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My Yoga Journey

We tend to push away events, comments or even people who threaten to unravel our ego. Sometimes it may be preferable to simply go with the flow. The past is fixed, and the present is uncertain. Only the future offers hope for advancement towards our instinctual goal of furtherance. I love the imagery of Yoga; trees, animals, mountains. Yoga has changed my perception of my body by putting me in touch with virtually every muscle region. Today I feel myself being guided towards the second leg of my Yoga path. I am not sure how many there are or if anyone counts these. I feel a transition and perhaps the need to honor those who have guided me so far.

My first encounter with Yoga started three years ago. As an on/off runner and swimmer I had always worked on stretching and some modest muscle building exercises. Along the way, during my childhood, I picked up skiing as a life sport. Skiing stimulates my awareness by bringing me closer to the cycles of nature. We were on a family ski vacation. As I went to hug my son while on a transition slope, I felt a sharp burning pain in my left hand. I immediately sensed something was wrong. I pulled my hand from my glove and noted that the distal joint of my third finger could no longer straighten. There was no further pain, no obvious break, and no visible bruise. I tried to re assure myself by denying the belief that this happened., “It was probably just the cold”. I suggested we go to the lodge to allow my hand to recover. My anxiety level jumped to out of control when I saw my now deformed finger.

I experienced what is called a spontaneous soft tissue mallet finger. The tendon snapped. Maybe it was related to aging, or to the way I use it on the keyboard. It turns out the majority of these heal with complete immobilization for 8 weeks and some physiotherapy. That’s in hind sight!

For me this was different than for most. I work with my hands, and the thought of a career redirect frightened me. Despite all reassurance I was urgently grasping at every back up plan I could think of. I called a fellow surgeon who is the best doctor I know. Fortunately, his reconstructive practice includes hand. He confirmed that I was following the right treatment plan. Still, I found my need for control building up. I worked with a wonderful hand therapist, but the extra time in my life was accentuating my anxiety. By chance, while, listening to a radio show in my car, I came upon the success story of Yoga to help veteran’s experiencing post traumatic stress disorder. Of course! To control our complex brains which are essentially invisible, we must first begin with the more perceptible body. I came to realize that controlling limbs and core was the first step towards overriding my insecurities.

I attended Body-flow and Yoga classes at the local Y and intensified my resolve to maintain a sound nutrition plan. Slowly, I inched my way through the initiation. Once, when I was struggling, a very fit and able classmate who looked like he was from the Airforce looked over my way; “Stick with it, “he said ‘the first 6 months are the hardest “. I suffered a setback with shoulder pain, and after a few months, switched to a home program, using video and magazines. I developed a primitive vinyasa that included plank pushups and down facing Dog. I added easy seat and attempted seated head to knee pose. I dreamt of Lotus pose. I learned to look for a comfort zone when a pose simply made me feel good. This continued for about two years. I learned to crawl while in plank position and gradually added bends and reaches. As a lifelong skier I was naturally attracted chair pose which reminded me of a racer’s tuck. I complemented this near daily routine with 5K runs to build up ‘cardio’. I gradually felt a difference in my build, which empowered me.

One day I met a man who was over 90 years old. He looked about 70 and was very active. When I asked him how he did it, he revealed to me that he practiced Yoga almost daily. We exchanged a few thoughts, and he asked me to show him a deep breath. I failed …..He pointed out to me how babies breath and explained to me that proper Yoga practice includes breathing deliberately with proper spine alignment. I came to understand that I needed a mirror; or better yet, a coach.

I joined Tula Yoga about 6 months ago. Anoma and Cristina were an immediate inspiration. The warm energy of their instruction put me at ease. I appreciated the words of wisdom, delivered without judgement. They patrolled the studio and gently adjusted my poses. I learned to ‘sink’ into what I call the sweet spot of an effort until I no longer wished to release it. They assisted me to ground my body in strength and allow my spirit to accept all the good I had been blessed with. I learned to reach for my future during Warrior II. Don, helped me focus further on my breathing, and to accept where I am right now. A colleague who has a daily routine dating back to his childhood, invited me to share some of his Yoga practice. I was humbled and amazed!

On a recent trip to Boca Raton in Florida, I discovered a studio named Yoga Journey. I went to four sessions during my visit. Ana inspired love, Cathy stimulated hope and Debra motivated strength. All infused their instruction with an upbeat vibe and kind tutoring. They carefully coordinated the flow of the class with awesome music. I was reassured that my practice had evolved from its infancy. I felt as if I was visiting a temple of my faith in another country. I found many sequences in common from which I was able to broaden my perspective. On the last day Naya taught our class with the grace of a ballet dancer reflecting a mastery of anatomy and technique. Towards the end of the hour just prior to Shavasana we set up for an alternate reclined spinal twist. We started with our knees together and our feet apart just past the edges of our mats. As my knees rotated to one side I found myself in a most familiar position which I have practiced since my youth …. I named it ‘skiers’ pose.

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