that moment, I knew my brother Ryan was in Heaven. That belief stemmed from a conversation that we had two weeks before.
He told me that I did not have the answers I was looking for and that God was the only one that had them. I asked him how he knew that and how he was filled with faith. He simply told me he knew it in his heart and when he died he was going to Heaven.
Well, that certainly made me search deep inside. My courage came to the surface, and entered my heart and soul.
I took a hard look at the path I was on and the person that I had become. I had to face the fact that the ONLY person I had trusted with my whole self, my authentic and nasty self, was Ryan. I had to own up to the fact that I did not trust people and that I was defiant in every way. I was on a lonely road and was in need of a change. I found that change within my soul and I am forever grateful to Ryan for repeating over and over his faith-filled statement.
Why do I now choose to share this tragedy with you? What is the real purpose?
I have one reason for sharing this private event. First, how do we handle life’s situations no matter what they are? What happens when someone you love more than anything is suddenly taken away from you? What happens when your proverbial life’s rug has been pulled out from underneath you and leaves you sitting on the floor dazed and confused? What happens when you look before you and all you see is black and you feel like you are walking through Jello?
You see, it's in those moments when we discover - perhaps for the very first time - that we have some work to do on ourselves. That's when we must become our own surgeon, our own advisor and our own mentor. The process of personal development is never over, so when adversity strikes, give thanks that you have discovered the need to work harder on yourself than on anything else. This is your opportunity for growth and perhaps this can be considered as a ‘healthy pruning’.
We must trust our faith and know that good will come out of all our experiences. We were made to endure and made to succeed. We must trust that we are made to have abundance. What we are determines who we are, and that disclosure should cause us to look into the mirror and not at the faults we find in our circumstances, our God, or someone else. It is in these deep, dark and lonely moments that we discover our greatest weaknesses and through that, we discover our greatest strengths.
My mat became my sanctuary; a place to uncover and discover the deeply rooted hurt that would be my companion......forever. Yoga helped to clear the sadness and the anger from my being and to see the gifts from my dark valley experience. Yoga helped me to deepen my faith and let go of myself so that God's love could ever so carefully mend my heart. My practice helped me to change my view of life, of myself and of others to a more loving, more forgiving. and more peaceful way. Yoga meets me on my mat and conforms to who I am THAT day in the THAT moment. I am thankful....OH SO EVER THANKFUL for having 17 years with my brother, Ryan, and for having that monumental faith conversation with him. I am thankful that my daughter bears his name and that my son was born on the 10th anniversary of his death, bringing light back to a dark time and space.
We need to understand that we are perfect in our moment, even in our mess, and even through our most horrific thunderstorms we are… and always will be…meant to bloom.
December 3rd, 2010
Big Fish is the manifestation of Mary Lyn’s intention to bring Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga to an amazing beach community near Jacksonville, Florida. She moved from Seattle to Jax Beach three years ago and she saw there was space for powerful, heart-filled yoga.
Since the doors opened in September of 2010, the team at Big Fish Yoga has taught with a purpose of bringing people together and creating community. And they’ve rallied around one important question: “What am I doing for others?”
Many brand new yogis are participating in our intro series, experiencing the power of yoga in their lives for the first time. Our Practice with Purpose class generates funds to support local and global family charities. And the extended Baptiste community adds support and new energy through our Guest Teacher program, where we bring teachers from all corners of the country to our small beach town. The transformations that are occurring – in individuals and in the community as a whole – are amazing.
And it’s only been 3 months!
For more info, visit bigfishpoweryoga.com
December 3rd, 2010
by Stephanie Stano, Founder of Recycle Your Mat
Aligning passion with purpose is a continuation of yoga in our everyday lives.
One of the reasons I cherish yoga is that it is so many different things to so many different people. You can see this reflected in the responses to Manduka’s #Practice Campaign. It really is quite amazing that in a class where we all are doing the same poses and same breathing techniques, the experience is uniquely personal.
