When I first started to give sessions to friends for free, I found myself caught up in wanting to “do it right”. Having the “right” words and the “right” order in the sequence to move smoothly from posture to posture was important. The more I work with people using asana, I see that there is a need for physical healing. My own injuries, as well, have encouraged me to approach my asana sequences from a slightly different perspective.
First was the friend who was really heavy. Because of her weight, she couldn’t do anything on her knees. I had to stretch myself to adapt some of the floor poses to chair poses. I realized that since she was a beginner (as most of my friends are), it was important that I place lots of time in between poses for her to center herself on her breath and that the poses I chose were easily modified for her body proportions.
Then I worked with a pregnant woman. Lots of wide-legged folds, rolling to the left, not the right after savasana, and gentle twists. I watched her closely that she didn’t overdue, and also gave her lots of props and the opportunity to move slowly from pose to pose. Her mother, a friend of mine, has fibromyalga, along with injuries sustained from a skydiving accident. We’re very careful about anything on the cervical spine, and we make lots of adjustments for a hip that is very different from its partner. My friend’s other daughter also has health issues. She can remain in any forward fold (including child’s pose) or down dog for a couple of breaths, then comes out of the pose. About half the time she gives up half-way through a session, not feeling well enough to continue, nor wishing to sit with the uncomfortableness that sometimes accompanies certain postures.
Today, another friend that has been consistent in allowing me to come to his house and lead him through an hour of asana, woke up this morning with sciatic pain. We did a few twists, pigeon prep, supta baddha konasana, and supta padangusthasana. What seemed to help as much as the gentle stretching of the low back and the muscles surrounding the hip joint, were reminders for him to breathe, to soften, and to relax.
Last year I incurred a back injury. After several months I thought it would never get better. Twisting was difficult, especially to the right, and forward folds, at the beginning, would result in back spasms. I often sat in vajdrasana instead of child’s pose, afraid I would get down and wouldn’t be able to get back up. This year, a shoulder injury has sidelined me for a month. This, of course, after I didn’t rest the joint, and probably caused either more damage or allowed the inflammation to continue. Returning to my asana practice, I took all the modifications I could for every pose that required arms overhead or across the body. Since the real purpose of yoga isn’t the ability to touch your toes or twist yourself into a pretzel, I had ample opportunity to practice accepting was is, and surrendering to how I was showing up each day. With this experience, I lend what I learned to the students in my sessions.
Using the asanas when there is a health issue or injury asks the student to be patient and give the body time to recover, and demands that the teacher know their anatomy and the benefits of each pose. Each of these students have been a teacher to me as well, pushing me to understand more of how the body works and giving them the poses and the time and the words to gently heal the body and calm the mind. In my exploration of surrender and initiation to yoga, I’ve composed several poems and placed them in a book that has a few extra components. You can read a few of the poems by going to my web site: www.myjoyenterprises.com In the meantime, are you allowing yourself a chance to heal? Or demanding that the body perform to certain standards? Just check it out and see.