For years I have struggled with physical and emotional pain. Anxiety, depression, ptsd, fibromyalgia, severe arthritis in my back and neck and chronic fatigue. I used to take a lot of medication for all of these conditions but I stopped doing that several years ago. I couldn’t tolerate the side effects very well and I didn’t like feeling emotionally numb. Being anxious and depressed isn’t fun either but, for me, it was preferable to feeling like I was an emotionless zombie.
I have been working hard on changing myself and my life. I have worked on better diet habits, being more orderly so I am not surrounded by chaos internally and externally. I was trying to do a little exercise but I hadn’t stuck with it. I was reading quite a few self help books. I love Brene Brown and her writing about shame and its causes.
A few months ago I kept feeling like I needed to go to yoga class. It was odd almost like I could hear a voice telling me I needed to go. I have been in hermit mode for years and social contact is really difficult for me so I avoided this for a while. I am also around 100 pounds overweight so yoga seemed ridiculous. Water aerobics… yeah that seems like a good option… walking or stationary bicycling all seemed like smart things to do.
I actually did join a gym and went a few times. I hated it. People don’t really talk to each other at the gym. You go, do your workout and hope your muscles get stronger or you lose some fat or… whatever. For whatever reason, this situation didn’t work for me. I ended my gym membership and decided I am sort of just lazy. I didn’t feel good about that but I figured that by this age-I need to just accept that this is how I am. But the voice kept whispering… go to yoga class.
I had been aware of a place in my town that intrigued me. It seemed like they always had something interesting going on there. Drum circles. Dance of Universal Peace. And they had yoga classes. I decided that was where I was going to try yoga and I am so glad I did. Kundalini yoga was the type of yoga that I did that night and it was amazing. There is a lot of chanting and rhythmic motions in kundalini yoga. Something about it relaxed me and energized me at the same time. It is sort of like there was always a buzzing in my head and a wash of static and when I did kundalini yoga that went away.
My teacher was awesome. She took some time before the class to help me figure out how to work with some of my physical issues. She told me that most likely I wouldn’t be able to do what they were all going to do but not to worry about it-just to do what I could. She was right. I couldn’t do what they did. I think it will be a long time before I can do 108 down/dog-cobras if I ever can… but that is ok. I did a few cobras and then to childs pose… back and forth and for me-that was a huge workout. We did other things too and just moving my body around that much was a lot of work for me. I probably looked ridiculous. Certainly not like the other graceful people in the room but I didn’t care. I was happy, I was relaxed and when the class was over-people came and told me how glad they were that I was there and how well I did. No one avoided me or looked at me with disgust for invading their graceful space.
The next class I went to had gong healing with it. I had never heard that and had I known that was going to be part of it-I probably would have thought that was some woo-woo stuff that I wouldn’t be into. I am glad I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was beautiful. When I think of a gong, I think of someone hitting a thing once and it making an obnoxious noise. I am pretty sensitive to sounds and am easily startled. This type of gong music is hard to describe. Its almost like hearing the sounds of the universe. Listening to it was almost like hearing a story of creation. It started with lovely little bells… and I imagined little fairies around when humans were made. Then the sound changed from bells to the gong and it was sort of soft and nice. It got progressively louder and my brain made a story of humans growing up. The sound got a little louder and sort of more demanding sounding and it was like the child had grown up and was having to face the challenges of life. Then it got quieter and my mind said that this was old age… and then it changed again and became lighter sounds. Beautiful higher notes that made me think of heaven and then it got louder and more chaotic and actually sort of scary and it was like having descended into hell. Then that calmed down… and again there was just sound-like a universal sound. Not a person, or heaven or hell… just being. It was pretty amazing. While the gong is being played weird things happen in my body. I got serious cramping in my leg. One time it made my kidney hurt really bad and last night it gave me facial spasms and it felt like I was getting a migraine. If you look up gong baths you will find that these aren’t unusual occurances. It is said that this is caused by energy being unblocked. I had these things occur in my body and I am someone that would be sceptical of this if I didn’t experience it myself. It wasn’t a placebo effect because I had no idea that the gong could cause those types of reactions.
