I’ve recently made a new blog friend who shares his healing over at I am Gerry
and he asked me a simple and deep question. I want to share part of that answer with you, here. The question is, simply, “Do you think yoga can help me?”
My resounding answer is “Abso-freaking-lutely!” The depth comes in how it helps and why I know this and what we’re really talking about with “yoga” here.
Yoga is movement with attention originating from your breath. Start with the breath. “Breathing in, know you are breathing in. Breathing out, be breathing out.” This simple meditation can initiate profound healing processes. While I was preparing and recovering from my surgery last year, I had strict orders from the doctor about not exerting, squatting, lifting, bending or really having any of what I’m used to thinking of fun. I still did yoga. How? I reclined on my bed or on my mat and I practiced this simple meditation. Often it led to subtle, small movements that released tension and patterns and led to changes in my breathing pattern. Simple. Small. Powerful.
Yoga is not merely a series of postures you take while doing something else that somehow magically cure what ails you. You cannot look up a “back care routine” that will address your specific problem, nor a “menstrual cramp routine,” “weight loss routine,” nor any other “routine.” The reason is in the name. Routines aren’t for individuals. Routines are, well, routine. You certainly can and might look up “hip pain yoga” and find many routines, the reading and pondering of which will reveal things to you about the structure and function of that joint, of specific poses. Note poses that are repeatedly mentioned, look up your target issue in Light on Yoga‘s index. But know and remember that your body and situation are unique and not only do they really deserve, but you flat-out needindividual attention. If you’ve done enough yoga to have an internal sense about what feels healing, that attention might just be yours. Even experienced practitioners, however, benefit from consultation with other experienced practitioners. Why?
Yoga’s purpose is to dissolve knots of habit and tendency. Sometimes it’s just plain faster to ask someone not caught up in your habits of thought and movement for help. Sure, you could practice on your own and over time the process would create healing. But why isolate yourself when you can reach out and receive what might be a bolt of stuckness-dissolving lightning from someone not playing with the same deck?
Why am I so confident yoga is healing, period? For reasons of principle and experience. Yoga works directly with the transformative processes that create and shape our body-minds. Have you seen Arthur Boorman’s story? If you’ve missed this one, go see it now. This is no urban legend. This disabled veteran walked again after a diligent, often painstaking practice of yoga. But I’ll bet he didn’t enter into it expecting to be “cured” in a week. My experience with clients who succeed in finding new function is that they engage their practice for the way it effects their lives every day, and the regularity that engenders leads to what appear to be miracles.
Healing doesn’t always look like what we’d like it to. Healing sometimes means greater peace, joy, changes in expectation and yoga is not a cure for everything. The mindset that yoga can “fix” us grows from a binary mindset of brokenness and leads to the insidious hidden goal to be fixed. Which means that if you are imperfect (read: living, breathing human) the yoga hasn’t “worked.” Are near miraculous changes in function possible? Abso-freakin-lutely.
My experience is that yoga heals. In my case T’ai Chi + yoga. After a rollover car accident in 1992 I was diagnosed with a bulging disk in my neck and experienced numbness, pain and loss of function. Docs said I’d walk with a cane for the rest of my life and recommended surgery. Having been in the doctor’s sights many times before, I knew to be wary. I deferred and sought healing elsewhere. After years of T’ai Chi practice I returned to yoga. After several years of both I had reason to be scanned again. No evidence of the injury on imaging. I knew I felt better, that my body had healed. The tests gave evidence to others. I’ve seen the same with clients over and over again. And have experienced a similar trajectory over the last year while recovering from my own surgery.
Will yoga help. Yes. How? Breathe in, breathe out. Consult. Research. Connect to your own wisdom. Choose and be diligent. Yoga heals.