There is at least one thread of continuity that runs between all practitioners and it is the ability for yoga to help us focus internally and tap into that fire that burns within us all. In the body’s stillness and in the space between thoughts, I heard the calling of my divine purpose. Aligning with my purpose helped clarify how I might best serve our culture and our society in a way that is a full expression of the gifts I have to give.
It has been said that a successful culture provides opportunities for its citizens to be able to fully express their potential and understand how it ties into the over whole of the culture. In this time of greater unemployment and chronic underutilization of employees’ abilities, many of us are looking to find other ways to express and fulfill the potential burning inside.
As with yoga, many of us will find our own outlet varies greatly from others. For me, it was creating Recycle Your Mat as an outlet to project and live aligned with my innate sense of environmental caring and reverence for nature. For others it may be service through volunteering, climbing the corporate ladder or pulling away from society all together. We all have value and an opportunity to express our unique internal fire regardless of our employment, financial or social status. Doing yoga has helped me listen to and share the passionate flame that is unique to me. May yoga continue to help each of us find our flame and give us the courage to let it brightly shine!
December 2nd, 2010
Pain, numbness, tingling? Do any of these describe the feelings you have when you come out of an asana? Please heed these warnings! Not all yoga poses are safe for all people. Just follow expert yoga teacher Patricia Sullivan’s story in the October 2010 issue of Yoga Journal. She painfully details a journey of denial in which her headstand caused (yes caused) crippling nerve pain that eventually culminated in her falling asleep at the wheel and driving off the road into a lagoon. At last she had a doctor examine her and they found “ extensive damage, including a reversed cervical curve, disk degeneration, and bony deposits that were partially blocking nerve outlets.” By her own admission, “my longing to excel both in my asana practice and as an asana teacher, had led me to ignore my body’s signals and cries for relief.”
Patricia had to relearn how to use her entire body and come to terms with her mind, heart and ego. Headstand’s benefits were so powerful, that they seemed to outweigh the daily pain she suffered. Like an addict “jonesing” for a hit of headstand….she could not see past the negatives it wrought on her body. But until she literally “bottomed out” in the lagoon, she was unwilling to give up her “monkey.”
She is definitely not alone in this journey, I have been “addicted” to poses that damaged my body. A love of “drop backs” into the wheel pose from standing upright destabilized one of my spinal vertebrae 6 years ago. I happily NEVER do them any more. Before I had destabilized my back, I could not imagine practicing without finishing up with my coveted “drop-backs.” How ironic that the “drop backs” CAUSED my back to drop!
In surveying my last Yoga Tune Up® Teacher trainees, several raised their hands when I asked the question, has Yoga hurt you? Two of them admitted that constant ringing in their ears has been caused by excessive time spent in shoulderstand and plow poses. They rationalized the EXACT same way as Patricia…the “benefits” outweighed the “negative effects.” Another admits that despite constant sciatic pain, he cannot give up doing long held forward bends.
What are we doing to ourselves if yoga hurts?
With yoga’s enormous popularity, more injuries are occurring more than ever. If we hope to enjoy a pain-free lifelong practice, then we must take some precautions. All teachers and practitioners must educate themselves about what the poses are doing physically to a body. So many “traditional” poses cause extreme joint torque, shearing and weakening of soft tissues, and their effects need to be understood through a biomechanical lens. As yoga teachers, we need to responsibly analyze the positional peculiarities on a student-by student basis and be truthful with our students if we feel a pose is inappropriate for them. As a student, we need to listen to our body’s signals and not push past a point that continues to give us unresolved pain. We need to take an honest look at the poses that still cause pain while we are in them, and reach out to professionals who can help us to understand what we are actually doing to ourselves.
WHAT TO DO IF YOGA HURTS
1) Admit you are in pain
2) Seek out a health care professional, get the x-rays or MRI if needed!
3) Follow the health care professionals protocol
4) Seek out a qualified Yoga Therapist (www.iayt.org)
5) Listen carefully to your body as you build a new practice, and refrain from doing any pose that your body is not prepared for.
Patricia has completely revamped her approach to headstand. Yes she does still practice headstand, but she has created multiple variations where her head never touches the ground (see YJ issue). BRAVO!
What will you do?
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