I was taking a short afternoon break from my 10 – 12 hour days, teaching at the premier Expanding Light Yoga and Meditation Retreat when I had an “A-ha” moment.
I was teaching yoga therapists-in-training all things musculoskeletal (bones, muscles, joints). This includes the occasional story from my own journey through pain to wellness through yoga.
Looking back my motivation for attending Yoga Teacher Training 33 years ago was because I was a mess.
A hot mess!
I was racked with pain from head to toe from old athletic injuries, training horses, dancing and well, yes, the 5 major surgeries I had before I turned 18 probably didn’t help either. The constant pain all up and down my body, radiating out from my neck, down my leg and smack dab in the middle of my upper back was getting me down emotionally too.
I had taken one yoga class from the Ananda Center in San Francisco. Enough to be on their mailing list. One day I received a flyer from them in my mail box about a yoga teacher training program – you know what a flyer is – one of those old fashioned pieces of paper that touted a class, program, training or event. It came to me via snail mail as email was not a thing yet.
I clearly remember holding that piece of paper with both hands, staring at it. I instinctively knew that practicing yoga would help me. My first introduction to yoga was in college. I had taken to it quite naturally. But now in pain I wasn’t practicing.
I wasn’t dancing.
I wasn’t running.
I just was in pain.
I felt like the orange piece of paper in my hands, faintly smelling of ink, was my ticket. My ticket out of pain. I had to take this yoga teacher training course because I needed something intensive, something extraordinary to lift me up out of my downward spiral.
I have to say I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.
My experience of yoga at the time was probably like you, like most Westerners, – the physical postures, called asanas, with maybe a little focus on the breath. I was blown away by what we studied, practiced and learned. Based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, we studied, practiced and learned Raja Yoga – the Royal Yoga. Yoga postures were just one small part of the training.
Yoga Teacher Training was my savior.
Even though my intention for the training was big-time pain relief for me — which I did get — the natural teacher in me, never hesitated to consider whether I would share yoga with others or not. The very next day after graduation I was teaching yoga out of my modest flat in the San Francisco Sunset District.
As Yoga Therapy was not a thing back then either, I began to diligently work on getting myself back to constant pain free vibrant wellness. I read books, took workshops and attracted students who also were in need of what was on my mind: yoga as therapy.
This was the beginning of my pioneering work in the field of yoga therapy. Many years later the result has been published scientific papers, book author, helping to establish and implement international standards in yoga therapy, yoga therapist training faculty, and hours and hours of successful work with my clients.
So, today, when it dawned on me that September is International Yoga Month and Pain Awareness Month, I thought:
That is my life, my history, my service, my research, my mentoring and life work in yoga therapy. My calling is to help people with pain through the tools of yoga therapy.
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