By Rebecca Wood
Being drawn to yoga in my early 20’s was natural. I came to it from youthful endeavors of dance, gymnastics, swimming and good body awareness. I also brought all the early injuries incurred from those activities but hidden in youthful exuberance and vitality. Coupled with a few auto accidents, a predisposition for excess and the need and ability to be able to ‘do it all’ and you have a great recipe for deep injury and chronic pain. I looked to yoga as a way to keep my flexibility, to lessen the pain in my back and neck and yes to be in a part of the ‘now’. I discovered I was quite able to do the postures, but the breath work and mediation… eeehhh really do I have to? I wanted the asana, so the asana I got, but I soon drifted back into other sports and work related venues-running, backpacking, weight training, rock-climbing, biking, paddling and the back to land movement…Oh my aching back. I still did my asana, but not with awareness, not with breath, really just as another sport. I pushed through this and every activity- get this mostly ‘holding my breath’ and yes exacerbating old and incurring new injuries.
Perhaps it was a personality thing? I was fun, reckless, daring and definitely ‘type A’ in all pursuits and ultimately an unhappy camper. Relationships started and stopped, jobs came and went, I completed advanced degrees, but happiness, self-satisfaction and a sense of myself did not come, and the injuries and pain continued. I found peace nature and only in nature is where I could slow down, focus and get a glimpse of who I was. So, I spent many years paddling, backpacking and working in outward bound type jobs ‘being ‘in nature, but still not being me. That sense of place, that sense of peace eluded me.
In my late 30’s my life was a train wreck, one more foundered relationship, my back and neck issues were at a peak, numbness, tingling, pain. I should have bought stock in chiropractics and MRI’s but no relief was in sight and still I pushed on -run, workout, play hard and luckily, fell back into to yoga.
It was a local Iyengar class, and interestingly I still practice and study with Linda today (I just turned 56). Within a few months of regular practice my heart began to open and my body responded. However, after months of steady practice my old personality traits took over and I began to embrace yoga with vigor and Iyengar was it. While flexibility returned and a new circle of friends emerged, I still struggled with the breath and mediation unless I was outside. I still really only embraced the postural aspects of yoga and the yoga talk. I pushed, and let teachers push me even when joints where screaming, I realized I was embracing yoga as a type A- egocentric practitioner and new injuries began to occur. I wasn’t paying attention though healing some aspects, getting stronger and more flexible (perhaps flexible to the point of instability), I was also getting older. Ignoring that bodies change with time, I continued to push ignoring what one needs before real healing can occur.
Luckily, I found workshops with Angela and Victor, a playful, inward and restorative yoga and immersed myself in the partner practice of Letha and Thai yoga. My perspective and need was shifting I was fortunate (or was I ready) to find my way to Nosara Yoga in Costa Rica on sabbatical from stress about five years ago. Stress is one of the key factors in healing injuries, it is imperative to find a way to manage stress. I feel like it was here my practice deepened. It was through the insight and instruction, the care and love in which Don and Amba facilitated their classes, I began to understand the need to go inward for the answers. I liked that their approach meshed with Angela and Victor’s which encouraged yoga from the inside out, to witness, to take responsibility, to play.
Continuing my journey and dance with yoga has recently brought me to Yin and Self Awakening techniques. This has given me the freedom to embrace who I am, where I am and to give myself permission to explore, to be and to share. I feel this is my Yoga. It facilitates the union of mind-body-spirit and nurtures how we embrace and interact in community, in nature and our surroundings.
As my yoga journey continues to unfold, I feel it’s a dance and that I have come full circle. I now do a regular Iyengar practice but with a self explorative twist. I embrace restorative with a Yin and SAY perspective and spend many hours in nature-walking, breathing, listening, observing. I still cope with injuries, but as I witness them, explore them and honor them, I usually find my way around them. As we age, some things need to be fixed, some things can’t, but we can learn to live with grace and dance with these issues, not fight with them. I share this approach with my yoga and holistic health clients with a technique I now call Integrated Body Alignment (IBA). Here I glean from all the amazing teachers I have had the joy and opportunity to study with. I can incorporate reiki and energy work in the beginning or ending of a session and I can just touch in a caring, safe manner. This brings the person home, back into their body. I love hands on assists and the Pranassage and Letha adjustments and sequences. This I believe, has opened my work to a new level. As I work with people, love, laughter and joy seems to move through both of us and stress, toxins and pain seem to flow out with every twist, palpitation or inquiry.
I look forward to continuing this dance of yoga, this dance of life. I hope the journey will be this, just being, being present every day, in my practice, in my decisions, in my work with others and in how I live my life, embracing every new step th