I slept well that night and that was unusual for me. I woke up enthusiastic and happy. These 2 classes were at the end of June and in July I went to a yoga festival in the park and I was there for 7 hours. If you don’t know me that may not seem like a big deal. This was a huge deal. Since then I have been to 2 Dances of Universal Peace and had several yoga classes. There is something beautiful and healing about being with other people in this way. Especially with the Dance of Universal Peace you can feel the love and I believe the physical touch that we get there is important.
Kundalini yoga seems great for my soul and spirit but I thought that I needed more for my body so I tried a beginning hatha yoga class. This type of yoga was very different. I liked it and can tell it will make my body stronger. It also takes me “out of my head” where a lot of my problems are, and I have to focus hard on what is going on. I am not strong yet and cant hold the poses the entire time but I know if I keep doing them, I will get stronger. One of the strange things for me is that I am not self-concious. I am always the biggest in the class. I can’t keep up. There have been a couple of times I really thought I was going to lose my balance and crash into someone else or some awful thing but I have just made mental notes of those positions and I make adjustments the next time.
I did a restorative yoga class and that was lovely. It was peaceful, relaxing and at one point the instructor went around and covered us all up. It made me feel cared for and looked after-and it almost made me cry. Then today I did my first vinyasa class. I loved this one a lot. This was my first man instructor so I was kind of anxious for some reason before I got there but as soon as he said hello it was fine. This class was pretty amazing. There was some kundalini yoga in the beginning to help us warm up and that felt like it brought the spirituality to meet the physicality. Vinyasa is a moving yoga… we didn’t hold poses for a long time. We sort of flowed from one move to the next and it was good. I wasn’t great at it or anything but I didn’t disrupt the class like I was afraid I would and I sort of kept up. The people there were very nice and welcoming.
All of this stuff allowed my mind to relax or something and I finally decided to go get counseling. I have tried that several times in my life and had an awful experience each time. This time, I think I have actually found someone that can help me and understand what I am trying to say.
A couple of days ago I started wondering why I avoided yoga. My weight. My age. All of my disabilities… I was scared that yoga would be too much for me and throw me into a huge fibromyalgia flare. I was afraid that the chronic fatigue would get worse. I was worried about my knee replacements and my back and actually really scared. But I kept hearing the call to go. I would love to lose weight but even if I don’t its ok because that isn’t why I am doing the yoga practice.
Then I remembered when I was young that I just loved to move my body. I loved backbends and doing the splits. I felt great when I would stretch and that I used to want to be a contortionist. I worked really hard at getting my body in odd positions because it felt great to me. I thought about how a lot of my family has always thought I was a flake because I am too sensitive and I worry about the poor and starving. I thought about how spirituality has always been important to me but most people in this area are christian and I haven’t resonated well with that. Buddhism and the Sikh faith speak to me… and pagan religions. I realized that I only stopped moving when I had injuries and couldn’t any more and that is when it feels like my soul died.
Now… I am feeling a call to take yoga teacher training. Again, that totally feels ridiculous. I just started yoga myself. Why the heck do I think I should take a teacher training. I don’t think I want to teach it even. I am getting the social aspect from the classes. I can go to class every day if I want to. I am learning to listen to these calls of the soul but wow, that would be a big commitment. Maybe I just want to connect with more people that enjoy that energy. Maybe deep inside I miss being a nurse and think this is a way I can still help people. I wish the deadline for the class I want to take wasn’t so soon.
Anyway, then I started wondering-do we get sick when we lose track of what our soul is calling us to do/be? Maybe I am deluding myself but I believe that yoga is saving my life. Or giving me life. Adding to life? I am finding people I resonate with that seem to have some of the same values. Maybe that is the secret and not the yoga? Finding people that make you feel like you have a place in the earth and are valued. I am not sure what it is but there is some magic happening and I am so so thankful.
I hope my teachers know how much I appreciate them and that they inspire me.